Student Health: a disaster at Mercer

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I’ve been getting headaches recently, really, really bad headaches. The best way I can describe them is brain-pounding, lingering migraines. It’s been going on for over a week now.

I thought it could be stress-related, so I went online to follow up and get some insight about what might be causing it. I found reasonable sources telling me that the symptoms I’m experiencing could be an abnormal result of high blood pressure. I was skeptical, but wanted to pinpoint the cause so I could find a cure, or at least a way to inhibit the headaches.

Naturally, I want to find out if it was true and if there was any correlation between the blood pressure issue and my headaches. So, I went to the student health center and scheduled an appointment. The secretary was polite and told me to come back the following day when the doctor could see me.

After rescheduling a meeting and pushing back a timeslot I had devoted to working on my independent study, I was able to make time to meet with the doctor. I showed up five minutes before my appointment, ready to find out what was wrong with me. My appointment time came and went. Ten minutes later, I started glancing at my phone. I had somewhere to be thirty minutes later.

As I checked the clock for the sixth or seventh time, the secretary came out of the office and told me I could go in. She told me to sit on the padded countertop-style examination table.

She asked me what was wrong, and I described, in as vivid detail as possible, exactly what I had experienced. I told her about the tension in my neck and shoulders accompanied my severe head pain that lingered from 30 minutes to an hour.

I also told her that I discovered there may be a correlation between the headaches and blood pressure, but that this was just an uninformed self-diagnosis.

She was friendly. She asked me if I did anything active. I told her that I’m a dancer, and that I dance and workout several days per week. After checking my weight and pulse, she sent the assistant doctor in.

He asked me to go through it all again: “What’s wrong with you?” A bit annoyed, I complied and regurgitated all the information a second time. After this, he left the room and spoke to the primary doctor at Student Health.

At this point, I had been sitting in the room for about 40 minutes and I was getting pretty agitated. I was missing my next meeting of the day and taking the risk that my tardiness would reflect poorly on my grade.

After what seemed like forever, the doctor finally came in. He asked me to give him my symptoms. I went through everything a third time, ensuring to captivate his attention with graphic details as I had before.

He left the room and I waited again. After 10 or 15 more minutes, he returned with the assistant doctor. He brought a document in that he had just printed and handed it to me. It was a case study about headaches that had been led by researchers at a university.

He gave me a brief synopsis of what the article said, and attempted to generalize the information so it would seem pertinent to me. After he gave his book-report style rundown of why headaches occur, he suggested I take some Ibuprofen or other pain reliever to remedy it (excellent suggestion…why didn’t I think of that?).

The doctor then switched gears to the question I raised about blood pressure. He felt compelled to inform me that I had poor lifestyle choices; that I should elect to eat less canned meats and processed foods, get more exercise, and stop eating so much (because there are cameras on campus…student health doctors know when you are sleeping, they know when you’re awake).

He also gestured to a fold of skin under my arm and told me that my weight was responsible for my blood pressure issues.

While the assistant doctor made me feel at ease with my condition, the primary doctor came across as passive (not wanting to help me at all), and condescending. Truth be told, I felt a little violated having shared my condition with him in the first place.

I don’t know which is worse: the fact that the doctor is providing diagnoses when he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, or the fact that he passively insults patients in an environment where they already feel vulnerable and overly self-conscious.

I’ve heard some pretty scary stories about Student Health, but I never believed they were true until this experience. I will not be returning to Student Health again. I am very capable of conducting a Google search on my own computer.

If nothing else, one thing is clear: if you have a problem, it’s best to get yourself examined by a doctor that takes you seriously.

 

Comments on this opinion can be sent to stephern.a.preston@live.mercer.edu

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