Erin Baldwin begins new position at the Thielen Student Health Center

Sarah Muller

Just a few days into her tenure at Iowa State, Erin Baldwin is already beginning to treat the ailments of the Thielen Student Health Center that were identified from a report released in summer 2015.

Communication has been the focus for Baldwin, the new director of the Health Center. She’s also working to help the Health Center become more transparent in its practices, and is becoming a liaison between the Health Center and the community. 

“It’s just making sure the team has the resources they need to best serve the students,” Baldwin said.

She has embraced the action plan formed by campus administrators, including Mary Hensley, who served as interim director of the Health Center. The plan was formed based on the 15 recommendations from the Keeling Associate Health Report created after the company reviewed the condition of the Health Center in 2015 to poor results.

“My plan is to look at everything that’s been done, everything that’s in progress, and then take it to the next level of what the future looks like for us,” Baldwin said.

Martino Harmon, associate vice president of Student Affairs, headed the search for the new director. Harmon said he’s most excited about Baldwin’s experience in the health care field.

“Even though we are not as large as where [Baldwin] came from, we have a complex organization where we have a variety of services that we provide,” Harmon said.

Harmon said the top priority of the Keeling Associate Health Report was addressing a lack of leadership, an element that led to hiring Baldwin. However, Harmon said the university has made progress on each of the 15 recommendations.

“What I sense, and what I’m very optimistic about, is that the staff morale will increase because there is a sense of permanency,” Harmon said. “She will set the direction and that will be the direction we go in.”

In order to improve access, the Health Center has scouted out more providers, or physicians and nurses. As a step forward, the Health Center has signed a new agreement with McFarland Clinic to procure additional part-time physicians who want to work extra hours in case the Health Center’s physicians are not available.

“That’s great because one: it helps us fill gaps, but two: it also strengthens the partnership between McFarland and Iowa State,” Harmon said.

The Health Center has added medically certified assistants to manage the reception desks.

“The level of customer service and the medical knowledge they have is an improvement over the previous scenario, where we had people who didn’t have any training upfront,” Harmon said.

On a technological side, the Health Center has begun sending out text message appointment reminders to clients, which has decreased the no-show rate of appointments by 13 percent in the past three months.

If students are unable to attend their appointment, their spot may go to someone in waiting, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing wait times.

The Health Center is working on hiring another psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse practitioner. Baldwin said that the mental health facility complements the Student Counseling Center’s mission with providing medication services.

“Dr. Nebbe and his team that we are working to recruit [can] collaborate and coordinate with the primary care providers to make sure the student has a good, well-rounded experience,” Baldwin said.

Financially, the Health Center has raised its student fee, which will contribute toward the cost of bringing on additional care providers.

“[The raise will make] sure that we have the right level of providers and supportive team members across the entire health center to be able to have that really high level of quality service when they come here,” Baldwin said.

While Baldwin said it could be a year or two before students are able to see dramatic differences, she also said the future of the Health Center will consist of trust from the students and access for them.

“Any time [students] would have a need, they could come to the Health Center and be able to get in,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin is beginning to rebuild communication between groups on campus including the Student Affairs Cabinet, Health Advisory Council and graduate students by forming meetings in order to discuss where the Health Center is at in its plans.

However, it all comes back to the 36,001 clients Baldwin has on campus.

“That’s our mission,” Baldwin said. “To serve the students.”