Review has Thielen Student Health Center in hot water

Eric Wirth

Over the summer, Iowa State’s Thielen Student Health Center received a review that was commissioned by President Steven Leath and the Office of the Senior Vice President of Student Affairs in 2014. The results were grim.

“It was one of the most harsh reports I’ve read,” Leath said. “The most concerning part to me was how we didn’t catch it earlier.”

The report was released by Keeling & Associates, a company that works with colleges and universities to strengthen health-related programs. Keeling & Associates’ report cited case studies of poor care, including an appendicitis case that went undetected by the Student Health Center that could have been life-threatening. The larger issue reported was a “serious, chronic and corrosive lack of leadership.”

The study was commissioned after the previous director of the Student Health Center, Michelle Hendricks, retired in September 2014.

Until recently, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Martino Harmon was serving as interim director of the Student Health Center. Mary Hensley took over the position this July after the report noted Harmon was not a health professional and already committed to his position in administration.

“We’re working on focusing on the recommendations that came from the consulting report,” Hensley said.

The Student Health Center is attempting to remedy one of the long wait times cited in the report by increasing staff presence.

“We’re hiring more practitioners, PAs and physicians,” Leath said. “If you look at the ratio of providers to students, it’s way out of whack.”

In order to address the lack of leadership as well as poor departmental organization cited in the report, the university has been searching for a permanent replacement for Hendricks.

“Students will be involved in that process,” Harmon said.

New leadership may be the key to decreasing the percentage of employees at the Student Health Center who “think there are better ways to organize the departmental structure of the staff,” which the Keeling & Associates report stood at 86 percent.

Changes have been made, but university leadership knows improvement doesn’t happen overnight.

“We’re not there yet, it’s still got a ways to go,” Leath said.

The full 59-page Keeling & Associates report can be found here.