An invaluable campus resource

A set of large plastic teeth laying on a dental chair table with dental tools.

Everyone knows that receiving healthcare and seeing a doctor can oftentimes be stressful, expensive, difficult or all three. Weber State University’s student health center aims to provide students with a resource on-campus where medical attention is available.

The WSU student health center’s services are available to all students who are either currently attending a class or did so in the previous semester. Students do not need insurance or pay a copay to visit the clinic because student access to the health center’s services are covered by student fees.

Access to the student health center’s pharmacy is also covered by student fees. The pharmacy can fill prescriptions for medications like antibiotics and antidepressants for “at-cost” prices, meaning the prescriptions are marked up only by a small margin. By doing this, the student health center and its pharmacy ensure that students receive their pharmaceutical care at an affordable cost.

Dr. Benjamin Heaton, medical director and physician at the health center, expressed the importance of the role that the health center fulfills in providing reliable and convenient healthcare to students without health insurance, adding that uninsured students make up around 80% of the student health center’s patients.

Heaton described the process of getting help at the student health center as, “quick, convenient and without copay. We can get you in here usually within two hours of calling.”

Heaton further explained that because there is no copay, he can more freely take his time in providing students with medical care, giving him the opportunity to educate his patients on preventative care and providing him with more freedom in prescribing follow-up appointments.

Heaton compared this to the typical experience of seeking help for a long-term medical issue with a primary healthcare provider where the patient would need to pay a copay for the initial visit, as well as for any follow-up appointments that may come with the patient’s initial diagnosis.

The student health center provides students with a place where they can get effective and cost-friendly medical attention for common issues like upper respiratory illnesses such as strep throat or influenza and common muscular-skeletal issues like sprains or impingements. Dr. Heaton also recommends that students see the student health center for services like physical exams and pap smears.

The health center can also serve as a resource that provides students with programs and advice on how to make lifestyle changes to promote better habits.

Students can see the student health center for help in any of those areas and more without paying a copay or being covered by insurance.

In addition to providing students with general clinical visits, the student health center is also equipped with the ability to provide testing for things like COVID-19, the common flu, strep throat and UTIs free of charge.

In the case that a test needs to be done on a patient where their blood is drawn and sent out to another lab for testing, the student health center can provide that service at a price that is far cheaper than what a primary care provider may charge you.

One piece of advice for students that comes highly recommended from Heaton and the student health center is to schedule an appointment to get your yearly influenza immunization at the student health center, which students can get for just $5. It’s highly recommended for students planning on attending class in the fall to get their flu vaccine before the semester starts.

The student health center also provides the important service of providing students with access to STD testing and birth control pills at a highly-discounted price.

In addition to providing sexual wellness services and guidance to students, the student health center also stresses that the parents of the patient do not need to be notified of what happens between them and the physician they see at the student health center, students can be assured that HIPPA is fully adhered to in all cases at the student health center.

The most beneficial aspect for students in seeking medical care at the student health center is the time and care that the physician can invest in addressing their patient’s medical concerns.

“I’m not beholden to billing or filling out insurance,” Heaton said. “I think one of the greatest benefits is that I can spend 15-20 minutes or more with a patient just addressing their concern.”

Upon learning more about the student health center’s operations, it’s been discovered that because of a possible combination of lowered visitation numbers over the past two years due to the pandemic and a general lack of student awareness that the student health center faces a 70% chance of being shut down by April 2023.

“A lot of students just don’t know about us,” Heaton said.

Additional factors that may have contributed to the student health center’s dipping numbers are a continual lack of advertising for the student service center and mixed messaging put out by WSU to students that may have dissuaded students from visiting the student health center during the pandemic.

Heaton advises that students should pay the student health center a visit if they exhibit flu-like symptoms or other upper-respiratory system symptoms as they may be signs of influenza infection. He explained that getting a diagnosis is important because if the patient is diagnosed with influenza within 48 hours of contraction, antiviral medications that can be obtained through a script at the pharmacy have a greater chance of beating the infection faster.

It’s important that students seek diagnosis so that they can get feeling better sooner, Heaton explained. A common issue the clinic sees is students making the mistake of not going in to get treated for an influenza infection because they often mistake it for COVID, since the symptoms can be very similar.

Heaton said the best way to advocate for the student health center’s ability to continue its services is to utilize them and recommend the student health center to friends or fellow students who are in need of help addressing any medical concerns they may have.

It’s important to remember that health insurance coverage is not required to be seen at the student health center. The student health center is focused on making the search for medical care as easy as possible for WSU students, especially for those students who may now just be learning how to live their lives as independent adults.

Students interested in seeking medical care on-campus will be interested to know that the student health center is located on the south end of the first floor in the student services building. The student health center accepts walk-ins, but students also have the option of calling the student health center at (801) 626-6459 to make an appointment ahead of time.