Candidate for Director of Student Health Services suggests changes to student health

Davidson, currently the Clinical Director of Health at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, gave a presentation in the Dodd Center for Executive Director of Student Health Services at UConn on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. (Zhelun Lang/Daily Campus)

Eleanor Davidson said she would create an “integrated” and “holistic” model for campus health and wellness, based on changing the student health system, in a presentation she gave Tuesday in the Dodd Center for the Executive Director position at Student Health Services.

“We have to work more as a partnership between professionals and students,” Davidson said. “We can’t just take care of that sore throat and forget everything else.”

Davidson is the Clinical Director of Health at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and got her MD at the University of Michigan Medical School. According to her resume, she has more than 20 years of experience providing health care to students. Her interests are in the primary care of mental health patients on university campuses.

In her presentation, she commended UConn’s Student Health Services for crisis management and UConn’s Residential Life for conflict management, but said that she wants to focus on helping students develop life skills relating to their health.

Communication skills, handling money and managing loans are the biggest life skills at universities like UConn, she said, each of which play a role in the mental health of the student body.

“We need student feedback. It’s the driver of the engine of change,” Davidson said. “Most students know what they have and how to treat it, but they don’t know how to make it work in college.”

As a member of the American College Health Association and the National College Depression Project Advisory Board, Davidson has studied and contributed to understanding issues relating to mental health on college campuses. Her publications focus on improving student depression care, student healthcare systems and treatments for particular diseases.

When Davidson first entered the field of student health services, she said she didn’t know what to do.

“You go from thinking you're really smart,” she said. “Then figuring out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Through her years in the field, she said she learned to look at the broader context of patients, including who they are and why they are showing symptoms at a particular point in time.

She said she also likes to ask what patients hoped she would do for them. She recognized that health services can treat a variety of illnesses, including those stemming from student’s childhoods and backgrounds.

Her presentation was often focused on the idea of collaborative teamwork in what she called a “structured administration.” This top down approach, she said, should include a multidisciplinary team, like those she said she has worked with in the past, including nurses, councilors and other professionals. She said there are big challenges to administration.

“You can’t be anxious about money and you have to make decisions,” Davidson said. “Managing people is a challenge too, and there needs to be role clarification.”

She said she spent the last 10 years in emergency management, handling outbreaks like swine flue. Structural considerations, she said, were important because they determined how people fit into the larger picture when responding to these health issues.

When Fleurette King, the director of the Rainbow Center, asked Davidson what kind of space Davidson envisioned for Student Health Services, Davidson replied by saying the space shouldn’t be “overly medical or overly homey.”

“Even though you’re designing it for students now, you’re not just designing it for students now,” Davidson said. “Each generation defines themselves differently.”

Regardless of the space, she said, people are the heart of Student Health Services because they are welcoming visitors. To accommodate everyone, she said Student Health Services should consider restrooms for LGBTQ students.

Although Davidson entered the medical field out of college, she spent her undergraduate career as a music theory major, singing in choir and thinking about the patterns that exist in music.

“I’ve always been interested in pattern identification,” Davidson said. “If you’ve reached a wall in one place, you can find something else your good at and use it to get over the wall.”

As a singer in the annual summer Berkshire Coral Festival in Springfield, she said she has only recently found time for music in her life, whereas she had no time while working and raising two children.

Now, her children have entered their professional lives and live closer to UConn than they do to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Davidson said being close to her children was one of the reasons she is pursuing the Student Health Services position here.

The other reason, she said, is that UConn is a place where she can move forward with creating and implementing an effective model for student health. Unlike her current institution, she said UConn is willing to move forward. 


Diler Haji is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at diler.haji@uconn.edu.