The College began a search for a new director of health services this week, one of the first steps towards a new system of health care at Dudley Coe Health Center.

The College is looking to fill the position with a mid-level nurse practitioner or physician's assistant, said Caitlin Gutheil, administrator of student health programs.

Jeff Benson, who left the post in January, was a medical doctor.

In addition to the director, Gutheil said that Dudley Coe will contract with a local physician's office to bring one or two doctors to campus for a combined 10 hours per week.

Gutheil said that the new director would have clinical and administrative responsibilities, and would be heavily involved with student health groups.

"The director is a member of the Bowdoin community as well as handling administrative pieces," she said.

Currently Bowdoin contracts with two physicians at Parkview Hospital. Dr. Tim Howe specializes in internal medicine and Dr. Jeffery Maher specializes in family practice. Gutheil said Howe and Maher would continue serving the college until the end of this academic year, but that the health center might contract with different doctors for the upcoming school year.

Unlike Benson, the new director of health services will not be an M.D. Instead, the contracted physicians will provide medical oversight and consultations to Dudley Coe.

"It's a rare physician who can be a gifted clinician and administrator," said Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster.

Foster said that there are many advantages to the new plan.

Contracting with physicians at Mid Coast Hospital or Parkview Hospital will ease the process of admitting students to either hospital. Foster also said that contracting with a private practice would allow for better back-up coverage if either doctor was away during a medical emergency.

Additionally, the college will have 24-7 doctor coverage as part of the practice's on-call rotation.

Foster said that physicians in practice will be more current because they see more types of patients. He added that the health center will continue to receive visiting specialists as well.

According to Foster, "a doctor who works primarily with college students works in a fairly narrow place."

BSG President-elect Dustin Brooks '08 wondered whether the new policy is the best option.

"In the past, the role of the college physician has been very important in terms of Bowdoin as a community," Brooks said.

Dr. Greg Kerr '79, the chair of the Trustees' student affairs committee and an associate professor of anesthesiology and crucial care at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, said that the new system has advantages over the old one.

"All problems a physician could handle in an infirmary, an NP [nurse practitioner] could handle as well," he said. "The great thing about a nurse practitioner handling health care is they are going to be present all the time on campus and they are more affordable."

Gutheil and Foster both said that as part of the search process they had looked at peer schools' health centers. Foster said that at all the schools they profiled, except Colby and Amherst colleges, mid-level providers served as the directors of the health centers, similar to Bowdoin's new plan.

Foster also said that before Benson, Bowdoin had a similar system to the proposed one, with a mid-level director and contracted physician.

?Anne Riley contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster's statement, "It's a rare physician who can be a gifted clinician and administrator." The story now reflects the correct quote.