Bowdoin Student Government (BSG), in conjunction with the Dean's office and Dudley Coe Health Center, has decided to conduct a second poll to measure student opinion about the health care provided on campus.
BSG President Sophia Seifert '09 and Vice President of Student Affairs Carly Berman '11 conducted the original survey, composed of questions compiled by the BSG Assembly.
Seifert said that BSG's interest in conducting a survey stemmed from her observation of "a perception among the student body that our health services could be improved."
"The point of the survey was to gauge student opinion," added Berman.
The questions on the survey included, "What is your general opinion of the Health Center? How confident are you in the Health Center? Have you purposefully avoided the Health Center? When do you use the Health Center? Have you heard any stories about the Health Center?"
BSG members sat at a table in Smith Union on November 3-5, according to Berman, and administered the original pen-and-paper survey to 266 students. Berman said that other opinions were also solicited by placing surveys in the common areas of College Houses, dorms and outside of Thorne Dining Hall.
Of the 266 students who took the survey, 77 had a positive opinion, 116 a neutral opinion and 70 a negative one.
The results also included 61 claimed cases of misdiagnosis, 22 cases of a wrong prescription and 19 indications of poor treatment. Berman and Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes felt that these numbers could easily be misleading.
"The [BSG] Assembly agreed overall that some of the results are problematic," Berman said, and cited the relatively small sample size as a possible issue. "In terms of the whole student body, [266 students is] a pretty small fraction," she said.
Hayes said that she felt the questions in the initial BSG survey were "vague" and that a second poll was needed.
"The questions and then the responses didn't give us great data," Hayes said.
Hayes pointed out that the question in the original survey about misdiagnoses was particularly problematic.
"What constitutes a misdiagnosis?" asked Hayes. "Because you can come in and present with a cough and we do all of the evaluation and send you on [your] way, and indeed it really was probably a viral illness when you came in but you got sicker and came down with pneumonia. So did students [filling out the survey] call that a misdiagnosis? Because I wouldn't."
"It was a pretty unscientific survey," added Seifert.
Both Seifert and Berman expressed their feelings that a second survey was needed to determine the significance of the initial results.
After the results of the original survey were received, Seifert said that the consensus among the BSG was that the issues at hand needed to be investigated further.
Seifert questioned whether the negative opinions of the health center were influenced by the general view of the Dudley Coe on campus.
"We have to figure out, what of this is perception and what of this is actual fact?" said Seifert. "If these things are actual fact, why did these things happen? If these things are perception, why does that perception exist?"
Seifert called the results of the first survey, "very much a preliminary step, and just signals to us that yes, [investigating the student body's opinion of campus health services] is something that we want to continue working on, that we want to go the administration and collaborate with them to figure out just what the terrain of this issue is.
Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett, who oversees the health care on campus, outlined long-term goals for the Health Center, including increased visibility on campus and greater education in the community about the services offered at the center.
"There seems to be a lot of misinformation about things that students want and yet, [the Health Center] offers it, but we're clearly not doing a good enough job about getting that information out to students," Hazlett said.
Seifert echoed Hazlett's sentiments.
"Education is something we've been talking about the entire time...educating the student body about what services are [at the Health Center] and how they can best use them," she said.
Hayes indicated that the new survey will be distributed at the end of this semester or the beginning of the spring semester.
Hazlett said that among other revised questions, the new survey will also ask students what health services they would like to see added to the new health, fitness and wellness center when it opens next fall.
"[The] key piece is asking the right questions to get the information we want," said Hazlett.