When Dr. Jeff Benson suddenly left his post as college physician and director of Dudley Coe Health Center last January, the College scrambled to bring in outside physicians to fill Benson's vacancy. After a summer of searching, the administration has decided to make the switch from a full-time doctor to contracted physicians a permanent one.
Under the new model, the College will contract with two local physicians, Jeff Maher and Melanie Rand, both of whom practice at Family Health at Parkview Adventist Medical Center.
Rand will work two half-days each week, while Maher will work three, said Student Health Program Administrator Caitlin Gutheil. Combined, the two physicians will spend approximately 20 hours seeing students each week. When the physicians are not on site, they will be available by pager.
Despite the absence of a full-time doctor on campus, Interim Director of the Health Center and Midlevel Provider Sandra Hayes said that students still have the same level of physician coverage as before. As a nurse practitioner, Hayes has served as a clinical provider to Bowdoin students at the health center for seven years.
According to Hayes, Benson worked some 40 hours a week prior to his departure, half of which was spent seeing patients. The rest of his time was spent on administrative tasks.
Under the new system, Hayes will handle all administrative work while the contracted physicians spend their time seeing patients.
The benefits of moving away from a full-time physician far outweigh the downfalls, said Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett.
One advantage to the new model is that the College can now offer a male and a female physician.
"We were very keen on having a female physician as well so students have a choice," Hazlett said.
The new system also allocates responsibility to two doctors instead of one.
"Dr. Benson was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which no one wants to be," Hazlett said.
The College has received almost no criticism regarding its decision to drop a full-time doctor, save for a concerned mother who "misunderstood" the model, Hazlett said.
With physicians on duty for the same number of hours as before, many students may not even realize a change has taken place at Dudley Coe.
"I'm okay with it as long as they're not changing the number of hours a doctor would be on call," said Debbie Theodore '08.
Although the search to fill the position of director is now over, the College may re-open it in January. According to Hazlett, the College did not have very many applicants for the position, perhaps due to the search's mid-summer timeline.
As acting director, Hayes will be able to sift through the administrative responsibilities while still seeing patients as a mid-level nurse practitioner and decide whether she is interested in continuing to fulfill administrative responsibilities.
"An acting position is hard," Hazlett said. "You sort of feel like you are in a year-long interview."
Under Hayes' new leadership, the health center staff aims to offer an increased number of initiatives, including programming around body image and self-care.
"They put a lot of things on the back burner [last semester] because they didn't have a staff head," Hazlett said.
Also on the health center's agenda this year is getting birth control back on the shelves. The College, which used to offer oral contraceptives to students free of charge, abruptly lost its contract with its birth control provider, Organon, last January. College officials said the loss of contract was in no way related to Benson's sudden departure.
For Hayes, birth control is a top concern. "It's a priority and passion of mine," she said, noting that the issue is not yet closed.
According to Gutheil, there have been no further developments on this issue since last spring.
"There's been no change in policy at this time, but I wouldn't say the issue has been 'dropped,'" Gutheil said in an e-mail to the Orient. "Right now, we're following what we believe is the best path, but if another option looks more promising at a later date, we'll pursue it."