Health advocates make staying healthy cheap and convenient

Student health advocates hand out supplies in dorms, frats and sororities.

Kevin McCahill

As cold and flu season begins, one organization is preparing to help.

Boynton’s Health Advocates has prepared some students to help out others in residence halls, fraternities and sororities this winter.

Formed in 1989, the Health Advocates provides basic tools such as thermometers, cough medicine, bandages and ointments. There are 32 advocates at the University.

David Dorman, Health educator with Boynton Health Service, said the program is intended to help students at times when Boynton is closed. Student-volunteers take a two-day training course before school begins to learn how to handle student health issues.

Dorman said there were no liability issues with students instead of University staff members handling medications. He said students work under the Good Samaritan Law, which means that when they help others in good faith, they can’t be held liable.

“A lot of things we could have staff do, but we just like involving students,” he said. “Many times students will seek out students instead of staff.”

Territorial Hall Director Brett Reichter said students do use the Health Advocates program.

“It’s helpful,” he said. “It’s a good, convenient resource for (students).”

Dorman said the advocates aren’t trained to offer medical advice, but can distribute tools or help call Boynton’s 24-hour University nurse line.

If students are very ill, they should go to the emergency room directly, Dorman said.

The advocates have been in residence halls for years, but have recently been extended to fraternities and sororities. They also are stationed in Wilkins Hall, University Village and Yudof Hall.

There typically are two or three advocates per hall, but in first-year halls like Territorial, typically there are five, Dorman said. The advocates also have weekly training.

There is an increased advocate presence in first-year halls because this often is the first time these students have to take care of themselves, he said.

Dorman said they also teach prevention such as hand-washing to ward off illnesses.

Condoms, emergency pregnancy exams and dental dams are also available.

Susan Stubblefield, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, said the relationship between Boynton and students is important.

“It feels more natural for students to be referred to Boynton Health Service for more support,” she said. “That encouragement helps students get to Boynton to stay well.”

Political science sophomore Chris McCall works as an advocate in Middlebrook Hall. He said that during a typical week he usually gives out cold medicine and bandages.

“For students, it’s nice to be able to have free access to a lot of small medical needs,” he said. “Getting that stuff for free and not having to leave the hall is really convenient and helpful.”

McCall said he took the position because he has family in the medical field and hopes to become a community adviser next year. There are three advocates at Middlebrook, and McCall said the service is widely publicized in the building.

Some students in residence halls said they don’t use the advocates, but journalism first-year student Jenny Hager said they are an asset because they provide help for students who don’t have to leave their hall.

“It’s better than paying $8 for a bottle of NyQuil,” said first-year student Calli deCathelineau.