Friday, October 21, 2005

It's the little things...

Student health centers. You first come in contact with them in college. You remember – when you got mono, or the flu, or needed birth control. Well, not if you went to my college – they wouldn’t give you birth control, but always assumed you made an appointment because you thought you were pregnant. Even if you croaked, “I think I have strep” they heard “I think I’m pregnant.” Rather annoying, but understandable. Apparently unplanned pregnancies can be a common problem on college campuses. Kind of ironic that they didn’t want to hand out birth control, but I digress.

If you’re lucky, you get out of the academic system and plunge into the real world with real doctors and nurses who aren’t jaded by years and years of working with college students (read “they don’t assume you’re pregnant or STD-laden due to having myriad sexual partners”).

I, unfortunately, stayed in the academic mill and am therefore financially forced to find my health care at yet another student health center. Thankfully I work on a campus that is integrated with several hospitals, so you can’t swing a cat without hitting a physician and knocking the cell phone or pager out of his hand and sullying his pristine white lab coat (which he will never actually wear into a lab).

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, the health center on my campus.

I got into the routine of regular check-ups while in college, and carried it on into grad school. My first few visits to the student health center were rather unpleasant. Meeting new people with preconceived notions (again with the jaded medical practitioners!) and having to go through more of the embarrassing “getting to know you and your medical history” sessions. Women, you know what I’m talking about.

Most of the time I had appointments with the same nurse practitioner, C. I don’t know if they just assign students to certain nurses, or if that was just my luck of the draw. C is about 4 foot 10, and extremely no-nonsense. She doesn’t pussy-foot, and she doesn’t sugar-coat. She gets down to business. I’d been taught to always be respectful and polite, so I was, even through the initial stereotype-busting.

And what do you know, it actually WORKED. C recognizes me (even though she’s not only treating the college set, but also the grad student set – tons of women). She actually believes me when I said I truly wasn’t sleeping with half the campus.

I don’t know much about C – she definitely knows more about me. What I have been able to glean: she’s a republican, she loves the Tribe, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s a lesbian because she never refers to her partner in pronoun form (e.g. he or she), the few times I’ve been able to get anything out of her it’s been simply “we.” Her privacy is her business, that’s fine by me, I can respect that.

But today was different. Today she went beyond the usual chit-chat of “how are things going in the lab?” It went beyond “Kate’s been polite, I can be polite back.” She surprised me by actually wanting to know how things were going with my march toward graduation and my plans for afterward. She wanted to give me advice, help me weigh my options. She asked probing questions. She actually cared. I didn’t know she cared. For the first time in a long time, I left the health center with a smile on my face.

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