Author: Zoe Forster
If you’ve ever been to Gannett, you know the drill: you start your visit by answering a million seemingly irrelevant (and quite personal) questions – like what medication you’re currently taking, how many drinks you’ve had in the past week, and what your mental state is like.
Usually, we just let it happen. We don’t bother asking why they need to know this information. But I decided it was time to get some answers – after all, these appointments are about us, not them.
So what’s the deal with the 30-minute interrogation? After talking with physician Anne Jones, DO, who is also assistant director of medical services, I got to know a little bit more about what goes on inside Gannett.
Q: Why does it feel so hard to get an appointment sometimes?
Jones: We at Gannett know that students are busy, and trying to juggle multiple demands along with life at Cornell. We track data to learn when the busiest times are, when students need us, and we staff the clinic appropriately. We do our best to make sure we have enough available appointments, but sometimes when it’s a busy time of year, especially in flu season or other times when students tend to get sick, it gets busy at the clinic, too! We also just started offering appointments online, so you can make an appointment when it works well for you. If you ever feel that you have difficulty finding a good appointment time, just call us. We usually hold a few appointments each day for emergencies and urgent walk-ins, and we will try our best to make things work for you.
Q: Is it true that Gannett asks everyone about pregnancy?
Jones: No, we do not ask every person who comes to Gannett if they could be pregnant. However, it probably feels like we ask this question all the time – and it’s true, we do ask it a lot! In fact, many health issues are the effect of—or are affected by—a pregnancy. For example, if you come in with nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain, you could have a gastroenteritis or food poisoning, or it could be pregnancy. Alternatively, if you see a clinician for back pain and an X-ray is ordered, you would be asked about pregnancy before doing an X-ray. You would also be asked about the possibility of pregnancy before certain medications are prescribed.
Q: Are STIs a big issue on campus?
Jones: In the past academic year, STIs are the fifth most common reason for visiting gannett.
The absolute most common bacterial STI on campus is chlamydia, and often the symptoms are unrecognizable, which means we usually catch these infections because the patient comes in for other reasons. Additionally, in the past year, the most common reason for visiting gannet has been for birth control. When we talk about birth control, we’re also talking about STIs. In order for me as a clinician to run a test on these, the student has to feel comfortable opening up to me. My style as a clinician is when I feel like I need to know more, I will simply ask the patient if it’s okay if I ask some personal questions. This gives the student the ability to say no but also invites them to open up. The important thing to note is that if you do have a worrisome diagnosis, we have a sex health counselor who works with couples and individual patients.
Q: Every time I’ve gone to Gannett, I am asked about my mental health. Why?
Jones: This is a question we ask everyone who comes to Gannett, and for good reason: Cornell is a caring community in which we know that healthy bodies and minds are intricately linked. At Cornell, we believe that physical and mental health are interrelated, so we wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to discuss a mental health issue that may be going on—even if you come to us with an ankle sprain. We also have first-rate counseling and psychological services (CAPS), so if you relay a mental health concern, we can connect you with appropriate support.
Q: What about my alcohol consumption. Why is that relevant?
Jones: Alcohol is another issue that affects and is affected by many things in a person’s life. First, there are medications and treatments that don’t work effectively (or that can produce harmful side effects) if used with alcohol. Antibiotics are one example. Certain antidepressants are another. Second, alcohol and other drug use often overlaps with other health concerns, including hazing, sexual assault, and other forms of violence – to name a few. Although there are many services on campus that are available to students, research shows one of the best ways to engage with someone who needs help related to alcohol use is during a visit with a health care provider, regardless of the reason for the visit. So the next time you see questions about mental health and alcohol when you come to Gannett, you can click through them knowing that although they may not pertain to you this time around, they might just be helping the person sitting next to you.
Q: Why is it so hard to get antibiotics if I think I need them?
Jones: You may be someone who has had the same infection each year, and the same antibiotics may have worked for you. Or you may be someone who has never had antibiotics and is reluctant to use them. Either way, when you move to a new location or come to college for the first time, you will be exposed to new infections. Let’s take, for example, antibiotic use for a sore throat. Although a common cause of sore throat is a strep infection (which requires one type of antibiotic), it can also be caused by mono, many other viruses, or even gonorrhea (which requires a different type of antibiotic). Gannett staff use evidence-based, well-validated protocols to evaluate anyone coming to us for care. So when you come to Gannett with a sore throat, we would consider all of the possible causes for your infection and arrive at the best treatment considering your situation – and yes, this sometimes means we may end up talking about sex and pregnancy when you come in for a sore throat!
So there you have it, Cornellians. Although we may sometimes feel overwhelmed by their uncomfortable and seemingly off-topic questions, Gannett is just being thorough. When all is said and done, they just want to empower students to take control of every aspect of their well-being. If you ever need to see a physician, just go online and click on my “mygannett” where you can pick from many different types of appointments. Quick and easy.