In keeping with The Brock Press’ mandate to not only be students’ first choice in regards to news content, but further to be a newspaper made by and for the students, we felt that it was important to profile one of Brock University’s unsung heroes. A woman, who much likes our mothers when we were children, spends countless hours managing and overseeing all things health-related at Brock University.
On the heels of “Wellness Week”, I got the chance to meet up with Melodie Shick-Porter, Director of Health Services at Brock, and Julie Fennell, Health Promotions Educator, in perhaps every student’s favorite location, the puppy room.
Upon arrival at Harrison Hall, I was checked in at the reception and waited a minute before meeting up with Fennell, who proceeded to tell me that Melodie would be busy for a little while longer, a clear reality for someone that I would honestly describe as one of Brock’s busiest persons.
While waiting for Christy Mitchell, our Chief Photographer to join us and take some pictures, we decided we would visit the puppy room which was being hosted in the Campus Security building.
For someone who had not been in the puppy room for several years, I was immediately stricken by the immense positivity that I received from everybody working in the room. Students were laughing, smiling, talking and most importantly, were just being themselves in what can only be described as the ultimate level playing field, providing an area in which members of the Brock community and beyond can spend 45 minutes relaxing and playing with some heart melting pups.
It was here that I met Melodie Shick-Porter for the first time, as she proceeded to walk up to me, introducing her as if we were equals, or perhaps, even old friends.
Following this, we headed to her office and experienced some very genuine moments trying to find a good spot for our photo-shoot before our interview, something that was hindered by the rain, but did little to dampen our spirits.
Finally, we began our interview, which consisted of me putting on my listening ears and learning about things I “thought” I knew about Health Services.
Q: What is a typical “Day in the Life” for you?
“Every day we have a mixture of both booked appointments and urgent walk-in clinics hours.
In terms of my role, I initially check-in to ensure everything is running smoothly in our two clinic locations, in Harrison Hall and at the Satellite clinic across the street, in Campus Pharmacy At Student Health Services. We are really all about helping students manage their health (all determents of health: physical, mental, social, intellectual spiritual, finances and environmental health) and wellness.
Typically, at this time of year, I am meeting with students. I have booked patients of my own, so I will see my patients. I also manage the connections between students’ health and academics for short term accommodations. For instance, in a case of a concussion. Mononucleosis or a mental health issue that is not a permanent condition, where a student may need extended accommodations with their professors and their classes, I will connect with the faculty or the registrar’s office.
Daily, I work with Julie and her team of Brock students who handle health promotion on campus. As well as personally overseeing the health promotion programs, I manage the social media team while Julie manages the rest of the students. We work together to put on campaigns as well as educate students about different health issues such as responsible alcohol use, sexual health, physical activity, stress management and mental health resilience”.
In addition, I engage within the Brock community with regard to health issues, policy development and fostering a health community at Brock. This means partnering and coordinating with various services, faculty and administration. A good example of this is the new “Mental Health website” –that was developed with the mental health nurse, Debbie MacCulloch, myself, Les McCurdy Meyers – personal counseling and a Brock Student Kaitlyn Kerridge. The university mental health site is a resource, located on Brock’s main page for students, students in crisis, friends, family, faculty and staff.”
Q: What is Health Services’ role in the larger community?
“We work with various external partners with regards to health management, awareness, outbreaks and health promotion. Every fall I help to organize a “Speak Out“ night with Brock and community partners like helping to organize the ‘Speak Out’ night, as well as other members of public health on a frequent basis. We work with communicable infections, influenza, STI’s etc.”
Last week, we partnered with public health to provide mass urine testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
We also work with public health in terms of mental health. Through my mental health nurse, we have made connections with the E.R and psychiatric wards because we need to coordinate with those professional staff in order to better help our students.”
Q: How can we help students have a better experience at Brock?
“Helping students to get the best experience at Brock is really a collaborative effort between all the different departments of the university, always focusing on student health, growth and life at Brock. I like to say to students—take care of yourself, make wise choices, and learn as much as you can, be involved in as many opportunities as possible.
From the prospective of Student Health Services we would like all students to know that Student Health Services is available, non-judgmental and 100 per cent confidential. Students should feel that if they are feeling unwell either in their physical or mental health we are here to help them. We and are all about managing health and wellness and helping students reach their goal of academic success.
All of the staff at Student Health Services including Physicians, Nurses, Health educators, to students talking to students, our SHS team works together to encourage students to manage all aspects of their health and mental health.”
Q: What other services do you provide Brock students with?
“In 2014, we opened the Health and Wellness Centre or we call it the HUB. This is an open location on campus that is staffed by the Health Promotion Educator and the Peer Education Team. They are available Monday—Friday from 10:00 — 4:00 to talk about healthy sleep, alcohol, sexual health, mental health and resilience.
One thing I am passionate about is looking for opportunities within our community to increase the health and wellness of our students. This is how, “ Leave The Pack Behind” was developed. ‘Leave the Pack Behind’ a program developed with Dr. Kelli-an Ministry of Health and Long term Care since 2000, Lawrance, Sharon Lawler, a public health nurse and myself. This program, now 16 years old, is present in all Ontario universities and colleges. It combines research with programming. We have Brock staff, under the direction of Dr. Lawrance that oversees all of Ontario’s post-secondary programs. This is a Brock program. In addition, Dr. Grant and myself have brought clinical tobacco training to the health Services across the province. There has been a decrease in smoking up-take and cessation.”
Another initiative we managed this year was the “back to learn” concussion protocol. The Athletic Therapy Clinic brought together a group to talk about concussions and returning to sports post-concussion. We noticed we were having many more students coming into Student Health Services with concussions. The Medical Director and faculty took this opportunity to say we really need a policy on how to help students return to the class room following a concussion. This resulted in a change of process that was passed by Senate, for medical concussion certificate.
Some of the things that we do is hire students. Julie has a team of 12 students for peer health and education, as well as a team of students for ‘Leave the Pack Behind’, plus lots of volunteer positions. This fulfills the volunteer and employment needs of students. More importantly, they learn skills. They learn a variety of skills that help later in life in terms of health, time management, talking to students, problem solving, creative design, project management”.
We hire students each year to work as part of a Peer Education Team, when students stay with us year after year, they are always learning new skills. In addition, we also supervise student placements in education research roles. Currently, we have several classes working with us on projects and many new projects in mind for the following academic year. We have been meeting with faculty and directors of Brock programs to help make us more technical and digital.”
Q: How do you help identify the mental/ physical health problems of students who get an appointment?
“Students can book an appointment at Student Health Services for any health issue. When a student comes in for their initial appointment the nurses assess how the student is doing. This evidenced based early identification assessment helps us in recognizing if a student has a mental health concern. We can then encourage a student to get help if needed and as well as introduce all of the services on campus. So whenever a student comes in, whether it is for a cold or something else, we also want to know how they are coping? How is their mental health? How are they managing in terms of coping, eating, drinking and managing life.”
Q: What is the mandate of Student Health Services and what services do you provide?
“So Student Health Services looks after the health of students. We provide assessment of their illness or issue, treatment, prevention and promotion. When students come to health services for a variety of reasons, they will be seen by a team of nurses and doctors” including 1 full time nurse, one full time mental health nurse, seven part time nurses, our medical director, 12 part time doctors including two part-time psychiatrists, and a specialist in eating disorders.
I have introduced and coordinated the “National College health survey” for Brock students, which provides insight into the health and behaviors of Brock Students. This health survey, which we ran in 2009 and 2013, has just been completed here at Brock University, March 2016, provides valuable data about how students are doing here. I will be reviewing this data with other Brock partners and developing strategies and programs to address the health needs of Brock students.
We co-ordinate our health promotion outreach across our health services. For example: managing stress and mental health before exams. SHS would have several different ways to talk to students about this during their clinic visits, through a program at the Hub, workshops, various booths throughout the school and social media.”