Serving students for 75 years

Student Health Service got its start in one partitioned room in Schofield Hall in 1938.
That’s when health service first came to UW-Eau Claire and Alice Matz, the original university nurse, began offering care to students. There were 470 students enrolled and the doctor was only present for two hours a day.
Today, the doctor is always in, the office is up the hill and a lot has changed at SHS as it celebrates the 75th year anniversary of providing health care to students on campus.
Dr. Joanne Mellema, who has served as a physician at SHS since 1991, said many of the changes that have occurred are due to overall differences in the health care field.
“I think in 75 years, Madison has changed incredibly, and health care has changed as a result,” Mellema said.
Funded primarily by student segregated fees, SHS prides itself on offering care at low costs to students and functions as an outpatient medical facility.
Clinic manager Tracy TeSelle believes this facility specifically is different from all other options. TeSelle said although there is a variety of healthcare available in the community of Eau Claire, it is not the same experience for students.
Accommodating students’ schedules and being used to working with young adults makes the on-campus clinic different from other options, TeSelle said.
“Being on campus is really important,” TeSelle said. “This is an institution of higher learning and learning to take care of yourself. We teach students to learn how to be an advocate for themselves.”
Brianna Burke, a senior chemistry major, said she has received on-campus health care various times at Eau Claire and has had nothing but positive experiences. Burke considers SHS a vital part of campus.
“They offer low-cost services for students who don’t have insurance, or are from far away and don’t have insurance coverage in Eau Claire,” Burke said. “It makes getting to the doctor easier. It makes a lot of sense to have them on campus. I don’t think it’s something our campus can really function without.”
Deb Wright serves as a Nurse Practitioner in the clinic. Her focus is family planning. She has seen a multitude of changes develop at SHS during her time on campus.
When Wright was first hired by SHS in 1985, she was the first Nurse Practitioner in women’s health they had staffed since the clinic started expanding their contraceptive services on campus.
Wright left after one year of a Limited Term Employment, served another LTE in 1993 and was later hired full time in 2006.
“I have sort of an unusual history at Student Health Service, but I like working with this population,” Wright said.
Over the last 75 years, SHS has focused on care of students. Mellema said staff tries to be very responsive to what students want or need.
SHS staffers are here because they enjoy working with students, TeSelle said.
“We work really hard to work around schedules to get students the care that they need knowing that that’s why we are here: to serve the students,” TeSelle said.
Burke has always felt comfortable with the staff at SHS and said they value students.
“They really do love the students, and that is why they are here,” Burke said. “I know that the clinicians and the physicians that work there could possibly get a better job somewhere else, but they choose to work here because they love the students and they want to do what is best for them.”
To celebrate their anniversary of service, the clinic will hold an open house from 1-3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. Cupcakes, door prizes and clinic tours will be a part of the celebration.