Women’s Health Center provides essential services

The Women's Health Center provides services for gynecological health issues and concerns. Photo: Spencer Davis
The Women’s Health Center provides services for gynecological health issues and concerns. Photo: Spencer Davis

The Women’s Health Center at Baldwin Hall is a resource for individuals seeking information, diagnosis and treatment for or about gynecological and breast health issues. The clinic is located on the second floor of Baldwin, separated from the general health area to make visitors more comfortable with seeking treatment.

According to its website, the Women’s Health Center provides a wide variety of services including sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, birth control prescription, HPV immunization, care for menstrual and hormonal disorders, contraception, pregnancy testing and referral and health and access education.

Health Center Nurse Practitioner Anne Dadarria said, “As far as the routine visit, I’d say the birth control pill maintenance, and as far as problem visits probably yeast infection, and a lot of things in-between.”

Confidentiality is a key factor at the Health Center. “I always ask a student if I can contact a parent and usually they’ll let me. But certainly, if they say no and I’m worried about their life, then yes I would [breach confidentiality]” said Dadarria, adding, “Hopefully confidentiality is not an issue.”

Doctor Irene Balawajder estimated their clinic has about 1,200 to 1,300 visits a year. Balawajder also explained the distribution of the student patients that come into the Health Center. “In terms of business we see a fair amount of mix across the board of years. We probably tend to see more seniors because they’re more comfortable; they need their Pap smears and less juniors because they’re abroad. But we still have sophomores and freshmen equally, so we have a lot of people who just come and utilize us the first time around and by the time they’re seniors, when they’re 21, they’ll have their [Pap] exam.”

The Women’s Health Center is able to work with students even if they’re off-campus. “Some of them still chose to get their contraception through us because of convenience,” Dardarria said. “We can give quantities of pills at a time to get them through the summer or through junior year abroad or something. Which they can’t do this as easily at the pharmacy, but more and more of students are taking prescriptions out.”

The Women’s Health Center was not always so separated from the general health center. “I was here in the early ‘80s and [the Women’s Health Center] was separate but it was downstairs and then we moved it up,” Dadarria said.

The new location was designed to enhance access and ensure confidentiality. Dardarria continued, “We have the Women’s Health Center on the second floor so when women are in the waiting room they’re not with the rest of the population. I think that’s made it easier for them so they feel more comfortable.”

The Women’s Health Center works with Metcalf occasionally to help patients.

“We have integrated health would be health education, and mental health care, and then medical health care, and we work together and refer back and forth and communicate on a regular basis. We do inservice on a regular basis. And also with women’s health we work with the Sexual Assault and Violence Program,” Dardarria said.

Occasionally, according to Dadarria, students will call and say they are worried for their friend. Shared Dadarria, “I’ve had some students come in concerned about friends with the number of issues including sexual assault, or relationship violence, or people feeling threatened. I wouldn’t say it happens a lot, but it does happen and we encourage that.”

Dadarria said that she judges a situation on a case by case basis before she can determine the best course of action.

She explained, “It depends on what they’re worried about. If they’re worried about something [and] I’m really concerned that they might do something to really hurt themselves, then I usually reach out myself. Otherwise I would try to work with their friend to convince them to come in.” She added, “Other times, no exams, just talking, sometimes that’s a good introduction to the system.”

The Center must also keep up with recent developments in the nation’s insurance law. Dardarria explained, “Just to mention, with the Affordable Healthcare Act, contraception, again, which is a lot of our visits is for contraception, most contraception now is no cost. There’s no copay at the pharmacy for most insurances including the Vassar student insurance. So that’s made a big difference. Also the NuvaRing which is a birth control method also is no charge.”

Even the type of health care needed has changed over the years. “Women don’t need as much health care at this age than they used to. It used to be we did exams every year. And they came in for birth control pills and things. A significant number of women [choose] not to be sexually active and so don’t have the need for birth control.

The medical consensus regarding certain gynecological procedures has also changed over the years.

Said Dardarria, “You don’t have to do Pap smears until you’re twenty-one now. If you’re sexually active, and don’t have any new sex partners, you don’t necessarily have to have sexually transmitted disease testing. Women don’t have to have pelvic exams every year anymore unless they have problems. The evolution of women’s healthcare especially in this age, it’s just going to be less need for those types of exams.”

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