By OLIVIA BRIDGES
UMW, a predominantly female university, was without a female practitioner at the Student Health Center for several weeks.
According to UMW physician and Director of Student Health, P. Thomas Riley, MD, the current female nurse practitioner and Associate Director of the Student Health Center, Heidi Simpson, took an extended leave.
Simpson was on leave for several weeks to take care of her mother who lives in California. The exact number of weeks Simpson was gone from the health center was not disclosed. Simpson returned to UMW’s health center on Monday, Oct. 9.
During Simpson’s leave, Riley attended to female patients.
“In Heidi’s absence, our Women’s Clinic registered nurse, Danielle Hollandsworth and I have started and renewed birth control prescription and dealt with female issues,” Riley said in an email. “All health care practitioners are trained to provide care for all patients no matter the gender.”
Riley is a Board Certified Family Physician of 41 years. Due to Riley’s experience as a family physician, he said he felt comfortable stepping into the roles normally performed by a female nurse practitioner.
“Personally, I don’t think there is a huge issue with the female practitioner being gone, especially because she is back on campus now,” said junior Sarah Myers. “I grew up with a male doctor… So I am comfortable seeing a male doctor even about women’s issues.”
Many female students agree. They did not have a problem with Riley caring for females during Simpson’s absence.
“As long as the male is capable of doing their job and as long as the females aren’t uncomfortable with it, I don’t see a problem.” said sophomore Rebecca Parise.
While some students were comfortable with their only being a male practitioner on campus, others held a different opinion.
“I prefer to see a female doctor because they know more about me than a male,” said junior Sarah Ebsworth. “That is just my personal preference, I prefer to see a female practitioner, but if the male was there I would be completely fine with it.”
The majority of male and female students shared a similar opinion on this issue. They felt that the main problem was whether or not women would be comfortable with a male practitioner.
“I know a lot of people that wouldn’t be comfortable with telling a male practitioner about certain things,” said junior Nabel Mriza. “If more people are comfortable with it or more people are uncomfortable with it than the schools should do something to change it.”
Despite the health center not having a female practitioner for several weeks, many students were unaware about this issue. The lack of a female practitioner at the health center was an unusual situation because in the past there had been two female practitioners.
At the beginning of the fall semester, UMW’s Student Health Center had two female practitioners. As of Friday, Sept. 22, one of the two female nurse practitioners, L. Timmes Ross, retired.
There is currently only one female practitioner and male practitioner at the health center. However, the health center has additional staff besides the practitioners.
According to Riley, the Student Health Center does not have plans within the foreseeable future to replace Ross.
“Going forward one female practitioner is sufficient for our patient volume,” Riley said. “Our services have not been impacted this past several weeks.”
However, some students such as Parise disagree with Riley. They feel that the Student Health Center has been impacted by the loss of Ross.
“The health center was definitely understaffed, which isn’t good,” Parise said.