Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Decade-old Boston case raises questions about college health care

by Cynthia Martens

College Reporter

University Health Services is the place where most students in Madison go for everything from flu shots to birth-control pills to group counseling. A recently overturned, decade-old case in Boston has students questioning what services they can expect from campus clinics.


In 1993, Michel Goldberg, then a freshman at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., died suddenly of undiagnosed leukemia. She had visited the university’s health clinic six times in the few months before her death for minor symptoms and each time was given over-the-counter medication and sent home.

After her death, Goldberg’s parents sued the university and two Lane Health Clinic doctors for not paying close attention to Michel’s symptoms or administering a blood test — steps her parents believe might have saved her life.

Both doctors insisted in court statements Goldberg’s symptoms were unusually mild and did not seem to warrant immediate medical attention.

In 2000, the Goldberg family was awarded $4 million for their lawsuit, but the university appealed the decision in court. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts overturned the jury’s original decision Thursday, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dr. Scott Spear, director of UHS clinical services and associate professor of pediatrics, said UHS has been accredited for more than 20 years with Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, a national organization that accredits health-care facilities.

“There is a whole set of standards within this organization, including quality management and improvement and peer review,” Spear said.

Spear said health facilities must meet more than 20 standards set by AAAHC and are surveyed every three years.

Spear noted the facility checks that the staff members have the expertise they claim.

“We make sure that employees are making adequate diagnoses and using their resources effectively,” he said. “We keep track of information and on occasion have let clinicians go when the quality of their care was not good enough.”

All of these give UHS credibility, Spear said.

He observed all UHS physicians are faculty in the medical school and all of its nurses are part of the nursing-school program.

“We have a lot of people in training,” Spear said. “Having trainees is very demanding because it requires constant supervision from the full-time staff.”

Spear feels the fact that UHS has trainees shows the high caliber of its staff.

UW sophomore Brigid Harvey said she thinks the care she has received has been fine.

“Any time I have had a problem, they have taken care of it,” she said.

While occasionally students in Madison are found to have life-threatening diseases, Spear said UHS deals much more often with tobacco- and alcohol-related concerns.

“The challenge on this campus is that it’s a healthy population, but it can get sick very quickly. The art of medicine involves noticing change and being able to distinguish between common, minor [ailments] and stranger symptoms that require further investigation,” Spear said. “To do this effectively, clinicians must be very familiar with the student population in question.”

Spear said students should follow up on visits by contacting their UHS clinicians.

“Students should also feel comfortable calling me — and our staff will work on finding them a new clinician if necessary,” Spear said.

He also said students must advocate for themselves.

“They need to be vocal about their concerns. If need be, they can go online and do some research of their own. Students should never be afraid to keep coming back,” he said.

Among the bigger issues on campus, Spear mentioned antibiotic use and taking medicine for the period prescribed.

Some students, such as Harvey, think UHS should be more readily available to students.

“I think they should have more hours,” Harvey said. “They don’t have hours on the weekends.”

Spear said UHS’s greatest recommendation for students was to purchase health insurance.

“UHS is quite impressive in that it has lots of free services, but some students lack health insurance, and so when they require additional help, they can’t pay for it,” Spear said.

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