The Disease of Inefficiency: Improving the Health Center


It might be close, but getting to the ER doesn’t mean you’ll be cured. (Lucy Sutton/The Observer)

Published: March 2, 2011

I’m not good at being sick. When my body isn’t working right, I forget how to be a real person. I wallow in my own self-pity; I complain to anyone who asks how I am; I start writing lists of people I hate to be read at my funeral. It might just be the flu, but to me it’s the plague. If I know the cause of my pain, I’m the typical “guy who refuses treatment because he doesn’t want to be weak.” Once I wrecked my back lifting a 240 lb guy over a 10-foot wall and wouldn’t take painkillers. But if I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I need immediate medical treatment and every drug available to me.

This background should help you understand the horrifying nature of my recent experiences with the Fordham Health Center and the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Emergency Room. A few Sundays ago, I woke up with a 101-degree fever and could not keep down solid foods throughout the day. I planned to go in to the Health Center on Monday morning, expecting I’d get some tummy drugs and be back to eating Taco Bell by dinner time.

Here’s what actually happened: After my fever peaked at 103.8 degrees on the Health Center’s thermometer, I spent two hours and $75 in the ER waiting for a doctor to give me drugs I already had in my room. I visited the Health Center three times in two weeks, each time hearing the suggestion to wait out the symptoms and go to the ER if they persisted. I survived for more than a week on a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Even after seeing three doctors (one in the ER and two in the Health Center), I still don’t know if I had a nasty stomach virus like they said or if Lucifer was attacking my insides.

Obviously, I learned our health facilities are less effective than they should be, but how can we make them better? After two weeks of deliberation, I have devised a few plans that fall into two categories.



Update everything in the Health Center to be even more high-tech than the hospital across the street. I want equipment that can detect the exact type of food that destroyed my week. I want machines that don’t even serve a purpose other than looking shiny. I want enough technology to make someone a Darth Vader suit if a student ever loses a lightsaber duel with Obi Wan.

Increase the Health Center payroll so that we can afford an all-star lineup of doctors. I want every high-profile doctor there is to be treating Fordham students. If we had Drs. Phil, Oz, Dorian and McDreamy diagnosing us, we would become the healthiest school in New York.

Considering our school’s recent obsession with building, there isn’t a large chance of finding funding for a huge Health Center upgrade. Soon, however, I realized that there was another option I hadn’t considered.


Put a button in the wall where the Health Center used to be. Whenever someone is sick, they can push the button and hear the following pre-recorded advice: “Wait for the symptoms to go away. If it gets worse, go to the ER.” This would save students hours of wasted time waiting for appointments to hear the same words.

Dig a tunnel starting at the current spot of the Health Center that leads to the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Emergency Room. This way, the metaphorical purpose of the Health Center will become its literal purpose. A cheaper alternative could be painting a yellow line along the route from Fordham to the ER, but this would be much less convenient in the winter.

Lease out the Health Center’s current space to Walgreens to build a pharmacy.  The school could profit and students could see people who would actually try to cure them with medicine.

Strike up a sponsorship with Cisco to turn the Health Center into a series of video conference rooms where students can talk to the most knowledgeable doctors they know: their parents. I know the best advice I got during my sickness was from my mom, who told me to “stop eating Taco Bell.”

I would be surprised if Fordham implemented any of my plans, but I still have hope for the Health Center. As long as I never get sick again.