On Campus Connections - Dr. Sara Lee

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Dr. Lee chats with CDN about the fall 2020 semester and student health
Dr. Sara Lee, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Director of Adolescent Medicine Fellowship at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Editor’s note: We know the start of this semester has been different, to say the least. We want to give our community some insights on how higher ed is dealing with these strange times. Introducing our new blog series, “On Campus Connections” – we will be interviewing members of our Campus Advisory Committee to hear their insider knowledge about the higher ed landscape in 2020 (and beyond!). We’ll be starting off our series speaking with Sara Lee, from Case Western University.

Could you share with us your role within diabetes on campus? 
The mission of University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) at Case Western Reserve is to help all students be well, stay well, and be prepared to learn inside and outside the classroom. Students with diabetes use UHCS for primary care, sick-day or urgent care, and, as needed, referrals and connections to specialty care, counseling (including individual and group therapy), and nutrition services. We also assist students as they work with other programs on campus, including Disability Resources and Student Success. 

What would you say is the current climate of student health on campus? What are the biggest challenges you feel university health centers are navigating this semester? 
The current climate is one in which we are all navigating new circumstances together. As we manage the continuing coronavirus pandemic this semester, we are also striving to chart a course to improve the tremendous inequities which came to the forefront this summer with regard to structural racism.


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"This year, transition felt especially difficult for many students and families as there were so many uncertainties as we approached the start of the semester."

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What type of messaging would you say is most important for both students and parents to pay attention to as it relates to the ever changing health pandemic?
Students and parents should look for reliable messaging from their university. We recognize that consistent and timely communication is important, but even more important is ensuring that messages sent contain information that is as accurate as possible. Please know that it can take time for us to get the correct information. 


What has your campus done specifically to help the transition of students and families successfully adjust to the fall semester? 
Transition is always important. This year, transition felt especially difficult for many students and families as there were so many uncertainties as we approached the start of the semester. At CWRU, we have a robust, longitudinal orientation program that begins well before students arrive and includes a roadmap for students and information sessions for parents. In addition, UHCS has an online transition guide for students with a mental or medical health concern, adapted from the JED foundation. 

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"I think we are all getting better at planning for the unknown."

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There is a lot of discussion around vaccinations. Could you speak to any preliminary plans or thoughts around dissemination, or prioritizing students with health needs like T1D? 
We are all hopeful that there will be an effective vaccine available soon. We will need to wait for the priority list from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which may include those with risk factors like diabetes.

What advice from a campus health perspective would you give to both students and parents as they continue to plan for the unknown? 
I think we are all getting better at planning for the unknown. Flexibility, empathy, and kindness are essential. It is also helpful to decide what is most important to you as a family -- that is what you should focus your energy on.