By Meredith Foster – [email protected] – Staff Writer
Dr. Jeffrey Graham, the new university physician and medical director, brings a different perspective to University Health Services as they prepare to make a move to the old MAHEC office on Weaver Street.
Graham said he has only been at UNC Asheville as the medical director for about three months, but this is not his first time here.
“I did part of my residency in Asheville as one of the team doctors in the athletic department,” Graham said.
With his master’s degree in public health from UNC Chapel Hill, Graham and his wife did a rural residency in Arkansas to pay off medical school bills.
“After spending all that time in Arkansas, we decided we were ready to get away,” Graham said. “So we went to Indonesia for two years.”
Graham said he stayed on the island of Papua New Guinea and focused on different aspects of his degree.
“Papua was pretty remote,” Graham said. “It’s tough to get to unless you have a good reason.”
According to Graham, his reason was to get out of his clinical comfort zone.
“I realized I hadn’t done much with my MPH outside of the clinical setting,” Graham said. “I wanted to practice more public health-related stuff.”
Graham said he saw a lot of tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria, which are not as common in the United States.
“I love Asheville, and we have always wanted to move back,” Graham said. “I wanted to bring more of a public health perspective to this program, because that’s what we are.”
Graham also said he is really excited to be at UNCA and explore the clinic’s potential, including new services that were not possible before due to spacial limitations.
“We are really excited about the additional services that will be offered in the new health services center,” Tim White, the head of the athletic training department at UNCA, said.
The primary care aspects of health services will be expanded in the new space. Staff are in the process of ordering an EKG machine and plan on performing minor in-house surgeries requiring succors.
“We have always had a good partnership with health services, and we are very pleased with all the new opportunities the new facility will present,” White said. “As for the long term, they’re hoping to get an X-ray machine, which could be beneficial for all students, as well as athletes that had to go off campus in the past.”
Another benefit of the office space is, the health services and the counseling center will be on the same floor.
“We’ll have the ability to be much more integrated with our behavioral health component,” Graham said.
There will potentially be space for yoga and meditation rooms as well, Graham said.
“We want to start applying some different modalities of therapy that our counselors use, incorporating physical movement,” Graham said.
According to Graham, the new space will allow for both programs to collaborate more easily without a physical barrier between them.
“I think we have a lot to look forward to in the new building,” Graham said.
Graham said a more personal focus comes from his public health background: Getting everyone immunized.
“I know there are all kinds of media coming from different angles about the flu vaccination. Coming from Indonesia, where they have the bird flu and swine flu and all, you realize it’s kind of a matter of life and death there,” Graham said. “We don’t take it as seriously here, but it could definitely have a huge impact on close-knit populations.”
The prospect of a new-and-improved health services center is exciting, but some students say they are concerned about the off-campus location.
“It’s nice that they are adding additional services, but it was pretty convenient having the health services building on campus,” Emily Bare, a sophomore at UNCA, said. “I know that there have been some mornings that I’ve woken up not feeling well and I’ve been able to make an appointment between classes.”
Graham and his colleagues said they have been in contact with the shuttles as well as campus police to try and solidify transportation for those who need it.
“I know how convenient it is to be able to swing by here and sometimes even walk in,” Graham said. “We want to be able to make the new center just as convenient, so we are trying to make it a permanent stop on the bus route.”