Student Health urges students to take stock of health services for summer

Oasis Chat, a new phone-based support tool by Student Health, offers accessible counseling for students who feel stressed and anxious over finals. (Emma Silverstein | Daily Trojan)

As the semester closes, Student Health urged students to plan ahead to continue receiving medications and health insurance over the summer, Chief Student Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said in a briefing with the Daily Trojan Tuesday.

Van Orman highlighted the importance of coordinating ahead of time, especially as many students have travel plans for the summer. 

The Engemann Student Health Center will remain open over the summer for students planning to stay in Los Angeles to fill prescriptions and receive other health services. Mental health services, for example, are available via telemedicine to students located anywhere within California.

For students who anticipate traveling but need regular prescriptions filled, it is possible to request up to a 90 day supply, especially if they are traveling between states or internationally, Van Orman said.

“Most times your providers would be able to provide you [with] a longer supply. But sometimes the limitation is not with your prescriber. It’s with the insurance,” Van Orman said. 

Most insurance companies have processes in place to request extensions, but students should talk to their providers sooner rather than later, especially since it may be a multi-step process, Van Orman said.

Van Orman also encouraged students to schedule any routine health screenings they might need before the summer, especially if they are graduating or have travel plans.

“For example, do you need regular STI screening? If you have a cervix and you’re [turning] 21 [but] you’ve never had a pap smear, and you’re graduating, it’s a great time to just get that done … so you don’t have to think about it for another three years,” Van Orman said.

Van Orman emphasized adopting a habit of analyzing each student’s individual health condition.

“It’s really [about] thinking about ‘Where am I? What’s my health status? What do I need?’” Van Orman said.

Graduating students who plan to stay local in Los Angeles can pay a summer fee to continue receiving services through Student Health, Van Orman said. Otherwise, she encouraged students to explore other sources of health insurance, either through the state or future employers.

Student Health also offers mental health and wellness services that may prove crucial as students head into finals season. Notably, a new service called Oasis Chat is accessible by phone and offers chat-based support for people who feel stressed.

Van Orman also highlighted the importance of sleep and exercise to improve the effects of studying and mental health.

“Sleep helps us learn. It helps us consolidate information … If you study and you pull an all-nighter … versus if you study and then you sleep, and then you wake up in the morning, your brain has had time to consolidate that information,” said Van Orman, citing sleep as the “single most important” thing to prioritize.

Regular physical activity is also crucial, even if it is only 30 minutes outside or at the gym, because it can help “settle [us] and help consolidate information,” Van Orman said.

As Student Health looks ahead to a Fall 2023 semester with relaxed coronavirus guidelines, Van Orman cited community connection as an important takeaway from the pandemic experience.

“Maybe what we can take away from this really grueling experience … [is] that when one person is sick [or struggling] that affects all of us. So how do we hold on to a sense of community responsibility?” Van Orman said.

Next year, Van Orman said, should feel more like a normal school year due to relaxed safety guidelines and the widespread availability of highly effective and updated coronavirus vaccines, as well as new antiviral treatments. 

“If we can hold on to the lessons of community connection and community value, and care for others, I think that will be a positive thing,” Van Orman said.