Student Health Services
In 1912, students and faculty members recommended that an organized medical service to students comparable to services at several other universities be established at the University of Michigan. A unit for ambulatory patients was opened in the fall of 1913, with a staff of two physicians, a nurse, and a clerk. A budget of $10,000 was provided. During the early years, a large administrative board was in control of what soon came to be known as the University Health Service.
Attention was first directed to the sanitation of the campus, but care of student illnesses and efforts toward their prevention soon occupied all the time of the meager staff. Minor illnesses of students were cared for in the rooms of students, while the more critical conditions were provided for in the University Hospital. An addition of $2.00 annually was made to all tuitions and a small fee was collected for house calls.
A converted residence located on the present site of the Burton Memorial Tower was the first University Health Services Building. The meager professional staff required the assistance of senior medical students during the first few years.
In June, 1915, recognizing the inadequacy in building, personnel, and equipment, the Alumni Association urged an enlargement of the service. In October, 1917, an addition to the building was provided, services were extended, which included compulsory vaccination against smallpox. By 1919, a complete medical examination was required of all entering male students and six lectures on the more urgent health requisites were given for freshmen.
New quarters with infirmary beds — The need for improved and extended service, including bed care, was becoming increasingly apparent. In 1921, the Division of Hygiene and Public Health was created and the University Health Service was included therein.
The Children's Ward of the Homeopathic Hospital was assigned to the Health Service; this provided a modern forty-by-seventy-foot building of three stories, twenty beds, offices for clinic purposes, including X-ray, laboratory, and pharmacy. With the increasing demand for service, enlarged quarters, and bed-patient care, the staff was increased to six full-time and two half-time physicians, five nurses, one clerk, two stenographers, a pharmacist, and a laboratorian.
Begining about 1922, each new entering student received the complete medical examination during registration week. After 1935, this examination included an X-ray film study of the heart and lungs, and defects found at this time were carefully followed and corrected whenever possible.
Expansion and reorganization — Because of the growing student population and the ever increasing demand for improved service, funds were appropriated in 1928 to provide for a larger staff, more space, and modern equipment. The ground floor of the old Homeopathic Hospital was allotted to the Health Service. This provided a waiting room, two offices, and extended facilities for physiotherapy with a full-time technician and, in accord with the general policy, it was supervised by the head of that department at the University Hospital. Modern X-ray equipment and facilities were installed, and four infirmary beds were added.
At about this time it became apparent that the extreme cost for a few individuals restricted the services to the student body as a whole. It was thought necessary, therefore, to reduce the provision for sixty days hospital service to thirty days.
In order to maintain a closer relationship with students, a full-time physician was appointed as adviser to each entering class and continued in that relationship throughout the four-year period of the college course. This more intimate acquaintance fostered the ideal patient-physician relationship. Similar services were rendered to women students by full-time women physicians, one of whom devoted part of her time to the duties of Director of Physical Education for Women — Margaret Bell (Chicago '15, M.D. Rush Medical College '21), who was appointed with these dual duties in 1923.
Mental hygiene — Staff service in personality adjustment began in 1927, with a part-time worker and psychiatrist. A full-time neuropsychiatrist and another part-time social worker were added in 1935. This work included, in addition to time-consuming interviews with students themselves, numerous contacts with faculty members, administrative officers, friends, parents, and class medical advisers.
Allergy — In 1928, a sensitization clinic which with the body's reaction to foreign proteins was established. Intradermal tests were made at a small personal charge to the student, many desensitization treatments were given, and diets arranged.
Health education — The educational program included six freshman lectures given by members of the staff, and health education was further promoted by the contact of students and physicians in their patient-physician relationship, and by the distribution of pamphlets on health topics in the waiting rooms.
Sanitation — From the beginning, campus sanitation received attention by the Health Service. A part-time member inspected swimming pools, student eating places, and campus buildings. The deans of men and women were assisted with inspection of rooming houses, dormitories, sororities, and fraternities.
Camps — Since 1915, students in summer session camps of the University had Health Service privileges. This required the residence of staff physicians and, at times, nurses at two camps.
Dormitory nursing — For several years registered nurses who were resident students in the dormitories for women worked under the direction of Dr. Bell in the care of these students. This arrangement proved to be valuable for all concerned.
In 1938, with a student population of 15,358 and a budget of $142,000, the total visits to the Health Service numbered 132,946. The staff consisted of about sixty regularly appointed members, including a dietitian, added in 1933. A small addition to the building provided five more offices and six additional beds. Every available square foot of building space was utilized to the utmost and much more was needed. Many ill students who required bed care and most major surgical cases were sent to the University Hospital. Some were hospitalized at private hospitals.
In November, 1938, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Health Service was observed, at which time President Alexander G. Ruthven announced a PWA plan for a new, beautiful, and ample building for the department. The new building was occupied in April of 1940. It was one block north of the campus on Fletcher Avenue. It was fifty feet by two hundred feet in dimensions, including a short rear wing, and had four floors. The ground floor provided kitchen, dining rooms, and other service and storage facilities. The first floor had general physicians' offices, nurses' treatment space, a pharmacy, a classroom, an entrance lobby, and an administrative section. The second floor provided for special services to ambulatory patients, and the third provided a sixty-bed infirmary divided into small rooms.
(Warren E. Forsythe, The Administration of Alexander Grant Ruthven, Part II-Services-The University Health Service-Health Service Building p.331)