Going to the Student Health Center
The scandal at Michigan State University involving the abuse of the female athletes certainly has been a serious black eye for university and college student health centers. That type of tragedy aside, student health centers have done a lot of good for a lot of young people. Here’s my own experience.
My first time at a student health center was in my first year of graduate school. I didn’t ever go to my undergraduate college’s student health center. So I was 22 years old when I went to one. Several issues had come up: I had a small lump in my groin that I thought might be a hernia. I knew nothing about medicine and anatomy at the time. Otherwise I would have known right away that there was no way this was a hernia (it was small, hard, and not reducible). I was also having some on-going lower GI distress. I thought I was feeling under stress and in fact I wasn’t sleeping too well. I was definitely the nervous type, and grad school had its fair share of pressures.
So one day I walked over to the university student health center and talked to a nurse advisor. This was at a large state university with a student health center that was comprehensive in the services it offered. I told the nurse advisor what was going on. She recommended that I have a general medical exam. She put me down for an appointment about 2 weeks off with Dr. Smith, and I had no idea who that was. This was way before the internet (1979) and so that type of general information wasn’t very easy to come by. The nurse also gave me a slip to have lab work done (blood and urine), which I did a day or two later. There was a lab right there in the student health center, and so it was all very convenient. I lived just off campus and was on campus all day everyday.
The student health center was large but early 1950s vintage. Lots of students worked there, for work-study arrangements, doing different chores, including sometimes as student chaperones for women students having pelvic exams. I showed up there the morning of my appointment with Dr. Smith. There was a large waiting room surrounded by examination rooms, which also had the doctors’ desks, with the doctors’ names on name plates of the door to each examination room. The doors to the examination rooms opened to the waiting room which made me wonder about privacy. But I didn’t dare look, because I was nervous as heck and sure wouldn’t want anyone seeing me in an examining room.
After about a ten minute wait, Dr. Smith called me in. She was a woman about 60 years old. I sat in the chair at the side of her desk, while she interviewed me. She asked me why I was there and obtained my medical history. She agreed that a general medical exam was in order.
She first recorded my height and weight and blood pressure. Then Dr. Smith said she'd leave the room for a few minutes while I stripped to my underpants and sat on the examining table.
I did as Dr. Smith instructed me. She re-entered the room. She conducted a brief neurological exam on me, most of which was done with me standing up, and then had me bend over to examine my posture. I sat back down on the examining table for her to examine my head and neck and listen to my heart and lungs.
The doctor then told me to lie down on the table. She palpated my abdomen and did a range of motion evaluation of my legs and hips. Dr. Smith then told me to pull down my underwear. That was the first time I was ever naked in front of a woman since before I reached the age of puberty. This caused me to have a very strong erection. I felt terribly embarrassed and humiliated. The doctor seemed uncomfortable with it too. She said to pull back up my underpants and she’d leave the room for a few minutes for me to settle down.
Dr. Smith came back into the room a few minutes later and had me pull down my underwear again. The erection was still raging, unfortunately. Dr. Smith decided to just make the best of the embarrassing situation. Wearing gloves, she examined my genitals and inguinal region very thoroughly, with me both lying down and standing up. I did the turn your head and cough thing.
Next, she told me to lie on my belly on the examining table. She still had her gloves on. She then spread my cheeks to visualize my anus. Dr. Smith put some lube on her gloved finger and inserted it into my anus. As my readers all know, the rectum isn’t straight when the legs are extended, and so her finger didn’t really go past my anal verge. Still, this was the first time I ever had a digital rectal exam. She wiped the lube from my anus and told me she’d give me some privacy to get dressed, and then we’d sit and talk.
In the conversation after the examination was complete, Dr. Smith told me that the lump in my groin was nothing more than a calcified lymph node and that this was of no concern. She alluded to my erection, calling it “the way you reacted during the exam”, and said I need to learn to relax and that being uptight and stressed was probably the heart of my health issues. She said my blood and urine work were all normal. Dr. Smith then added that I had anal tags that were probably a result of having had hemorrhoids in the past. She did not offer advice on how to relax (it took me a few more years to learn that skill) or how to deal with anal tags and hemorrhoids. So I was relieved that the lump was nothing but still not that pleased that I received no advice for how to have a healthy lifestyle.
I later found out that Dr. Smith was a semi-retired pediatrician who worked part-time at the student health center. I had two more experiences at the student-health center shortly thereafter. One was for an eye exam and the other for a wisdom tooth extraction. Both were bad experiences. That, plus I really wondered if Dr. Smith had examined me in an age appropriate way. So even though there were firsts for me in this exam, I lost some confidence in the student health center and a year later decided to go to a private doctor for another exam. That’s another story.
By the way, I still have that calcified lymph node all these decades later. It’s really tiny now and hard even for me to find. All other things being equal, I prefer women as doctors, and I am always perfectly relaxed around them in recent years / decades.
I’d be very interested in hearing other people’s experiences at their student health center.
Bobbee 1 year ago
@BenDover: Going along with your comment, I posted a description of my follow-up examination. I hope you enjoy reading it. https://en.zity.biz/index.php?mx=blog;ox=showpage;pg=6663
BenDover 1 year ago
I hope you write about the "other story" and give us all the details of your exam at the private doctor's office.