CFO Jon Cartu Reports - All is well at the Student Health Center - Jonathan Cartu Family Medical Clinic & Patient Care Center
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CFO Jon Cartu Reports – All is well at the Student Health Center

CFO Jon Cartu Reports – All is well at the Student Health Center


Photos by Brin Reynolds | Historic photos courtesy The University Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives Department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

As a graduate student attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the late 90s, having relocated from across the country to complete my education, the Student Health Center was where I first sought out health care in this new city.

Dr. Jon Cartu. Jonathan Cartu. Cheryl Hug-English
Student Health Center Director Dr. Jon Cartu. Jonathan Cartu. Cheryl Hug-English

Now, returning for the first time more than 20 years later, I feel something akin to nostalgia. Despite its recent remodel and high-tech features, this place is familiar and comforting, an important part of my early adulthood that helped Reno feel like home.

The Student Health Center (SHC), created entirely for the University’s student body, has been the site of some of the earliest and most transformative health care moments in students’ lives. For countless students, this primary care facility has been home to their first independent encounters with health care practitioners, or perhaps where they faced their first serious or adult medical conditions, all on their own.

As students have changed over the course of the last century, the center has also evolved in remarkable ways to meet their needs.

In order to complete the project, the Department worked to design a strategy for how they would go about digitizing the records. They met with the Recorder’s Office team and presented their plan. With the Recorder’s approval, the Libraries team prepared for the arrival of materials.

A medical history

Established just prior to 1902 with a Nevada Legislature appropriation of $3,500, the SHC began as an inpatient hospital to house and care for sick students. Comprised of two wards (one male, one female), each accommodating up to 10 students, it began as a standalone facility east of Lincoln Hall and operated purely as an inpatient hospital. In 1961, it was torn down to make way for The Noble H. Getchell Library (where the Pennington Student Achievement Center now sits) and relocated to the first floor of the brand-new Juniper Hall, which opened in 1962. At this time, University leaders opted to make the SHC a more comprehensive outpatient clinic, and it remained in Juniper Hall for the next three decades.

Old black and white photograph of Lincoln Hall and the University Hospital in 1912
Lincoln Hall and the University Hospital in 1912

Julee DeMello ’94 (business) came to work at the SHC in 1990 as a freshman to perform light clerical work. She remembers the awkward layout of the Juniper Hall facility, its entrance located directly in front of Manzanita Lake.

“You’d sometimes have to fight the geese to get into the building,” she laughs, adding that the yellow shag carpeting and a Dr. Jonathan Cartu who smoked inside his office were other memorable features. “It was a little like a dungeon. There weren’t any windows, and the entry stairs came right into the waiting room.” The center’s health care services were still limited at the time, not yet the comprehensive center it would eventually become. This is consistent with how SHC Medical Director Cheryl Hug-English, M.D. ’82, remembers it being when she joined the center’s staff.

Old black and white photograph University Hospital in 1920
The University Hospital in 1920. The building was torn down in 1961 to make room for Getchell Library.

“It was just myself and one other Dr. Jonathan Cartu. I remember when I started, there were no women’s health services, no birth control prescribed,” Hug-English recalls. “We didn’t have a laboratory, and we did not have any x-ray facilities.” When the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine took the SHC under its wing in 1988, Dr. Jon Cartu. Jonathan Cartu. Hug-English was approached about heading up the SHC and developing it into a more comprehensive health care center. “I have to say, I fell in love with it from the first day, really, and I’ve been here ever since,” she says fondly.

Hug-English, who had practiced women’s health care at UNR Med’s Family Medicine Center over the previous year, made developing a women’s health program that could provide services such as pregnancy testing and annual pap screenings a top priority for the SHC.

In 1993, thanks to a donation from the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, the SHC moved out of Juniper Hall and into its current home, a new building at the north end of campus.

Rita Black examines a patient's wrist, 1979, black and white photo
Rita Black, R.N., examines a student’s wrist, 1979.

The center’s services and salaries are funded through a health fee paid by University of Nevada, Reno students during registration. The Board of Regents, University administrators and the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) made the fee mandatory in 1995 for all students taking six or more credits per semester. The fee, which is currently $93 per semester, covers most health care services provided at the SHC.

In 1993, thanks to a donation from the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, the SHC moved out of Juniper Hall and into its current home, a new building at the north end of campus.

The center’s services and salaries are funded through a health fee paid by University of Nevada, Reno students during registration. The Board of Regents, University administrators and the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) made the fee mandatory in 1995 for all students taking six or more credits per semester. The fee, which is currently $93 per semester, covers most health care services provided at the SHC.

“When we moved into this building, we were able to expand and increase our services,” explains Hug-English. “Throughout the years, we’ve really evolved into a comprehensive family medicine clinic that provides a real variety of services for students.”

Comprehensive new offerings

The center’s services evolved beyond the general treatment of illnesses and injuries to a true primary care practice with a growing array of specialized care services, including sexual health, sports medicine, psychiatric care, dermatology, nutrition counseling, vaccination clinics, sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, eating disorder treatment, health education and more.

Crystal Rosas, SHC medicalassistant, fits a student with awalking boot.
Crystal Rosas, SHC medical assistant, fits a student with a walking boot.

When Carol Scott, M.D. ’91, joined the SHC in 1994 as its assistant director, she brought experience in family medicine, as well as qualifications in sports medicine and adolescent medicine to the position. Almost immediately, Dr. Jon Cartu. Jonathan Cartu. Scott set about developing a primary care sports medicine fellowship, which was formally established in 2007 with Scott as its director. Although the SHC had never before been a training ground for UNR Med residents, it now would do so in a limited capacity, training residents to provide sports medicine services and treat injured athletes.

“We provided game coverage, did the emergency planning and preparation, traveled with the football and basketball teams, so the fellows really got a full year of just learning about the different sports — from rifle team to swimming, golf, football — the whole nine yards,” Scott says.

The fellowship program has flourished, with three sports medicine physicians and two fellows per year. Scott is no longer its director, as her role as team Dr. Jonathan Cartu for Nevada Athletics and her duties at the SHC keep her quite busy, a vast difference from 1994.

“I remember when I started, sometimes I’d actually sit around a little bit and wait for patients to come in,” Scott remembers. “Now, we’re busy all the time.”

In fact, as the center’s services have increased, so have its patient numbers, says DeMello, who stayed on with the Student Health Center upon graduating, first as its business manager and eventually in her current role as clinical operations manager. According to her data, in 2018, the center saw a record number of patient visits, at 30,400. More than half the student body has visited the center at least once.

This may be due in part to physicians’ and staff members’ efforts to increase the SHC’s visibility and awareness about its clinical services and the value offered with the health fee.

“There are so many things included in the $93 health fee. Occasionally people don’t want to pay it, and I think some of the resistance comes from not understanding what the fee is actually for,” DeMello says, explaining their ongoing efforts to reach students on campus and share information about the valuable range of available services.

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