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New Health Initiative for UTHSC Facilities and Administrative Employees a Lifesaver

Custodial foreman Jeanetta Dixon is on the road to better health, thanks to a free biometric screening offered to facilities employees as part of a new health program on campus. (Photo by Thurman Hobson/UTHSC)

Jeanetta Dixon believes a new health initiative for some employees at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center saved her life.

Dixon, 59, a custodial foreman, found out she has diabetes, thanks to a free biometric screening offered to all facilities and administrative employees through University Health Services. She is now getting treatment, working to change her lifestyle, and intent on improving her health.

That’s exactly the type of scenario UTHSC’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, envisioned when he introduced the health initiative recently as part of a revamp of University Health Services, the campus’s primary health service for students and employees.

­­­“Because we really didn’t have a primary care site on campus, or in the Medical District proper, I decided to create one,” Dr. Brown said. “We ensure the health and well-being of every student, so we have had University Health Services primarily for our students. I wanted to create the same kind of opportunity for our faculty and staff, because everybody needs primary care, and the pathway to managing public health is primary care.”

University Health Services unveiled its renovated primary care clinic for university employees on June 8. It has a new look and offers expanded services.

Even before that, however, the two largest groups of employees on campus were offered free biometric screenings and follow-up consultations, as an incentive to use the clinic. Dr. Brown said the offer went to the approximately 200 facilities workers and 200 administrative professionals, “in the hopes of having the most impact on campus health.”

Approximately 50 to 75 percent of the employees in those groups took advantage of the offer, he said. Some did not have a primary care provider. Others, like Dixon, had missed appointments with their physician in the past.

“So the objective above and beyond just getting a biometric screening, was giving them an opportunity to establish a relationship with somebody who will function as their primary care provider,” Dr. Brown said.

The diagnosis was a surprise to Dixon. She was not feeling well, and went to University Health Services to get her blood pressure checked. She was encouraged to return for a biometric screening, and she is glad she did.

“The reason this is such a big deal for me is I had a very dear friend, who did not know she had diabetes, and she died,” Dixon said.

A similar program is underway with the College of Dentistry to give free dental screenings to facilities and administrative employees, Dr. Brown said.

“Above and beyond the happiest employees, we want to have the healthiest employees,” he said. “We want people to see their primary care physicians. We want people to have the appropriate dental care. The fact that we’ve got these facilities where we train people to do this kind of work, we would be remiss not to bring these services to our employees.”

Dixon said she plans to continue using University Health Services for primary care. “It’s more convenient for me,” she said. “I work in the Pharmacy Building, so it’s right across the street, and I don’t have to take time off work to go.”

She encourages other employees to take advantage of the free screenings. “My big thing is what would it hurt to go get the blood work done? If there’s nothing wrong, great. But if there is, you have a place to start from, and it’s so convenient, why wouldn’t you do it?”

Dr. Brown said he hopes eventually to offer free biometric screenings for all employees. He also hopes employees will see University Health Services as a resource to help them improve their health.

The clinic occupies the entire ninth floor of the 910 Madison Building. To maximize privacy, it has separate entrances, waiting, and exam rooms for employees and for students. University Health Services Administrative Director Marie Bredy, DNP, FNP, said the staff strives to ensure wait times are minimal. Services include physicals, referrals to specialists, management of chronic health issues, immunizations, and vaccinations and safety advice for travel.

Dr. Brown said, University Health Services may be made available to family members of employees in the future, and eventually to other entities in the community interested in designating it as a preferred provider.