As faculty and staff, we’re in a unique position to shape the climate of the university. We typically stay in the area and at the university longer, and many of us are in frequent contact with students.
When it comes to violence prevention, there are many ways faculty and staff help set the tone for students. You can play a critical role in efforts to reduce sex- and gender-based violence on campus.
Stalking, intimate partner violence and sexual assault are complex, difficult problems to address and it’s easy to become discouraged.
We firmly believe that while no one can do everything to stop violence, everyone can do something. To get started, check out our toolkit below for ideas and resources you can use in the year ahead.
WSU community members should take precautions to reduce exposure to unhealthy, smoky air.
Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects. Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke.
If you experience any signs of respiratory distress, contact your health care provider. Students can call Cougar Health Services at 509-335-3575.
There are many steps you can take for limiting exposure to unhealthy, smoky air.
Avoid being outdoors. Use public transportation rather than walking or biking.
Stay inside as much as possible. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows, and if possible use an air filter and air conditioning. Make sure your air conditioner’s fresh-air intake is closed and the filter is clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
Do not add to indoor pollution. Avoid using candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
Follow your health care provider’s guidance. If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and your respiratory management plan.
Wear a mask. Masks can help limit exposure to unhealthy, smoky air. Students can get a free basic mask from the clinic’s waiting and lobby area. The CDC advises against relying solely on basic masks for protection.
Students, faculty, and staff can purchase N95 masks for $1.50 at the Cougar Health Services pharmacy, The Market on Cougar Way, Flix Market, Towers Market, Hillside Market, and Union Market. These masks offer more protection than basic masks.
Earlier this month, we hired a new mental health promotion and suicide prevention specialist, Nikita Alimohammad. Nikita previously worked on our team as a health educator, and will now lead suicide prevention efforts on campus, including coordination for our grant work. This includes SAMHSA’s Garrett Lee Smith Grant and the JED Foundation campus program.
In her new role, Nikita will collaborate with campus partners on our community-based approach to mental health promotion. She will analyze collected data and feedback to identify high-risk student populations and improve health promotion student outreach trainings. One of her first projects will be coordinating the Healthy Minds study, an online survey conducted every year to collect information on student mental health.
Nikita earned her bachelor’s degree in health sciences with a focus in administration and management from California State University, East Bay. She then went on to earn her master’s degree in public health at San Diego State University.
In her previous role as a health educator, Nikita led Mental Health First Aid trainings and supported our IMPACT program and student reinstatement and enrichment workshops.
We’re excited to announce Health & Wellness Services and Counseling and Psychological Services have officially integrated under the name Cougar Health Services.
This change reflects our model of student-centered, integrated health services on campus, as well as our staff’s hard work over many years to improve collaboration, streamline processes, and ultimately provide better health and well-being services for students.
As part of this process, we’re merging our electronic health records over the summer. Maintaining one central record for each student will help us provide seamless care across all of our services. We can welcome each student with a full understanding of their health history and the care they’ve already received from us, regardless of which service they used first.
Our new medical director, Bonnie de Vries, MD, MS, begins work this week. In this role, Dr. de Vries will oversee medical clinic operations and collaborate with partners in Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and throughout WSU to support student health and safety. Dr. de Vries will take on both administrative and clinical responsibilities, opening up additional physician availability for patient appointments.
Dr. de Vries is a board-certified family physician with a background in quality improvement and practice transformation. Dr. de Vries earned her medical degree from Albany Medical College, and completed her residency at Maine Medical Center, where she also studied integrative medicine.
In addition, she earned a Master of Science degree in nutrition from Columbia University, during which she did clinical HIV research at Harlem Hospital.
Most recently, Dr. de Vries practiced at Southern Maine Health Care, where she successfully led an innovative Advanced Primary Care initiative to create a culture of team-based care, population health, and physician retention.
She also served as the only family physician on the Medical Executive Committee; and completed professional certification through the Hanley Center’s Physician Executive Leadership Institute.
Dr. de Vries was also an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of New England (UNE) College of Osteopathic Medicine, teaching case analysis and team-based learning to future physicians.
We’re dedicated to providing the best possible medical care for WSU students of all genders and sexual orientations. After meeting with students from the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center last fall and hearing their concerns, we’ve vigorously pursued new training and resources to better serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) students.
The students we spoke with identified unmet needs, including training for our staff on common issues and concerns for members of the LGBTQ community. In particular, transgender students in attendance talked about their struggle to receive gender-affirming hormone treatment locally and the importance of being able to access treatment on campus.
Since then, our primary care, counseling, and pharmacy staff have taken steps to improve our care for LGBTQ patients. Earlier this month, two of our health care providers attended a symposium on providing more effective, culturally sensitive care to LGBTQ patients.
For providers, the symposium including taking an inclusive LGBTQ health history, guidelines for primary care treatment for LGBTQ patients, and information regarding gender affirming hormone treatment. For all staff, the symposium reviewed the need for gender affirming care as well as cultural competency.
We plan to begin offering hormone treatment for transgender students in fall 2017. We will continue engaging with LGBTQ students and working together to address their needs going forward.
According to 2016 climate assessment data, 67 percent of WSU students feel confident in their ability to take action to reduce interpersonal violence. When asked why they would take action, 78 percent said they feel it’s their responsibility to make people in their community safer.
We’re clearly committed to helping one another! But it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to taking concrete action. What can we do to help? How can we make a real difference?
At Health & Wellness Services, we believe that every single one of us can help make our community safer. One person can’t do everything, but we can all do something. Here are some simple ways you can get involved in addressing violence in our community this month (and throughout the rest of the year!)
Here at WSU, Cougs help Cougs. Our community cares deeply about supporting and encouraging one another in all areas of our lives. This way of thinking is especially important when it comes to supporting survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. How we respond to survivors can have a huge impact on how they feel about their experience and what actions they take as they heal.
When someone tells you about their experience, it can be incredibly tough to know what to say and do. If you find yourself in that situation, remember what matters most: listen, believe, and support.
Listen. The most important thing you can do is listen without judgment. Even asking too many detailed questions can feel critical. Let the survivor tell their story at their own pace, with the details they feel comfortable providing. For some survivors, sharing their story is an important part of healing. Listening non-judgmentally and offering empathy will help them to feel safe and cared for.
Believe. People rarely make up stories of violence. Believe the survivor. If they say they were hurt, then they were. Assure your friend that it’s not their fault, no matter what happened, and that you believe and want to support them.
Support. Survivors can experience a range of emotions that are all normal. Encourage your friend to access support services, but let them decide if and when they want to use the resources you offer. You can find a comprehensive list of confidential and university resources from the Office of Equal Opportunity. If you’re able to and feel comfortable, you can offer to go with them. Everyone responds differently, and survivors’ needs may change over time. Check in with your friend occasionally and offer support again.
These conversations can be incredibly difficult and emotional. After talking with a friend about their experience with violence, you may want to consider seeking resources or support for yourself as well.
Supporting survivors is just one way Cougs take action against sexual assault and interpersonal violence in our community. Check out this list of simple steps you can take to help prevent violence and make our campus a safer place.
This semester, we’ll be posting regularly about the role you play in keeping our campus safe. Sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking impact members of our community every day, just like on other campuses across the country.
Right now, many of us look the other way when violence happens. We might not know how to help, or we might feel like it’s not our responsibility to intervene. But deciding to stay neutral is really a decision to do nothing, and ignoring a potentially dangerous situation allows the violence to continue.
By working together, we can take steps to bring the rates of violence down. It’s simple: when more Cougs take action, less violence happens.
Here’s what you can do right now:
Recognize violence is an issue that impacts everyone in our community.