Sept. 6, 2007
Khowassah set to retire as director of Student Health Service
In the early 1970s when Mary Khowassah (photo, right), M.D., began her career at the University of Iowa Student Health Service, handwritten patient information typically was kept on recipe card-sized sheets of paper.
Documentation and storage of student patient records have long since gone paperless, but Khowassah knows the clinic's mission has remained constant: to provide quality health care for all UI students.
After 37 years as a staff physician at Student Health Service -- including the past 22 years as director -- Khowassah will retire at the end of this week. A public reception honoring her will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, in the South Room of the Iowa Memorial Union.
"College health is, and has always been, more than just caring for colds and sore throats. A look at our annual list of diagnoses of the patients we see here would reveal some very complex, very challenging cases," Khowassah said. "We have always had times when we've had infectious disease outbreaks, and we've always addressed them."
The mumps outbreak in spring 2006 is a recent example. That year, Iowa saw more than 900 cases of mumps statewide, mostly among young people. Student Health Service staff played a key role in getting information to UI students and their families and providing immunizations to students who had either not been previously vaccinated or had received only one dose of the vaccine in the past.
Khowassah cites Student Health Services' health promotion and education unit -- Health Iowa -- as a key component in the clinic's overall mission today. The unit maintains useful online health information for students and provides individually tailored consultations in the areas of substance abuse, tobacco cessation, stress management, fitness, nutrition and sexual health. Health Iowa also develops and hosts health fairs, workshops and other events to help create a healthy campus environment.
She also notes the important role Student Health Service/Health Iowa has played in combating alcohol abuse among college students. Staff members wrote the original grant proposal for the Stepping Up Project, a coalition involving the University and the Iowa City and Coralville communities. The project has received more than $1 million in funding over the past 10 years from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Student Health Services' 1998 move to its current location in Westlawn from the since-demolished Steindler Building was another key development in the clinic's ongoing success, Khowassah noted. Newer, remodeled facilities helped ensure its designation as a freestanding ambulatory health care clinic from the Joint Commission. In April 2005, Student Health Service opened an adjacent on-campus pharmacy in Westlawn, making it easier for UI students needing prescriptions filled.
Khowassah's retirement from Student Health Service comes at the "right time," she said. "I've had the good fortune to work with so many highly skilled, brilliant and dedicated people -- the physicians, nurses and staff members here in our clinic, but also colleagues at UI Hospitals and Clinics, the Carver College of Medicine, and Vice President Phil Jones and his staff in the Office of Student Services. So I know the clinic will continue to succeed."
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178
MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, firstname.lastname@example.org