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Student Health Services recognized for its approach to health care


FIU’s Student Health Services (SHS) has earned accreditation as a “Medical Home,” becoming one of only 15 student health centers in the United States – and the only one in Florida – to achieve the honor. This distinction means a better experience for students when they visit one of the university’s health and wellness centers.

-3“It’s an acknowledgement that we’re offering coordinated care,” says Mariela Gabaroni, associate director of Student Health Services. “It’s about forming a collaborative relationship with our patients.”

Offering a more holistic form of health care affects a significant proportion of FIU’s student population. From July 1, 2012, through June 20, 2013, more than 14,000 students accessed services totaling almost 27,000 patient visits.

An example of coordinated care, says Gabaroni, would be if a patient came in for a sore throat, and the caregivers who took the student’s weight and blood pressure noticed that the student was overweight. They would try to engage the student in a non-judgmental conversation about his or her weight and ask if he or she was interested in taking steps to lose weight. If the patient said yes, they would make him or her aware of the resources available at FIU to students.

Research shows positive outcomes are more likely to occur through a team planning process such as this than through other systems of care.

“Coordinated care allows us to develop a more effective, in-depth plan of care for the patient,” says Oscar Loynaz, director of FIU Student Health Services at Modesto A. Maidique Campus. “It demonstrates our commitment to excellence and service to our student population.”

Benefits of a more holistic approach extend beyond the exam room, according to Therese Boyd, director of Student Health Services at Biscayne Bay Campus.

“The emphasis on the student-patient allows us to provide health care that incorporates wellness activities and promotes student retention and graduation while creating a health Panther for life,” says Boyd. “Ultimately, this relationship within the Medical Home allows the student to bond more closely with FIU so that, in the future, they are more likely to support their alma mater in various ways.”

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The Medical Home accreditation is conferred by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), the nation’s leading accrediting organization for outpatient facilities. Less than 10 percent of the nation’s student health centers are accredited by AAAHC.

Added Dr. Saara Schwartz, interim medical director, “Being the first student health center accredited in Florida as a Medical Home places us in a leadership position which is truly Worlds Ahead.”