Student Health Celebrates 100 Years

Well-being Enables Great Learning

As Student Health marks its centennial, there has been a transformative shift from not only providing general, standalone health care services to students, but also creating a culture of well-being. This culture empowers students to choose their path to being healthy and thriving members of the Hawkeye community, not only during their time here as a student, but also in the years beyond. The continued well-being of students is a growing priority throughout higher education, directly impacting retention and graduation success. Taking a holistic approach allows and supports students to be at their best physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

Student Health, Student Wellness, University Counseling Services, Student Care and Assistance, Recreational Services, and Student Disability Services are committed to providing each and every student a seamless, holistic experience. By leveraging these diverse and agile arrays of services, the University of Iowa can better provide a relationship-rich culture that engages mind, body, and spirit.

“Student Health has evolved over the years to provide comprehensive health care to students- not just treating illnesses and injuries, but focusing on prevention, healthy lifestyles, and mental health,” says Dr. Paul Natvig, Interim Director of Student Health. “We know that student success is more attainable with optimal health, and we take that responsibility seriously. We help students achieve good health while they are here on campus, and try to instill good habits that will carry them into the future.” 

September 2019 officially marked the 100-year anniversary of UI Student Health. Throughout the 100 years, many changes have occurred and some basic principles still remain. Here’s a look back at Student Health through the years.

When the influenza pandemic struck in 1918, very few health care services were available to students on college campuses. Deemed the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, this outbreak killed an estimated 50 million people, including 38 University of Iowa students and faculty members. As a result of this worldwide influenza epidemic, the University of Iowa created health care services to University of Iowa students.

In the aftermath of this pandemic, University of Iowa President Walter Jessup delegated a board meeting to consider the best method for promoting health care to students in June 1919. By September of that same year, Student Health was formed under the direction of Dr. McDonald, along with three other doctors, a nurse, and a secretary. There was a fifty-cent charge for initial dispensary calls and $1 charge for visits to homes and dorms. Dr. McDonald acknowledged the influenza epidemic and offered students advice on how to prevent getting sick.

From the time Student Health was established in 1919 through 1930, it was part of the Department of Internal Medicine. From 1930 onward, it became part of the Preventative Medicine and Hygiene Department. The 1930s brought about other changes to Student Health as well. The fall semester of 1930, all male students were required to receive physical exams. This was not required of female students until 1934, when enforced by Student Health’s first female doctor, Dr. Grace Williams, became director.

Despite President Virgil Hancher discontinuing the requirement of student physical exams due to the onset of World War II in 1941, the 1940s began an era of tremendous growth for Student Health. During 1946 and 1947, Student Health saw a significant increase in the number of visits, which was primarily due to the number of married students and veterans attending the university. The total number of student visits reached 36,675. The following year saw an even high number of students, reaching 40,264.

The 1950s brought about plans for a new infirmary, which was completed in 1951. Another influenza hit in 1957, and 1,401 students were treated. Polio vaccines and shots for yellow fever we also administered per the World Health Organization. In addition to university students, Student Health also provided shots for territories in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Missouri. 

In 1969, Student Health expanded to include two large waiting rooms, eighteen offices, treatment rooms, and storage space. In its first year, this new space saw a record-breaking 52,198 patients.

Student Health received its first grant towards drug prevention in 1988, and Iowa Health, a newly created program, hired a substance abuse counselor, created a sexual awareness program, and created a cardiovascular health program. 

In 1998, Student Health moved to its current location at Westlawn. Today, Student Health staffs nine medical doctors, four physician assistants, one nurse practitioner, and 21 clinical (RN and medical assistant) staff members. Student Health offers full clinical services, including family medicine services, psychiatry, gynecology, LGBTQ services, immunizations, allergy immunotherapy, laboratory testing, and a nurseline to all University of Iowa students. A smaller clinic, offering  nurse care services such as immunizations and health requirements, is located on the ground floor of the Iowa Memorial Union. Student Health continues to be a valuable resource for students and strives to deliver quality healthcare for all University of Iowa students.

2019 Year In Review

This article is part of the 2019 Year in Review, which highlights some of the Division of Student Life's accomplishments from the previous academic year.

Go to Year in Review