Accomplished Student Health Services Director planning to retire this semester

Darvin Nelson, General Assignment Reporter

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Since 1987, UNF’s current Student Health Services Director, has been working with the University and improving our campus’ clinic and health access to students.

Now, Dr. Doreen A. Perez is planning to retire this semester. 

Dr. Perez has earned countless national awards and honors, including The Army Achievement Medal from HIV education, being inducted in the hall of fame at her past high school, and being appointed President of  the American College Health Association. 

“When I first came here in ‘87, we had a little first aid station in a bathroom. There were no doctors, and no nurse practitioners. I was the only nurse on campus.” says Dr. Perez. “We heard from students that we wanted more than a first aid station, so we moved from building 10 to building 14 where we had a clinic, two exam rooms, a waiting room, and a lab. I went out and hired a couple of doctors in the area for twice a week, and it became very popular; as long as the doctors were in, we were busy. Now, this place has grown from a little first aid station, to a very respected clinic.”

While getting her masters degree, Dr. Perez helped created a Peer Education Program for the Student Health Services center in which students could go out to teach other students, answer any questions students had, and hand out condoms. “To tell you the truth, there weren’t a lot of universities giving out free condoms, but we were.” says Dr. Perez. “Everyone was supportive and saw it as a way of putting up a barrier to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STI’s and exposure to fluids”. 

Dr. Perez says she appreciates  all of the opportunities to travel nation-wide and learn about HIV prevention the University has given her. “San Francisco, New Orleans, and NYC, were some of the places where we visited other schools that had already created something that was working and they shared it with us, then we came back and we shared that information with our group.” “That to me was one of my biggest highlights. I was in a job where I had a opportunity to save lives, the whole group of us felt that we were making a difference.” 

Around that time, she started getting involved with an organization called the American College Health Association and says that it was one of the biggest influences of her career, showing her how to grow and advance the  health center on campus. “I got really involved with that organization and became one of their presidents.”

She was also instrumental in getting the National College Health Assessment here at UNF to get an idea of what students were concerned about in regards to health. These assessments were compared nationally to other universities. “We compared right across the board, with the same problems other colleges were having,” said Perez.“Today, the biggest problems we’re seeing are stress, anxiety, and depression. A lot of our concentration now is moving towards providing support for students.”

The search for a new Student Health Services Director starts with an approved search committee, and applicants that have to meet “stringent guidelines,” then they will create a pool, and start interviewing potential candidates. “The job description is administrative in nature. They want somebody as a director who probably has some experience with responsibilities in ambulatory care and Public Health offices.” said Perez. “32 years goes by with a blink of an eye, I feel like I just got here. Throughout my entire years of being here the biggest supporters of student health has always been the students.” 

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