The student’s physician

Dr. Meredith MacKenzie says she enjoys her work at health services because of students’ ‘potential’

Dr. Meredith MacKenzie knows student health. She has been seeing patients at Queen’s Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) since 2001, which makes her one of the longest-serving doctors at Queen’s Health Services.

MacKenzie said she has stayed on at HCDS because she enjoys working with students.

“I think students have a lot of potential,” she said.

Mackenzie, who got her medical degree at UBC, is one of 11 part-time working physicians at Health Services. When she started working at HCDS, she worked a four-day week. However, after having kids, she cut back her time at Queen’s to one day a week, splitting the rest of her time working at the Kingston Street Health Clinic and the allergy study unit at Kingston General Hospital.

The medical clinic at HCDS also employs five full-time nurses and one full-time head nurse. Mackenzie said it was difficult for HCDS to compete financially with the province, in terms of attracing and keeping doctors.

“The new provinical models are a lot more attractive financially, than at Queen’s,” she said. “We can recruit, but we can’t retain.”

During the one day a week she spends working at HCDS, MacKenzie spends half of the day seeing scheduled patients and the other half seeing walk-in patients in the new urgent care unit. New for this school year, the urgent care unit was created due to an increased local demand for walk-in clinics.

MacKenzie said the new clinic allows more students to get immediate attention, because the walk-in clinics close to Queen’s are short-staffed.

Usually, if patients want to be seen right away they have to go to the emergency room at KGH or Hotel Dieu, and the wait time can be up to six hours. An alternative is going to a walk-in clinic, but the nearest one to the University, at 800 Princess St., has recently limited its hours to only weekends. Because it’s about a six-week wait to get a scheduled appointment with a doctor at Health Services, the new urgent care clinic is meant to help students who need to be seen sooner, MacKenzie said. The clinic will also allow hospitals to spend more time to addressing the more urgent cases, and encourage students get checked out before their problems become more serious.

During a typical day at HCDS, MacKenzie said she sees roughly 20 to 30 patients. One of the biggest trends among students is sickness due to a lack of self-care, especially in times of stress such as exam period, she said. “People are getting less sleep and eating less regularly,” she said. “During busy times, [students should] try to still exercise, eat properly and get enough sleep.” MacKenzie said students need more than six hours of sleep a night to stay healthy.

MacKenzie said condom use as a contraceptive and to protect against STIs has improved among the Queen’s population during her time here.

“I used to see more herpes, and less condom use,” she said. “It’s still important to know that condoms reduce the chance of transmitting most but not all STIs.”

MacKenzie said she worries many of the male students she sees haven’t given themselves a testicular self-exam before. Because testicular cancer is prominent in the 15 to 35 age range, she said it’s important that males know how to self-examine, so they can detect a problematic growth before it’s too late. She usually gives male patients a “how-to” information pamphlet about testicular self-exams to take home with them. “I think if you can intervene early you can save a lot of hassel,” she said.

MacKenzie said she’s pleased to see many female students coming into the clinic to receive the newly licensed Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. “In terms of effectiveness, the earlier you get it, the better,” she said.

MacKenzie said she noticed a higher incidence of disordered eating and body dysmorphic—a distorted perception of the body—disorder at Queen’s, compared to other populations. “Even if you select for age and gender, the incidence rate of this problem is higher than other places,” she said. She also said alcohol and drug-related problems are common among students coming into HCDS.

—With files from Harrison Smith

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