Student board closes gap between Pitt, Student Health Services

By Andrew Shull

A new Pitt student-run board has formed to serve as a liaison between the University community… A new Pitt student-run board has formed to serve as a liaison between the University community and Student Health Services.

Nine students sit on the Student Health Advisory Board that represents both Pitt undergraduate and graduate students. The Board works with Student Health Services on a variety of issues facing the student body — most recently, vaccination for the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.

At its meeting on Friday, the board reported that last October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised their recommendations on immunization for men. The Centers now recommend that both men and women receive the vaccination.

The CDC report went on to say that the vaccine prevents anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers related to HPV in men.

But the rates of vaccination in males are low, and members of the Student Health Advisory Board said that they hope to change that, at least at Pitt. Student Health will administer the vaccine for free through June.

“I talk to my male friends about getting the vaccine, and they say, ‘Well, I don’t really need that,’ and I have to tell them that’s not what the data suggests,” said junior Paras Minhas, the board’s president.

Dr. Elizabeth Wettick, medical director of Student Health Services, said that the vaccine is available by appointment with Student Health. Students can also ask for the vaccine during the course of another appointment with a clinician. She noted that only a previous reaction to an HPV vaccine should preclude someone from receiving the vaccine.

Reaching out to students regarding the vaccine is the kind of thing that the board was created to do.

Minhas and the other board members were selected last semester by Wettick and Student Health Services Director Marian Vanek. The board then held elections for officers.

Vanek said in an email that the board was created last semester to serve “as a link between the Student Health Service and the student body, and to provide a voice on campus in alliance with the Student Health Service.”

The Board’s funding comes out of the budget for Student Health Services, which is funded through an $85 Student Health Fee that all students pay each semester.

Minhas said that all advisory board meetings will be open to the student body, although they don’t advertise meetings currently because of space concerns.

Aside from the HPV vaccine, the board is also addressing a number of issues that encompass both mental and physical health.

Minhas said he wanted to work with Pitt’s Alcohol Task Force to expand programs focused on alcohol education and responsible drinking. He also said he wants to work on the side of mental health by serving in an advisory role to the University Counseling Center.