March 18, 2020
Dear USC Students,
Over the past week, I have talked with several of my patients, all who are leaving campus soon or have already left. Many are getting ready to return to home countries far from Los Angeles. For myself, as a physician and a parent, and for my patients, these last visits are bittersweet. They are getting ready to end the school year away from all their USC friends, their routines are abruptly cut short, and it may be many weeks away from their social supports—the families we build and that sustain us when we are part of campus life.
I know all of you are in the same situation; this is not how we imagined this spring semester would turn out to be. But with all disappointing situations, it can provide ways to grow in unexpected ways.
For USC Student Health, this has meant moving at light speed into TeleHealth; a service that was previously planned and now is in operation. USC Student Health will remain in operation (please check the studenthealth.usc.edu website for current hours); we will be part of the health care response community, and in alignment with other Keck Medicine of USC care centers, we are launching TeleHealth as a measure of providing care while also following public health guidance on social distancing.
Both medical and mental health services are now available to students via TeleHealth, for those in the state of California. This allows us to continue services while adhering to the public health need for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Essential services, social connection, mental health, well-being and mutual support are all core to keeping individuals going during high-stress moments.
For students in our community, we encourage you to keep connected with each other and continue your social lives—use messaging apps and Zoom calls to check in with friends, see a counselor, have a streaming watch party, take an online mindfulness class. All these activities can continue even while keeping that safe social distance of six feet away from others.
Parties, concerts, athletic events will all come back into our lives when the moment of pandemic infection passes; but for now, we are all taking a pause from these activities so we can protect the most high risk among us—our elderly relatives and neighbors, friends with immune suppression and underlying medical conditions—from preventable serious illness.
You may have heard about “flattening the curve,” bringing down the spread of COVID-19 so we do not have an overwhelming surge of cases into the health care system. Our colleagues at Keck Medicine and every other health care organization in the country is mobilizing to meet anticipated patient care needs, and we can all individually do our part to keep the medically vulnerable safe from infection. This is how we can all be public health advocates and keep each other safe.
These are unprecedented times, and collectively, we can keep moving forward, remaining connected while keeping safe physical distances.
Send us your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the hotline: 213-740-6291. As always, contact USC Student Health 24/7 at 213-740-9355 (WELL) for services and care.
Sarah Van Orman, M.D., MMM, FACHA
Chief Health Officer, USC Student Health
Associate Vice Provost for Student Health
Clinical Professor of Family Medicine