April 7, 2008
Taking medical care into the community where it's most needed is part of the mission of the Tulane University School of Medicine, especially in the post-Katrina environment. Dr. Pamela Wiseman fulfills that mission by heading to high school each week.
Wiseman, associate professor in the Tulane Department of Family and Community Medicine, serves as medical director of a high school–based health center designed to keep students in school and parents at work by eliminating the need to travel away from school to see a doctor.
"Adolescents don't get medical care unless they are ill and they seldom get routine or preventive checkups," says Wiseman, whose practice focuses on women's health, family medicine, obstetrics and pediatrics.
"Students are often too old for their pediatricians, but too young for an adult doctor. This way, students get to see doctors who know how to see them."
The clinic has been located on the campus of West Jefferson High School since November 2007. It is operated by the Jefferson Parish Public School System, which participates in the School Health Connection program implemented by the Louisiana Public Health Institute.
Wiseman says the program is in the process of restoring the school clinics that were destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and expanding the program by opening new clinics.
West Jefferson High School has one of several school-based clinics operating in the metro New Orleans area and eventually will be the first on the West Bank of New Orleans to operate in its own freestanding building. Wiseman says that most clinics operate out of modified classrooms or modular structures. A groundbreaking ceremony in March marked the start of construction for the new building to house the clinic at West Jefferson High.
According to Wiseman, doctors who practice family medicine or pediatrics are well-suited for seeing school-aged children and adolescents.
Wiseman says school clinics tend to complement the work of school nurses by performing physicals, immunizations and diagnosis and treatment of health conditions including sexually transmitted diseases. The center does not provide contraceptives.
"We have 40 pregnant students at West Jefferson right now, and we help them get adequate medical care that many wouldn't get if not for the clinic," says Wiseman.
As medical director, Wiseman spends about four hours each week at the school and sees between 15 and 20 students. Patients also are seen by nurse practitioners with the help of third-year Tulane medical students fulfilling their required family medicine clerkships.
Before heading up the clinic at West Jefferson High School, Wiseman spent eight years as medical director of the Joshua Butler Elementary School Health Center. Wiseman also has a full-time practice at the Tulane Multispecialty Center at University Square.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org