Farrow directs student health

February 25, 2000

Judith Zwolak

New Orleans' muggy weather and the specter of hurricanes shouldn't bother James Farrow, Tulane's new director of student health. The Houston native says he was happy to leave the cloudy Pacific Northwest to return to the balmy Gulf South.

"I'm glad to be back in the Sun Belt," he says. Farrow, who joined Tulane on Jan. 1 after 21 years at the University of Washington/Seattle, directs all student health activities at the university, primarily at the uptown campus' Student Health Center.

He also holds faculty positions in the pediatrics and medicine departments. Directing student health was previously a part-time duty of the medical center's vice president for academic affairs. Following last fall's restructuring of the medical center's senior administration and after the retirement of the previous vice president, Paul Dyment, Tulane changed the position to become a full-time director of student health.

Farrow brings more than two decades of academic and clinical experience to the new position. A 1973 graduate of Baylor College of Medicine, Farrow completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of California/Los Angeles and moved on to a fellowship in adolescent medicine at the University of Washington/Seattle. After his fellowship, he became a full-time faculty member of the university in the pediatrics and internal medicine departments.

For the past 11 years, he served as director of the university's adolescent medicine division. In his clinical activities, Farrow primarily worked in public schools and in community youth clinics. At Tulane, Farrow says he hopes to continue his research, which focuses on reducing dangerous behaviors associated with drug and alcohol use and improving the health-care consumer skills of adolescents and young adults.

"Over the past five years, I've been looking at how much adolescents know about managed care and their rights and responsibilities with respect to health care," he says. "We've found that a lot of adolescents and young adults enrolled in managed-care programs weren't really taking advantage of the primary-care services. I'm interested in research on how adolescents and young adults can be savvier health-care consumers."

His research in this area influences how Farrow approaches the health needs of college students. "College is the first time a lot of these young people have been out on their own," he says. "We try to make it easy enough for them to negotiate the system, but we also try to educate them along the way on how to be smart health-care consumers, not just educating them about the disease processes, but teaching them how to get what they really need out of the system."

As director of student health, Farrow oversees the Student Health Center on the uptown campus as well as the medical services for the health-sciences students on the downtown campus. Health-sciences students in the public health and medical schools see physicians at the medical center's primary care clinic, although they can also use the uptown campus clinic.

At the uptown center, Farrow manages a full-time staff of five primary care physicians, three psychiatrists, one gynecologist, four nurse practitioners, five staff nurses and two psychologist/social workers. In addition to administrative staff, the center also has a health educator and a certified drug and alcohol counselor. About 500 students visit the center's clinics each week. The center also supports the Tulane Emergency Medical Service.

Farrow's plans for the center include expanding the services of the men's clinic, which currently focuses on sexually transmitted diseases and sexual function, to include more services geared toward stress-related illnesses and concerns, nutrition, fitness, drug and alcohol abuse and relationship concerns. He also envisions the women's gynecology clinic moving in the same direction.

"We want to provide a more comprehensive service," he says. Administrative duties won't keep Farrow from clinical activities. He plans to spend four half-days each week in the men's clinic as well as some time in the walk-in and weekend clinics. Next year, he says he would like to become more active in the adolescent section of the pediatrics department, perhaps devoting a day each week to working in a Tulane-run, school-based clinic in the community.

On Tulane's campus, some of the biggest student health problems Farrow says he and his staff will face are the ill effects associated with alcohol, drug and tobacco use. Obesity, eating disorders and stress-related illnesses also present a challenge to student health professionals, he says.

"In college populations, there are a lot of stress-related problems, particularly with freshman undergraduates and graduate students in medicine and law programs," Farrow says. "Next year, we hope to have a stress-management clinic that will treat stress-related physical symptoms. We'll use techniques like biofeedback, hypnosis and muscle relaxation."

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000