New director aims to take student health to a new level

- Suzanne Smith

There are big changes in the air for UVic’s Health Services, thanks to a new position aimed at keeping students healthy. “Traditionally, the Jack Petersen Health Centre on campus has directed most of its efforts towards treating illness,” explains Judy Burgess, UVic’s new director of Health Services. “The purpose of my position is to enhance the clinic functions as well as broaden the clinic focus with more programs aimed at promoting health and wellness on campus."Participating in the strategic planning process within the newly structured Division of Student Affairs will also be a key component of health service improvement.

Burgess completed her PhD at UVic in nursing and education and did her post-doctoratal research in nursing at McMaster University. She also taught for seven years as an instructor in UVic’s School of Nursing. Her past work experience as the director of the James Bay Community Project for 15 years provided Burgess with an extensive background working with youth, young adults and families in community health. In this role, she helped to start the youth clinics in Victoria and supported the development of neighbourhood houses throughout the city.

Burgess’ vision for her new position is strongly influenced by her background in community health and her strengths in networking and partnership building. “There are lots of people and committees at UVic who work on student health,” says Burgess. “My vision for this position is to facilitate people working together in ways that integrate health services on campus and make them more visible and accessible. I’ve already started networking with several partners at UVic, including counseling and residence services, athletics, the School of Nursing and the Island Medical Program. My future plans include reaching out to other student services and faculties.”

Another key priority for Burgess is getting input from students about the services they need and implementing programs to match them. For instance, Burgess explains that “we know mental health is a very big issue on campus, not unlike other Canadian universities, and that we need to develop an integrated mental health model. This could include reducing student stress and improving their coping skills, identifying first symptoms and offering early intervention, and making it easier for students to get treatment.”

Some of the other areas she hopes Health Services will expand upon include communicable illness, sexual health, sport health, injury prevention and wellness care.

A typical day for Burgess involves managing the daily operation of the campus clinic, which serves approximately 100 students daily and provides emergency first aid, general medical care, minor surgery, health education and access to psychiatry, sports medicine, physiotherapy and other community-based specialists. This bustling clinic includes a team of five physicians working each day, four nurses, three psychiatrists and several support staff.

Burgess is also responsible for overseeing staffing, budgets, programs, campus health issues and strategic planning for student health services. Some key initiatives that Burgess is working on include recruiting a health information officer (a new position aimed at developing clinic capacity in electronic medical records), initiating client surveys to better understand the needs of students on campus, developing the clinic as a site for student practicum placements and enhancing networks to improve campus health and wellness.

Burgess looks forward to meeting and working with more members of the UVic community and can be reached at 250-721-8820 or


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Keywords: new, health, services, director

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