Photo from USC News

USC Student Affairs and the Keck School of Medicine appointed Dr. Sarah Van Orman as the chief medical officer of student health on Aug. 1. In this position, she will oversee the two student health centers on the University Park and Health Sciences campus, respectively.

Van Orman was previously the University of Wisconsin’s university health services director for nearly a decade. “I’ve spent my entire career in college health and working with students,” Van Orman said, in an interview with the blastZONE.

She tackled various issues in her work such as sexual violence, excessive alcohol use, mental health and classroom safety during her term and developed a comprehensive strategy on student wellness.

As the chief medical health officer at USC, Van Orman will focus on improving clinical services to students, while developing a comprehensive public health plan through analyzing medical data and working with health professionals to address students’ needs and concerns.

“My first goal is, of course, getting to know the staff at Engemann and at the health centers, but I also want to focus on getting to know the students,” Van Orman said. “I want to try and understand what health issues students prioritize, the things they value and their needs. That, in many ways, will guide what our priorities are here at the health center.” There also have been some administrative shifts with Van Orman’s arrival: Keck Medicine of USC will now oversee clinical health services at the two student health centers. Engemann Health Center, the University Park campus’ center, previously operated under USC Student Affairs.

As the former chief health officer at UW, Van Orman took initiative to be the school’s public health leader in improving students’ overall wellness. During Van Orman’s term at UW, the school’s data reflected a decrease in high-risk alcohol consumption, especially among first-year students.

Curbing alcohol abuse will also be one of Van Orman’s health priorities as she takes on her position at USC. But, alcohol consumption is only one of four defining health concerns that impact students on campus, Van Orman says.

“There’s four big issues we know at USC and on other campuses that impact students’ wellbeing,” Van Orman said. “These include mental health and overall wellness. We know sexual violence really impacts students’ mental wellbeing. Also, issues of diversity and inclusion really impact students’ experience, alongside high-risk alcohol consumption.” These four issues were previously identified by Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry.

Beyond specific health concerns, Van Orman expressed the importance of campus climate and its potential to positively impact students’ wellbeing.

“The term of the Trojan Family really struck me: this idea that students feel connected to each other on campus,” Van Orman said. She believes encouraging student engagement with one another can be a key aspect in reducing mental health issues, stress, anxiety and loneliness.

Van Orman views comprehensive wellness and a focus on long-term issues essential to fostering a healthy campus environment for all students, and she seeks to better understand students in order to effectively aid them.

“I’m really excited to get to know students,” Van Orman said. “I think every campus has a unique culture of students, and I’m looking forward to learning what their hopes are and what their interests are while seeing patients.”