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Medical Care at Student Health Services

Basic Information

Student Health Services offers outpatient (no hospital services) primary care (general medicine) to eligible enrolled students. The staff consists of 1 parttime physician, 2 full time nurse practitioners and 1 full time medical assistant/phlebotomist. The hours are usually 8:00am - 5:00pm M-F (no appointments 12-1). The goal of the Health Service is to restore or maintain health to allow the students to achieve their academic goals. Student Health Services offers diagnosis and treatment of illness, management of chronic conditions, preventative care and screenings, gynecologic care and referrals for specialty services. Student Health Services should be the student's first stop for health related concerns or questions.

Making Appointments and Walk-ins

The best way to obtain care at the student health is by making an appointment. This can be done through the online Student Health Portal or calling the Health Center at (626) 395-6393. Access is generally very good and there are usually available appointments most days at various times throughout the day. If the student thinks the concern can be addressed without an appointment (ex. simple prescription refill), a message can be sent to a provider through the Student Health Portal or by calling Student Health Services and asking to speak with a provider. There are no scheduled walk-in hours. If there is a medical condition that needs attention immediately, the student should come to Student Health Services and a staff member will attend to them in a timely manner. Our goal is to provide thorough, quality and compassionate care to all students of Caltech.

Urgent Medical Concerns and Emergencies

Student Health Services does not have urgent care or emergency services. Urgent care offers services for medical problems (e.g. minor burns, asthma (which is not responding to medication), urinary tract infection, especially with fever or back pain, possible fracture or dislocation, a cut requiring stitches, any injury with significant pain or fever, etc.), that, while not emergencies, require medical attention within 24 hours. If Student Health Services is open, urgent medical problems will be assessed and treated. The student may be referred to a community Urgent Care if needed for further evaluation and management. 

Emergency situations are life-threatening or cause impairment (e.g. difficulty breathing for any reason, severe asthma, severe allergic reaction with throat swelling, unconsciousness or unresponsiveness, major injury with obvious fracture, open chest wound, spinal or neck injury, overdose, etc.). For emergencies, call campus safety at (626) 395-5000 or call 911. BE PREPARED to say exactly where you are and what is wrong. You will be taken to the nearest hospital emergency department. 

Please see section on Urgent Care and Emergencies. 

What to Expect at Your Visit

  • Please arrive 5-10 minutes before your appointment time at the Student Health Center. 
  • If you do not have an appointment, inform the front desk staff when you arrive.
  • Check in at the computer kiosk with your Caltech ID card and then have a seat in the waiting room until your last name is called.
  • Vital signs (weight, blood pressure, and temperature) are routinely taken for most medical appointments. If you do not want your weight measured or know your current weight, please inform the health staff.
  • You may be instructed to return to the waiting room until an examination room is available. 
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your medical condition(s). An examination will be done and your medical provider will discuss your diagnosis and treatment plan. Do not hesitate to ask questions about your care during your visit (including costs of laboratory, diagnostics, and prescriptions). 

Specialty Care

  • Medical providers at Student Health Services are trained in primary care.
  • Medical specialists care available in the community and referrals can be made if needed. If you have the Caltech United Healthcare Student Resources insurance, you can self-refer.
  • Referrals can be discussed with a Student Health Services medical provider (a list of specialists will be provided). If assistance is required for scheduling an appointment with a specialist, please inform your medical provider.
  • Speciality care is covered by your insurance (coverage varies from plan to plan).

For further information, see section on Services Provided.

Advice About Getting Good Healthcare

The healthcare system can seem complex and confusing especially if you have not had to obtain healthcare on your own in the past or if you are from a different country. The staff at Student Health Services will help you as much as possible in navigating your healthcare. Some tips that will help you get the best care possible are: 

  1. Be prepared for your appointment. The medical provider will ask you questions about your illness, your medical history and your medications with attention to specific details. 

  1. Do not hesitate to bring your questions or concerns to a medical provider. If you do not understand your illness or the process of medical care, explanations will be provided as best as possible. 

  1. Try not to be embarrassed about any questions. Your medical provider is able to address your concerns regarding sexual matters (including contraception, sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) and physical symptoms of your anal/genital regions), mental illness and suicidality, and alcohol/drug use or any other sensitive subjects. 

  1. Advocate for yourself. Let your medical provider know your specific requests and concerns. If you are not satisfied with your healthcare, ask questions, or you can also speak to the Medical Director (Dr. John Tsai) or the Director of Wellness Services (Dr. Jennifer Howes). Everyone will try to assist you as best they can. 

  1. Seek another opinion if you are dissatisfied or still have questions after you appointment. It is reasonable to see another medical provider for another evaluation, whether it is at the Student Health Center or with an outside provider. This may provide some reassurance or provide a different way to approach a medical condition.

Reducing Waiting Time

Due to the unpredictable nature of medical problems and patient care, sometimes waiting is inevitable. Our staff works to minimize wait times while providing good care to all students who come to the Health Center. The three most common reasons for having to wait even if you have a scheduled appointment are:

  • Another student has an urgent problem that must be attended to immediately, for example, someone is bleeding from an accident.
  • The patient scheduled before you arrived late but still required their full time allotment for care. 
  • The patient scheduled before you has a unforeseen complicated medical problem that takes more than the time allotted.  

Thank you for your patience as the health service staff does its utmost to provide quality care to all students. 

Extension Policy

Student Health Services does not provide written letters for extensions related to missing academic work due to illness. If the circumstance involves a short time, 1-2 days, talk to your professor directly and explain the circumstances. If you are unable to reach a reasonable understanding, contact the Dean of Students by email and explain the situation and they can assist you. If you have a significant or severe medical illness that will affect your long term academic work, and need medical evaluation and treatment, please make an appointment with Student Health Services. If necessary, health information will be shared (with informed consent), to the Deans Office regarding your illness.

If you are looking for accommodations, please visit the Caltech Accessibility Services for Students website.