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Cal Poly Memories - by Billy Mounts, M.D. Physician Emeritus (1956-1986)

"Cal Poly University Health Service"

First, have a look at the photo of Health Center staff dated 1957. The facility, as you will recall, was located at a corner site of the Kennedy Library location. The awning to the left lead to the cafeteria. The building in the right background is the clinic facility and women's infirmary. The men's infirmary is out of the picture, but mid center and to the left of the clinic.

Front row left to right: Mrs. Roberts, clerk, Imogene Gow, R.N. Nursing Supervisor, Pat Eilers, R.N., Cliff Walker, M.D. Back row: Mary Jacinto, R.N., Art James, M.D., Billy Mounts, M.D., Dean Lovett, M.D., Vi Hughes, Medical Records, Ruth Gran, R.N.

Health care and health education at Cal Poly have been offered according to student needs. The need during World War II was clearly identified as the U.S. Navy contingent arrived on campus for training. The response was a clinic facility and infirmary housed in a temporary Quonset hut. With the war concluded, the unit evacuated, leaving the equipment and medical supplies behind. This setting served as the genesis of a program consisting initially of a live-in R.N., Mrs. Gow, who was also available to the students for night emergencies, and The Hagen/Treadwell medical group, which provided a daily sick call. Such was the need at that particular time.

Cal Poly's unique educational philosophy and curriculum began to draw students statewide, as contrasted with state colleges that served as regional institutions. Cal Poly also attracted international students, especially those sponsored by the governments of emerging third-world countries, to study pragmatic courses such as food production, poultry, swine, beef, soil science and orchard management. The net result was a student body living away from home and far from the care of the family physician. Health care needs had changed.

In response, Everett Chandler, PhD., dean of students and patron saint for the student health program, recruited Dean Lovett, M.D., in 1951, as the first director of Health Services in the expanding state college system. Dr. Lovett was a well-trained, successful general surgeon who was also a visionary with the uncanny capacity to actualize his dreams. I became a part-time associate in 1952, and full time in '56. At that time, the Health Center was housed in temporary structures where the Kennedy Library now stands.

The Poultry Unit was located in the heart of the present campus and the bull barn occupied the location of the current Administration Building (no pun intended). We organized according to the blueprint of The Joint Commission of Hospital Accreditation and, in '59, moved into a new facility which was the first hospital in SLO County to receive a full three-year certification by The Joint Commission. Efforts of President McPhee and Dean Chandler were credited for the new structure. This new facility featured a 30-bed hospital, surgical suite, 24/7 emergency service with physician on-call, pharmacy, clinical laboratory, physiotherapy and X-ray facilities. The Cal Poly Women's Club volunteered as our hospital auxiliary and, as such, met daily with hospitalized students.

With thanks to Jim Carrington, we operated our own ambulance service, a WW II army surplus '41 Packard. This vehicle was in attendance at all home football games, plus rodeos, and continued in service until it was necessary to solicit student help to hand push it back to the Health Center; it was then returned to Jim. As the student body exceeded 16,000, we were staffed by nine full-time physicians, and a cadre of R.N.'s and nurse practitioners. Forty physicians from the local medical fraternity applied for and were granted courtesy hospital staff membership and privilege. Specialty clinics in orthopedics, podiatry, dermatology and gynecology were held weekly. Each discipline was headed by a specialist from the local medical community and mostly done as pro bono workers who served freely, willingly and well.

Transition from the private practice of general medicine to that of student health was not difficult and allowed more emphasis on preventive medicine, self-help clinics and a chance to be a teacher in health education. The latter presented challenges with lectures in numerous departments over the span of 30 years e.g., Environmental Engineering (anatomy and physiology of the respiratory tract); Child Development (personality evolution); Physical Education (first-aid and family planning); Architecture (projects for planning medical facilities); and Education Department (mental health and emotional illness).

Cal Poly sponsored a "Student Health Management Seminar" annually for several years, which was attended by hundreds of medical directors from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and the Pacific Rim. The Health Center's Grant Miller, M.D. psychiatrist and Joan Cirone R.N. developed a course, "Human Sexuality," which became most popular and practical. It probably still is. The early 70's found a need to expand the facility to meet the demands of an exploding student population. President Kennedy and Dean Chandler arose to the occasion, which allowed us to move into the current plant in 1974.

Health needs of the student body became altered with changes in the health care delivery system. With the advent of progressive health insurance and the influx of hospital beds in our area, the need for on-campus hospitalization became less. As hospital census declined drastically, the on-campus hospital closed. Needs do change.

We've been blessed over the years with adequate facilities, equipment and support to practice good student health medicine. We became a model to many as we were further blessed with caring personnel whose credo was humanism. This spirit continues today in the forms of those who first came to the Health Center in the mid 70's, such as Betty Kroeze, Dr. Dave Ralston, Dr. Burt Cochran and R.N. practitioners Marie Chew and Marina Perez, as well as others. -- Billy Mounts


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California Polytechnic State University
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