Ariel Andres
Contributing Writer

In a virtual interview with The Bottom Line (TBL), Interim Student Health Service Executive Director and Medical Director Dr. Ali Javanbakht shed light on how Student Health at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Dr. Javanbakht, prior to the outbreak, there was no telehealth system set in place at Student Health. A 24/7 nurse hotline existed, but it did not connect with nurses at Student Health; it connected to healthcare provider Anthem’s team of nurses. Students attended all actual appointments with Student Health in-person.

However, with the majority of students leaving campus to stay in their homes, Student Health had to find a way to connect with students and offer their services remotely. The solution was to set up a telehealth system that would allow students to contact healthcare professionals from wherever they are.

As of now, the primary platforms for appointments are Zoom video calls and phone calls. Students sign up for appointments through the Student Health portal, and they are then given a link to a Zoom meeting or a number to call.  

Dr. Javanbakht mentions that virtual appointments have been successful and are often just as effective as physical ones, especially with appointments regarding mental or behavioral health. Even in the cases where an appointment would require more physical contact, a student can still receive an abundance of valuable information as to where they can go to receive the proper treatment they need.

In-person appointments are still available to students who are on campus. Along with other UC schools, UCSB Student Health has started to offer COVID-19 testing. The test is simple and consists of inserting a swab into someone’s nose and throat. The swab is then sent to the lab to test for the presence of the virus. Currently, a total of 82 students have been tested, with 80 tests coming back negative and two still pending.

Besides COVID-19 testing, other general appointments are available as they were before the outbreak. Proper sanitation and precautions are taken by Student Health to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Students are also recommended to bring their own facemasks, and instructions on how to make their own are available on the Student Health website.

Due to this measure and the drastic decrease in physical visits, Student Health’s medical supplies remain well-stocked. A number of U.S. hospitals and healthcare facilities, however, have been facing a shortage of facemasks and other medical supplies due to the sudden increase in individuals needing medical attention.

Dr. Javanbakht says they have enough supplies to last a few more months. Nevertheless, they are keeping a close eye on their inventory and on the supply chain so that they can make necessary adjustments as soon as they need to.

An important point that he also wants to make is that one of the situations that has overwhelmed medical facilities is when patients seek medical attention too late. If everyone were to wait to ask for medical help until their symptoms are dire, the amount of resources and beds needed to take care of them would not be enough for every person. 

Therefore, he urges students to check in with Student Health to review any problems they may be having, regardless of how minor their symptoms may be. That way, they can be treated before their problems develop into something more serious.