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Sandness entering sixth year as Health Center medical director

Kathleen Sandness, medical director at the Bryant Student Health Center, speaks to Susan Eckelberry, registered nurse. Sandness has worked at the health center since 2015. Dominic Santiago

Dr. Kathleen Sandess is entering her sixth year as part of the Bryant Student Health Center’s staff. Sandness previously worked in a private practice before joining the health center.

“I graduated from KU Medical Center and I’m a board-certified internal medicine physician,” Sandness said. “I started private practice here in Pittsburgh in 1991. In June of 1991. I started at the health center in 2015.”

As the Bryant Student Health Center’s medical director, Kathleen Sandness handles many different responsibilities and jobs to help maintain the efficiency of the Health Center.

“I supervise the nurse practitioners and the nurses,” she said. “I help provide medical care one on one, so I do see patients and help set policy. And communications coordination with athletics, housing the rest of campus.”

While many people know about some of the resources available through the Health Center, some might not know about the more specialized cases that the center can help with.

“This university is unique in that we also I also follow our patients here if they’re hospitalized at the hospital, and so we coordinate care between if our patients here are seen in the emergency room.” Sandness said. “If they’re hospitalized, we follow them up here. We work very closely with counseling here. This is one of the only Regents University where if there’s sexual violence, we do our own S.A.N.E. exams here. So that may be things that they don’t know that we provide through this through the Bryant Student Health Center.”

The Student Health Center also cooperates with many different offices on campus.

“We have to coordinate with housing and with moving patients from the dorm to getting them to go home safely to be able to see them and follow up to make sure that no one gets sick.” Sandess said. “If they need to be housed somewhere else, we have to help coordinate that. So, dealing with sororities if someone is positive. There’s  just a lot of moving parts. It used to be that if someone had a cough or a cold, it was either just seasonal allergies or it was just the normal cold symptoms. It might be influenza, but it was usually taking us about 7 to 10 minutes to see that patient. Now if they have symptoms and if they haven’t been vaccinated or sometimes if they have doing antigen testing and if that’s negative, then sometimes we have to reflex that to a PCR to confirm that it’s negative since there’s a certain percentage of false negatives.”

Sandness also shared other recommendations she has for students to protect their physical health.

“Vaccination is a very important part, whether it’s meningococcal or meningitis vaccination.” Sandness said. “If you’re living in the dorm congregate housing, certainly the COVID vaccination we know that saves many people from severe disease. Over 95 percent of the people that we have hospitalized are unvaccinated this last week. We had five deaths and they were in their 30s and 40s, and so we’re having different smaller populations. We are being asked to take transfers from Louisiana because they are out of beds. We’re almost out of beds here at our hospital, so the students by vaccination and by masking can help.”

She also gave some advice for students to help maintain their health throughout their entire college career.

“If someone is depressed or anxious, make an appointment here,” Sandness said. “We have a great counseling center. We’ve got a great rec center so join some team sports and enjoy being physically active. Create friend groups. Go to the classes. If you don’t keep up with your classes and you’re not doing your homework, that provides additional stress. And doing all those moving parts and just doing things that are building you up and not tearing you down.”

You can visit pittstate.edu/health to find health services through the Bryant Student Health Center and to schedule an appointment.

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