University Health Services Stories

As undergraduate student researchers with the Berkeley Food Institute, Nathalie Munoz and Natalia Semeraro set out to hear the voices of administrative and service staff at University Health Services (UHS). As we began to understand UHS’s array of programs and see their lasting campus impact, we came to realize that, as students, we knew very little beyond our own encounters with the Tang Center. We had the opportunity to speak to key players, many of whom are staff of over 30 years, and our discussions proved to be a rewarding and insightful experience. Every single person we interviewed expressed great passion and love for their job and the people they provide for and work with. It was also meaningful to learn that most staff we spoke with were Cal graduates and come from a background of student activism. Aside from providing direct services at the Tang Center, UHS administration also works to address the campus climate surrounding a variety of health and social issues by listening and responding to the needs and concerns of faculty, staff, and students. One example, which is featured in more than one of the stories, is the seminal role that these folks (and many others) played in collecting the stories of food insecure students, which led to funding for the UC Berkeley Food Pantry and other vital basic needs work on campus. In another interview the narrator speaks to the health assessments done with UC Berkeley staff performing high risk tasks, which highlights how UHS provides services and resources not only to students, but to Cal staff as well.

These narratives reveal that our campus is educating and empowering students to go on to become advocates who work to bridge gaps within their own communities and increase equitable access to necessary resources. Through the various interviews, as folks mentioned their coworkers and talked about each other’s work, we began to see how connected all of the staff seem to be. This speaks to the connectivity and positivity that permeates throughout our health services.

University Health Services is in the process of assembling a more diverse healthcare team in order to meet the needs of each individual patient. The narrators speak to the fact that UHS struggles to meet every individual’s needs. While UHS is making great strides in providing holistic care for more of the student and staff population with cooking classes, comprehensive services available when visiting a primary care doctor, drop-in nutrition counseling at designated sites on campus, and nutrition policy recommendations, they emphasized that there is still some work to be done in terms of providing for trans health care and mental health care. Yet each narrator expressed deep motivation to keep learning and providing quality care for all members of the UC Berkeley community.

– Nathalie Munoz and Natalia Semeraro

 

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Paula Flamm, Social Services Manager

Joint conversation with Cathy Kodama.

Excerpt: “And I think that’s what a lot of the Basic Needs work is right now, too, is how do we get upstream on this? Because it’s not just about continuing to hand somebody a food card or a box of food. That’s great and it’s wonderful that we are able to do that. It’s not upstream and I think that’s probably where the work is.”

I have been a licensed clinical social worker for 33 years, most of that time spent at Cal supporting Berkeley students and the community. As the Social Services manager I have helped grow a diverse team of talented psychotherapists and dietitians and helped train many new social workers throughout the years. My specialty areas have been health and trauma. I received a BA from Cal in psychology, followed by an MSW in 1980. This has been a dream job even when responding to crises, and tackling incredibly difficult challenges such as basic needs and sexual violence. Working with the many talented students and colleagues keeps every day exciting!

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Bene Gatzert, Strategic Initiatives Manager

Excerpt: “Whether it’s a health educator, or primary care provider, or psychologist, coming with cultural humility and recognizing that there are lifelong learning processes… And really wanting to understand the experience and narrative of the person they’re talking to, and factoring that into the whole approach to the health care interaction. Then it’s also making sure that we have programs and services that are tailored towards specific communities that are underserved or underrepresented knowing that we, in public health, one-size-fits-all ways or services don’t work for everybody or even for education. We have some student issues that are common and then there are others that really vary depending upon what your cultural background is or the intersections of your backgrounds. And so I think those are two of the main components we are trying to foster.” 

I have worked at University Health Services for twenty-eight years, first as a health educator and then in health care administration. I have a passion for public health and community organizing. I first learned about food security issues from my colleagues at UHS and later had the opportunity to work with the amazing founders of the campus food pantry as they were developing how to use their early funding from the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees.

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Kim Guess, Wellness Program Dietitian

Excerpt: “What I’ve noticed as a dietitian when people focus too much on calories and grams of fat, and things like that, they’re not enjoying their food. I think food is meant to be enjoyed and it’s meant to be a joyful part of our lives. But unfortunately a lot of people don’t have a healthy relationship with their food. So that’s something else that I keep at the back of my mind when I’m talking about nutrition and running programs and teaching classes—not to talk about calories, but talk about food as something that we should enjoy and using lots of flavors and taking time to savor our food and not be so restrictive. I get a lot of questions about restricting food and things like that and it just doesn’t work for people in terms of being healthier or losing weight. I’m always trying to foster a healthy relationship between people and what they’re eating and I try to do the same for myself.”

I am a Wellness Program Dietitian with the Be Well at Work Wellness Program responsible for nutrition workshops, behavior change programs, and Eat Well Berkeley program. I graduated from Virginia Tech and completed my dietetic internship at Cal State Long Beach. In addition to my passion for cooking and sustainability (I spent a month volunteering on an organic farm on the Central Coast), I enjoy soccer, tennis, hiking, and snowboarding. I am also a certified RAD women’s self defense instructor.

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Cathy Kodama, Health Promotion Director

Joint conversation with Paula Flamm.

Excerpt: “Two things really struck me that I loved about this volunteer work that led me to this career of public health and on a college campus. You were dealing with individual human issues and it was political, because this was the 70s and being engaged with birth control education was political. Consumer health, women’s rights, taking away the power from the medical, it was all super political. And I knew I wanted to do something that was individually helpful but also political at the same… I wasn’t going to just do one or the other. I’m saying that, because I feel that that’s really how we prioritized, but I believe the health service prioritizes our work at that level.”

I have been a health educator on the Berkeley campus for over 30 years, and a lecturer at the School of Public Health for over 20 years. As the Director of Health Promotion at the Tang Center, I work with a team of students and staff to make the campus healthier, through a combination of individual and environmental strategies: everything from Pet Hugs to alcohol policies. I got my bachelor’s in English and an MPH from Cal. I love Berkeley in all its confusion, contentiousness, and multiple visions. I got involved in public health, fell into it, really, for political reasons, and continue to believe that health and wellness for all is true social justice.

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Toby Morris, Registered Dietition

Excerpt: “I always try to remember, again, that what I do needs to be really patient-centered or client-centered so I try to always do a really thorough assessment to find out what’s really going on with this person. And again I try to keep in mind that my job as a nutrition educator or counselor is to really help someone move towards making positive behavior change; so helping them eat in a healthier way that makes more sense for their lives and their bodies.”

I have been the lead clinical dietitian for students at UHS since 2012. I received my BA in Communication Studies from UCLA, MS in Nutrition from San Jose State University, and completed a Dietetic Internship at UCSF Medical Center. I have a special clinical interest in medical nutrition therapy for disease management and prevention. Specific areas of interest and expertise include weight management, eating disorders, and mindful eating.