University doctors Ellen Zimmermann and Michael Rice, physicians of internal medicine for the University Health System, have teamed up to offer medical care to students with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in a new clinic located inside the Taubman Health Care Center.
Often diagnosed in young adults, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two inflammatory bowel diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract and colon, respectively. While there is no cure for either condition, both can be treated with medication, surgery or changes in diet according to the UHS website.
The clinic, which is open in the morning on the second and fourth Friday of each month, offers various treatment and therapy options exclusively to University students. The gastroenterology department of the University hospital also maintains general, multidisciplinary and pediatric IBD clinics that are open throughout the week.
Rice, who is a gastroenterologist and IBD specialist, said the clinic provides consistent care for patients who are going through a time of large-scale change.
“(College) is an unusual time of transition … you no longer have the direct support of your parents or your gastroenterologist,” he said. “Your physician may not be as readily available.”
By communicating with a patient’s primary physician, Rice said clinic officials can arrange for care for the patients over the course of the school year and into the summer. In addition, the clinic could also arrange for care after graduation.
Rice added that University specialists encourage students to educate themselves and take ownership of their disease so that they can remain in control of their IBD and ensure their success in college.
Members of the Crohn’s & Colitis Student Initiative, a support group made up of undergraduate and graduate students, have promoted the clinic within the group as a valuable resource for managing inflammatory bowel conditions.
LSA senior Elan Green, the club’s president, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily last month that students with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis may not be aware of the resources available for them on campus. Green said he hopes to raise awareness about these resources.
“We’ve been able to help provide support for each other … and also provide information,” he said.
A student — who wished to remain anonymous to protect the details of the illness — has visited the clinic once for a check-up. Despite a considerable wait prior to being seen by a doctor, the student is grateful for the clinic’s presence on campus.
“Being away from home, it’s nice to have a place to go (for treatment) on campus,” the student said.
The student added that she plans to visit the clinic again soon.
Rice said the clinic has potential to grow in the months to come and may be able to expand its hours of operations and its number of staff. Currently, he said the clinic sees about eight patients per morning.
“Our goal is to include a nutritionist to address specific needs related to IBD and nutrition,” he said.
Rice, who added that he would like to see a behavioral psychologist available, said he envisions the clinic as a “one-stop shop” for affected people in the University community.