Former President Robert DePoe III is gone, but one of his visions for Salish Kootenai College (SKC) has become a reality. The tribal college will open its first-ever student health center on its Pablo campus. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health Department will operate the center, which will provide limited primary medical care, nursing, referrals, and health education resources to SKC students, their qualified dependents, and college faculty and staff.
“It being a student health center, it will have limited services,” says Kevin Howlett, who heads the tribe’s health department. “But it’s going to make a difference for students with sick kids, or a student, faculty member, or staff member who’s not feeling well that day.” Some of the services offered include: diagnosis and management of minor illnesses and injury; interval management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure; physical exams required for educational programs, firefighting jobs, and others; simple diagnostic testing such as urinalysis, pregnancy testing, strep screening, mono-spot, rapid flu, fingerstick glucose monitoring, and tuberculosis testing; immunizations, prevention services, and health education.
DePoe died from cancer late last year, just a couple of years after becoming the college’s president, but he had made opening a student health center on campus one of his goals. Howlett says DePoe first approached St. Joseph Medical Center in nearby Polson with the idea of a part-time student health center. “I approached President DePoe and St. Joseph’s, and said I thought the proper agency to do this was the Tribal Health Department, and they both agreed,” Howlett says.
The center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Services are provided congruent with the academic calendar, with reduced services in the off-season. “This agreement between Tribal Health and SKC is an extension of our mission to increase the overall health and quality of life for our tribal community,” Howlett explains. The student health center will be formally dedicated this May.
Reprinted with permission of The Missoulian