This blog is no longer being updated. For current information about the Parent Program, please visit


February 15, 2007

Spring break poses hazards for college women

With spring break coming up in about a month (March 12-16), it seems timely to post this AP story from last March about the American Medical Association's warning to young women about the dangers of spring break.

I'll be looking for and posting some safer alternative spring break trips and activities as I find them (see the first 2 recommendations at the bottom of this e-mail)--and if you have any recommendations, please add them in the comments or send them to me in an e-mail.

Updated: 12:03 p.m. CT March 17, 2006
CHICAGO - The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break.

All but confirming what goes on in those “Girls Gone Wild? videos, 83 percent of college women and graduates surveyed by the AMA said spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking, and 74 percent said the break results in increased sexual activity.

The women’s answers were based both on firsthand experience and the experiences of friends and acquaintances.

Sizable numbers reported getting sick from drinking, and blacking out and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner, activities that increase their risks for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The AMA is trying to call attention to underage drinking among women because their bodies process alcohol differently and put them at greater risk for health problems, Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA’s president, said Tuesday.

The AMA-commissioned online survey queried a nationwide random sample of 644 college women or graduates ages 17 to 35 last week.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, a 21-year-old junior at Illinois State University, said the AMA’s effort to raise awareness is a good idea, but probably won’t do much to curb drinking during spring break.

“I think a lot of students wouldn’t really pay that much attention to it,? Fitzgerald said. “They would just be like, ‘Duh, that’s why we do it.?’

About 30 percent of women surveyed said spring break trips with sun and alcohol are an essential part of college life.

Also, 74 percent said women use spring break drinking as an excuse for “outrageous? behavior that the AMA said could include public nudity and dancing on tables.

Of the 27 percent who said they had attended a college spring break trip:

*More than half said they regretted getting sick from drinking on the trip.
*About 40 percent said they regretted passing out or not remembering what they did.
*13 percent said they had sexual activity with more than one partner.
*10 percent said they regretted engaging in public or group sexual activity.
*More than half were underage when they first drank alcohol on a spring break trip.

The AMA said the findings highlight the need for alternative spring break activities. For example, the University of Nebraska, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and the University of Wisconsin offer spring break “service? trips.

Gemma Kite, a 21-year-old Lehigh junior, is in Brunswick, Ga., for spring break this week, helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s so much fun. We’re working outside in the sun,? Kite said.

She said many students see spring break as “your chance to go wild and crazy in a different country where no one’s going to know you.? Kite admitted those trips have a certain appeal, and she hopes to take a more party-oriented vacation next year.

“I like to have my fun,? Kite said.


Here's a link to some U of M Habitat for Humanity trips to get your student started.

And Students Today Leaders Forever is offering its popular "Pay It Forward" tours again this spring break.

Free flu shots today and tomorrow

Boynton Health Service is encouraging all students and staff who haven't received a flu shot this year to be vaccinated at Boynton's free walk-in clinics, today and tomorrow, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the clinic's main entrance.

Mental health resources available

Did you know that nearly half of all college students report feeling (at some point) so depressed that they can barely function? And that about 15% of college students meet the criteria for diagnosis as clinically depressed? Or that untreated depression can lead to suicide--the second leading cause of death among college students.

The University has many resources available for addressing mental health issues, and now a new portal is making these resources easier for students, parents, staff and faculty to access by bringing them all together on one easy-to-navigate website. Click here to see what's available.

December 5, 2006

Paratransit service provides transportation for people with mobility issues

I was aware of this service before--curb to curb transportation service for students, staff or visitors to campus with permanent or temporary disabilities provided by Parking and Transportation Services--but have recently had a chance to become more familiar with how this wonderful service works.

After a little "slip and fall" last Friday put me temporarily in a knee brace and on crutches, I was wondering how I would get from my parking spot in the East River Road Garage to my office in Appleby this week. What usually seems like a short hop and a skip to me suddenly loomed as an insurmountable distance.

I called Parking and Transportation to see if I could get a temporary handicapped parking tag so I could park at the meters in front of my building. Unfortunately, no--I would have to get paperwork from my doctor for that, take it to a state office, etc. Even if I had a long-term injury or disability and it was worth it for me to go that route, I learned that I would only be able to park 3 hours at a regular meter with a handicapped plate or hang tag. (The University does have some contract parking spots available for people with disabilities.)

Parking and Transportation suggested I call the Paratransit service which could arrange to pick me up at my parking garage and bring me right to my building each day this week.

The Paratransit number (612-282-6619) takes you right to the driver, who was very helpful and set up times to pick me up today, tomorrow and Thursday morning at the parking garage, and at my office building at the end of each day. So far (i.e. this morning) it's worked exactly as promised.

A couple of things to be aware of--the service operates only on weekdays and only until 5 p.m., and the last pick-up time is 4:45. Also, there's only one van so you won't necessarily get your preferred pick-up time (tomorrow I'll have to come in early at 7:30 in order to use the service since the later times were already booked).

Parents have told me on a couple of occasions that the Paratransit service was very helpful to their students with permanent or temporary disabilities--now I can vouch myself for what a lifesaver this service is!

November 27, 2006

3 more opportunities for your student to get a flu shot

A reminder from Boynton about 3 upcoming flu shot clinics:

This year, due to the high volume of vaccine produced, public health officials are strongly urging everyone who can safely receive an influenza vaccination to do so. Keep in mind that by receiving a vaccination you are not only protecting yourself from a serious respiratory infection but you are also protecting those close to you. Do it for the herd!

The last walk in flu clinics are being held on:
November 27 10 am - 4 pm Boynton Health Service
November 29 10 am - 6 pm Coffman Union Great Hall
November 30th 10 am - 4 pm Boynton Health Service

These clinics are open to all University students, staff and faculty.
This is a free service to all University students, staff and faculty.
There is a $25 charge for all non-university patients.

Clinics this year have been provided through Boynton Health Service,
Employee Benefits, School of Nursing and College of Pharmacy.

Edward P. Ehlinger MD, MSPH
Director and Chief Health Officer
Boynton Health Service

October 25, 2006

Encourage your student to get a free flu shot from Boynton

Flu shot clinics will be held at a variety of locations across campus between now and November 30th.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, said that although flu season is generally considered to last from November through April, students often get sick earlier in the season because "they are generally busier, exposed to more people, and engage in stressful activities like smoking and drinking," according to today's Minnesota Daily.

Encourage your student to find a time and location that is convenient and to receive a flu shot before coming for Thanksgiving.


September 12, 2006

Advice from a peer on avoiding the "freshman 15"

University staff members often discuss how much better the food in the residence halls is now compared to when we were in school ourselves. When I have the opportunity to dine in the residence halls, I always wonder how students develop the willpower to avoid overeating with so many delicious options available to them at every meal.

Well, I still don't know how they do it, but I noticed that in today's Washington Post there is a story about a new book aimed at helping college students avoid the college weight gain, written by young woman who is still in college herself:

[Daphne] Oz, a Princeton undergraduate, is the author of "The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works" (Newmarket Press). Despite the title, it's not really a diet she's offering, but rather a series of practical tips for maintaining health amid the relentless pizza, beer, junk food, parties and comfort food of college life.

Oz speaks from years of personal, if not professional, experience. She says she struggled with her weight through high school, topping out at 175 pounds on her 5-foot-8 frame in her junior year. That officially qualified her as overweight.

The daughter of author-cardiac surgeon Mehmet Oz, she lost 35 pounds during her first two years at Princeton -- returning to the "normal" weight range -- by developing and sticking to a set of low-maintenance tactics to avoid campus-food land mines.

Read the rest of the article.

August 1, 2006

High student debt correlated to health risks, lower GPAs

Twin Cities television station KARE-11 reported on the recent rise in student debt, and its detrimental effects on students both before and after graduation:

David Golden, Director of Public Health and Marketing at the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service Center, says at least three different student surveys have been conducted on the topic of student debt in the past three years. This past spring, a Boynton Health Services survey focused on credit card debt.

"We looked at students who are carrying high debt on their credit cards. They tend to have other problems, they are much more likely to be diagnosed with depression, tend to have higher rates of high risk drinking, higher smoking rates. Also we noticed an association between when their debt goes up, their GPA tends to go down," says Golden.

Golden says there are no hard and fast solutions to offer students, but some measures have been taken by the university. For starters, credit card companies are no longer allowed to set up tables in the student union hall to attract new cardholders. He also says a special financial advisor has been hired by Health Services to talk and counsel students on credit card debt.

June 9, 2006

One in 6 college students have intentionally injured themselves at least once

...a new study finds, Reuters reports:

One in six young adults have injured themselves intentionally at least once, according to the largest US survey to investigate the practice among college students.

Self-injurious behavior can include scratching and pinching oneself, cutting, swallowing poison and even breaking bones. People who injure themselves say it helps relieve distress.

"It's a harbinger of distress, in all likelihood, and inability to cope positively," Dr. Janis Whitlock of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

"There's a fair degree of consensus that self-injury is fundamentally self-medicative," she added, noting that injuries trigger the release of natural opiates known as endorphins, resulting in an immediate sense of calm.

The practice is more common among young women, students who are bi-sexual or unsure of their sexual orientation, and students who have been abused emotionally or sexually, the study found, and 36% of the students who had injured themselves said that no one ever learned of their self-harming behavior.

Given the reluctance of people who injure themselves to get help, the researchers write, it is "critical" for health professionals to find ways to recognize, treat and prevent self-injury. Based on the findings, they add, medical and mental health providers might make it standard practice to ask their older adolescent and young adult patients about self-injurious behaviors.

Signs that a young person may be harming themselves may include dressing inappropriately for the season, for example wearing long sleeves and long pants in the summer months, and wearing adornments that cover the wrists, Whitlock said.

Parents who do discover that their child is injuring him or herself should try not to react with "horror or incredulity," she added. "For a lot of self-injurers there is a high degree of shame associated with the behavior, and that's one of the reasons why they're so secretive. Adults need to sort of be aware and know how to respond in a way that's not judgmental or reactionary."

April 25, 2006

No mumps yet at the U...

...the Minnesota Daily reports today, but University officials expect the disease could show up:

Eight cases of mumps have been reported in Minnesota this year, according to a Minnesota health alert.

“We think it’s a possibility that mumps could show up (at the University),? Golden said.

Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health said that ever since the department started noticing what went on in Iowa, it was concerned the disease might spread to Minnesota given the amount of contact Minnesotans might have with Iowans.

No cases have been reported at the University, Golden said, but the Boynton staff is taking steps to prepare for cases by double-checking the immunizations of its employees.

“Then if we do get patients with suspected mumps, we use infection control, steps like masks for working with patients,? Golden said. “The next thing is, if we do have a patient with suspected mumps, they’re going to have to be at home and isolated as much as possible so they don’t spread it.?

Mumps can spread to people who have received the vaccine, Golden said.

“Even in a well-vaccinated population you can still have outbreaks like this,? he said. “The guess is that if we weren’t as well-vaccinated as we are, it would even be larger — as far as an outbreak.?

Mumps spreads through coughing, sneezing, saliva or objects that come into contact with an infected person, Schultz said.

Golden said students at the University can prevent mumps by getting the immunization, having good hygiene and “good old hand washing.?

April 19, 2006

Helmets and headlights available

This beautiful warm weather is bringing out bike riders all around campus. Students who are using their bicycles to get around this spring can purchase a package of a bike helmet and a headlight for $20 in the pharmacy at Boynton Health Service.

The national "Helmets and Headlights" program is intended to increase the safety of bike riders on university campuses. According to recent statistics, 85 percent of all injuries from bicycle accidents could be reduced by simply wearing a helmet. Also, 10 percent of all bicycle ridership is at night, yet evening accidents comprise 50 percent of all bicycle accidents.

You might also want to encourage your student to review the University's campus bike rules on the Parking and Transportation Services website. To get your student started, here are Parking and Transportation's "Top Ten" biking rules:

Top Ten Campus Cycling Rules
1. Never ride on campus sidewalks (unless it is designated as a bike lane with pavement markings).
2. Always yield to pedestrians.
3. Ride on the right with traffic.
4. Obey all traffic signs and signals.
5. Rent a completely-enclosed bike locker to keep your bike safe from theft and guarantee your parking spot.
6. Lock your bike with a cable and lock as well as a U-lock to deter theft.
7. Never lock your bike to a handrail (unless you want it to be impounded).
8. Never attach your bike to trees, fences, bus shelters, or patio furniture.
9. Don't leave your bike unattended for an extended period of time. Bikes will be tagged and removed if they have been abandoned.
10. Take advantage of the designated bike paths and lanes whenever possible. Be sure to follow the directional arrows on the pavement.

April 4, 2006

Increasing numbers of college students seek counseling

according to a recent national survey of directors of university counseling offices:

The number of college students seeking help for severe mental-health problems on campus is increasing, according to a University of Pittsburgh survey.

The 2005 National Survey of Counseling Directors also found that 95 percent of directors said more students arrive on campus already taking psychiatric medication.

"It seems that more people are being medicated for more reasons and earlier," said Jaquie Resnick, director of counseling at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

James Cox, director of the counseling center at the University of Pittsburgh, called it a national trend, but said, "I am not seeing a lot of people who are coming to us already on medication but didn't need to be on it."

Read the entire Associated Press story.

University of Minnesota students are offered counseling through both University Counseling and Consulting Services and Boynton Health Service.