Student Health Center Forms Public Health Unit

Members of the public health unit in Student Health and Counseling Services
Cindy Schorzman, center of front row, medical director of Student Health and Counseling Services, is flanked by two of the newer members of the public health unit in SHCS. They are Benedict Villanueva, left, infectious control physician, and David Coil, public health coordinator. The unit also includes members of Health Education and Promotion, back row, from left: Nora Shimokawa, Shantille Connolly, Blake Flaugher, Raeann Davis and Sydney Holmes. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • “A new layer of protection for our students and community”
  • Has a role in ongoing response to COVID-19 and now MPX
  • Staff includes infection control physician, public health nurse

Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new public health unit at the student health center on campus is helping chart the prevention efforts, patient care and campus response related to infectious diseases and other public health issues.

Student Health and Counseling Services, or SHCS, has been building out the unit since last fall, and it now includes an infection control physician, a public health coordinator and a public health nurse. As need arises, the unit will have available to it two nurses already working at the student health center.

The new unit also enfolds SHCS’ long-established Health Education and Promotion department, or HEP, which includes four health promotion specialists, an administrative coordinator and dozens of student coordinators and volunteers. 

“It provides a new layer of protection for our students and community,” said Cindy Schorzman, medical director at SHCS. “We firmly believe the best way to serve the students is to make sure our campus community is as safe as possible.”

Schorzman proposed the unit to codify some of what was already being done in SHCS and to build on the campus’s public health efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic, including the award-winning Healthy Davis Together.

Maintaining momentum

“This was the way to try not to lose the momentum,” Schorzman said. “It was awesome — and we never want to do this from scratch again.” She has been integral to the campus’s COVID-19 response since the outset, standing up and continuing to oversee asymptomatic testing and vaccination. 

The campus has invested almost $700,000 a year to support the public health unit for a three-year trial period. About $400,000 in permanent funds support the flex positions in nursing.

The three new members of the public health unit, which reports to Schorzman, are:

  • Benedict Villanueva, a physician specializing in infectious diseases, who joined SHCS in September.
  • David Coil, public health coordinator. Previously a project scientist on campus, he played an integral role in establishing the COVID-19 testing program for UC Davis and the Davis community.
  • Lindsey Gaydos, public health nurse. She joined SHCS as a clinical nurse a year ago.

COVID-19 and MPX

The unit is helping to lead the campus’s ongoing efforts for COVID-19 and now monkeypox, or MPX — including coordination with Yolo County health officials, wastewater surveillance, public education and protocols for isolation care. At the time of publication of this article, Aug. 22, Yolo County had one reported case of MPX (Aug. 16) and the campus had none.

Read Chancellor Gary S. May’s May 19 message for information about steps the campus is taking to prepare for the likelihood that MPX infections will be identified on our campus.

Schorzman said the unit provides a structure and additional resources to coordinate public health activities with the campus and public health officials. Preparations, she said, are key when public health is threatened. “We’re going to keep a low fire burning so we can ramp up and down quickly,” she said.

As public health coordinator, Coil said he is taking the lessons, tools and connections developed through the pandemic to help the campus prepare for and respond to other public health issues. “We’ve built a lot of bridges over the last few years,” he said.

As needed, Schorzman said, the unit will coordinate joint research projects and activities with Yolo County public health, Occupational Health Services on campus and UC Davis Health’s Employee Health Services. It already has the benefit of the campus participating in wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 and now MPX.

But the team also provides public education, treats patients and works to stop outbreaks of other infectious diseases commonly seen in student health centers such as norovirus, measles, chickenpox, meningitis and sexually transmitted infections.

Public health experience

Schorzman said the new unit brings together a wealth and variety of experience in public health.

  • Villanueva most recently was an infectious disease specialist for 18 years at Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo and has been a consultant with the Infectious Disease Medical Group in San Ramon since 2000. He earned his medical degree at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in 1990 and did a fellowship in infectious disease.
  • Coil, who has more than 25 years of experience in applied microbiology, virology and public health, was a project scientist in Jonathan Eisen’s lab in the campus’s Genome Center for more than 10 years. He served as project manager for the UC Davis COVID-19 testing program that has provided more than 2 million tests and was a project lead for the environmental surveillance, genotyping and sequencing of COVID-19 in support of campus testing and Healthy Davis Together. He received a doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2005.
  • Gaydos, a registered nurse with public health licensing, has worked as a nurse at One Community Health in Sacramento and as a nurse clinician, including in infectious disease at The John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She earned a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 2021.

The health promotion specialists focus on students’ academic, mental, physical and sexual well-being as well as reducing risks associated with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

In addition to the new unit, SHCS provides acute and primary care, psychiatry, counseling and support groups, specialty medicine, physical therapy, dietary services, lab and X-ray services, optometry services and a pharmacy.  

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