Susan Hochman

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

In the past few weeks, campus has changed colors — from burnt orange to bright yellow.

Austin is reaching the end of the spring pollen season, according to pollen.com, but students are still being inundated with the allergy-inducing substance.

Trees begin releasing their pollen between January and April, according to Weather Underground. Higher air currents tend to move the pollen particles through the air and into nasal passages, often creating a pollen allergy.

UT campus had around 4,700 trees in 2013, according to a Daily Texan report.

Laurie Lentz, communications manager of University operations, said the UT landscaping team does not have a protocol or clean-up process when pollen heavily coats the grounds.

“[UT Landscaping does] not take actions specifically to address pollen-related issues,” Lentz said.

Austin’s monthly average pollen and allergy index increases from January to March, when it reaches its yearly peak, according to pollen.com. The index then decreases slightly in April and decreases significantly in May.

From the end of March to the beginning of April, the Austin pollen index stayed at a level roughly above an 8-point index, which is classified as a medium-high or high pollen index.

Susan Hochman, assistant director at University Health Services, said many students have come into the Allergy Clinic in March and April with allergy symptoms.

“I can say that we have seen an increase in students coming in for allergy related reasons, which is typical of this time of year when pollen count is high,” Hochman said.   

Pollen allergies don’t affect everyone — just those who inherit a tendency to be allergic to the particles. 

Linguistics and mathematics senior Madison Lasris said she felt she had some of the worst allergies she has experienced in recent years.

“I was really itchy all the time and sneezing every five seconds, over and over again,” Lasris said.

Allergy symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose and itchy throat. Symptoms typically last around a week.

Textiles and apparel senior Rose Montalvo said she was surprised she did not have pollen allergies, but she said the pollen affected others at her workplace.

“At my internship, I’ve been inside for most of the day, but a lot of volunteers have said they can’t come in because they have allergies,” Montalvo said. “It’s gotten the best of them.”

Although Montalvo said she didn’t notice the pollen as much as others may have but that she was annoyed by the amount of pollen on her car.

“Because it doesn’t affect my health, [the pollen] doesn’t really bother me,” Montalvo said. “But my car looks really yellow, so it might be sick.”

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

A UT student organization recently started a petition calling for free access to sexually transmitted disease testing on campus for all students and faculty.

The UT American Medical Student Association (AMSA) launched the petition two weeks ago. The petition has about 200 signatures, but it needs around 7,000–10,000 before AMSA is ready to show it to health departments, according Lusaura Gutierrez, advocacy team leader of AMSA and government junior. 

AMSA plans to promote the petition more in the upcoming weeks to gain the needed signatures, Gutierrez said.

According to an executive summary from University Health Services published in fall 2013, 3.9 percent of UT students reported being diagnosed with an STD.

“One of the biggest contributing factors [to STDs spreading] is the fact that most young adults are not being tested and as a result are spreading infections to their partners,” Gutierrez said, “Our next step is to present this petition to UHS, the Austin Health Department and even our lawmakers to show them just how important this is to us.”

Free STD testing could mean more than just lessening the spreading of diseases, according to Elaine Almeida, advertising freshman and petition signer.

“I definitely think it’s a good idea,” Almeida said. “If they had it free on campus, I think that would make it easier for a lot of people. By having free STD testing, it lowers the stigma around getting tested. I think having it free on campus would really just change dialogue about STDs and safe sex.”

The cost of STD testing varies on many different factors, such as number of different tests, according to Susan Hochman, assistant director for health promotion and public information at UHS.

The UHS also provides different options to make costs less of a burden for students, Hochman said.

“We provide testing services; we provide the self-billing discount for students without insurance or who don’t want to bill their insurance, and students don’t have to pay at the time of service,” Hochman said. “We also provide community referrals to community resources where testing is free for students, so cost shouldn’t be a barrier because students can get free testing off campus if cost is a barrier on campus.”

UHS knows that getting tested can be a struggle for students, and the organization tries to keep its rates reasonable, Hochman said.

“We do what we can to encourage testing and make it affordable for students,” Hochman said.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System Board of Regents approved $2.4 million at a meeting Thursday to support the expansion of alcohol prevention, education and recovery programs at all UT System schools.

 The funds will be used over the next three years for campus recovery centers and to provide services such as a web-based alcohol education program and early intervention screening programs, according to a System press release.

 UT Austin leads the UT System schools in alcohol education, according to Chris Brownson, UT associate vice president for student affairs and director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center. The system-wide implementation of the programs began in 2012 after the Board of Regents approved an initial $1 million.

 “The UT System is the only system of higher education in the nation to make this level of commitment to students by funding comprehensive programs at each academic campus,” Brownson said in the statement. 

Regent Vice Chairman Steve Hicks said in the statement that student safety includes assuring students they have a place to go for problems with alcohol.

 “This initiative is an investment in student success, student health and student safety,” Hicks said. “We want to prevent students from getting into trouble in the first place, but if they do get into trouble, we want to make sure they have a place to go that will provide the resources to get them back on track.”

 All UT System institutions do already have resources dedicated to alcohol recovery and prevention, according to the statement.

 “Though recovery centers are in various stages of development at UT academic institutions, nearly all of the campuses have a physical location, weekly recovery support group meetings, social media and/or Internet presence and a dedicated staff member to oversee the center,” the statement said.

 Susan Hochman, assistant director for public information and health promotion of University Health Services, said the funding that will go toward alcohol abuse prevention will support two different initiatives, online alcohol education and personal assessments of alcohol-related behaviors. All incoming UT students are required to take a web-based alcohol education course.

 “This is system-wide, so all system schools will be able to implement [online alcohol education] in some form or another, which some system schools have,” Hochman said.

 The funding will also support a program called Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS), which is a program that provides a comfortable environment for students to assess their own drinking behaviors through dialogue with professionals and online testing.

“It’s wonderful to have the funding that supports prevention, and this is a great way for us to reach all of our students in a way that we know to be effective,” Hochman said.

 Cary Tucker, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said previous funds have gone toward expanding staff to better serve students, in addition to outreach efforts.

 “I would say that primarily the funds have been used to hire staff, and, generally, that’s been one person at each of the campuses who can actually devote the time, energy and focus to leading the effort,” Tucker said.

 Tucker said the recovery efforts provide a sense of community for those recovering from alcohol abuse.

 “It really is so heartening that it’s just having a place on campus where people in recovery can feel that they belong, that they have community and they have support,” Tucker said.

Residents of Travis County, a county known for its running culture, lakes and tobacco-free life environment, received high marks in the state for healthy living.

A recent study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranked the county as the 12th healthiest in Texas, using a variety of statistics to determine the ranking. 

The health rankings were determined by factors such as mortality, poverty, unemployment, physical environments and quality of clinical care. 

“This is a community committed to improving health of citizens,” said Carole Barasch, a spokesperson for the city of Austin. “The city is in partnership with dozens of partners to promote a healthy lifestyle. We work with disease prevention programs and limit access to tobacco, just to name a few.”

Travis County has the highest population among the top 12 and Austin, the largest city in the county, has a complex and diverse population, Barasch said. She said the large population also means there are more people to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“We are doing a good job, but we can always do better,” Barasch said. 

UT, whose student population was included in the study, is also known for its healthy environment.

“UT-Austin was ranked as the seventh healthiest college campus in the U.S.,” said Susan Hochman, assistant director of University Health Services. “The campus promotes healthy resources and is a part of the culture to be active. There is an emphasis on being healthy with initiatives from housing and services that are already available to students, such as the [recreation] center and bike trails.” 

Hochman said UHS monitors health trends on campus to further promote healthy activity among students. Some of the trends looked at include physical activity, mental health, drinking rates, condom usage and level of health.

“When there is an increase in unhealthy behavior, UHS comes up with prevention programs to stop it,” Hochman said. “UT is a big part of Austin and Travis County. By having great healthy services and a smoke-free campus, we can provide a healthy environment to be in, which increases health.” 

“I choose to stay healthy by being conscientious about my food choices and exercising,” psychology sophomore Chris Gonzales said. “Being in an environment where this is encouraged helps me continue this lifestyle and not start unhealthy habits.” 

Printed on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 as: County earns title of 12th healthiest 

Illustration by Albert Lee.

Sleep deprivation, a common problem on UT’s campus, can cause more problems during a test than being legally intoxicated.

In the 2012 National College Health Assessment, which was released earlier this semester, 46 percent of UT students indicated that sleepiness interfered significantly with their daytime activities.

Laura Ebady, Counseling and Mental Health Center psychologist and outreach coordinator, said obtaining less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep can cause an inability to focus in the classroom setting.

“A study by psychologist David Dinges suggest that when students go without sleep their performance on tests was actually worse than students who were legally intoxicated,” Ebady said. “One thing he found was that students consistently overrate their ability to concentrate and to perform academically when they don’t get enough sleep. So a lot of students are in fact impaired but don’t recognize it.”

Alongside reduced cognitive functions, Ebady said sleep deprivation can cause other mental-health issues including anxiety and depression.

“Those are some of the most common concerns that bring students in [to the center],” Ebady said. “Of course when people are sleep deprived, they’re probably not going to be at their best so that could lead to added conflict internally and externally.”

Theatre studies senior Megan Thompson said she does not see sleep as a priority because she feels she loses productivity if she sleeps too much.

“I’m here in college not to sleep but to do well in all of my classes so I try to sleep as much as I can,” Thompson said. “I know it’s good for you, but if it comes between school work and my organizations that I’m in, they come first. School, job, extracurricular [activities], then sleep.”

Susan Hochman, assistant director of University Health Services, said sleep deprivation is a problem on the 40 Acres. Sleep is one of the top two health-related impediments to academic performance, according to Hochman.  

He said there are many physical downsides to the lack of sleep among college students that could cause short and long-term issues. 68 percent of students said often they felt tired, dragged out, or sleepy during the day for more than three days out of the week they were surveyed. 

“Sleep deprivation can really impair the ability for your immune system to function normally and maybe more susceptible to sickness such as the common cold,” Hochman said. “That is something that could keep them out of class. There are relationships between sleep deprivation and obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other behavioral components.”

Government sophomore Samayia Sneed said she maintains her energy throughout the day by taking naps.

“Those naps give me the energy I need to do what needs to be done throughout the day,” Sneed said. “After my meetings and work I take a nap in preparation for studying. It’s my little energy booster until I crash at 2 or 3 [in the morning].”

Hochman said her office strongly encourages short naps for college students.

“We encourage short 20 to 30 minute naps,” Hochman said. “There is actually some research that shows short naps can boost your energy levels and your ability to focus and concentrate.”

Hochman said there are countless ways for students improve their sleeping habits and be happier and healthier.

“Students should create an environment where it contributes to good sleep,” Hochman said. “Use your bed for the purpose of sleeping and not for the purpose of studying. Having consistency with sleeping habits and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, strenuous activities and eating three to four hours before bedtime — these are all things that can contribute to poor-quality sleep or not being able to sleep.”

Published on March 6, 2013 as "Students lack sleep". 

By moving up to third on a 2013 Princeton Review ranking of best college health services in the U.S, University Health Services has grabbed some of the spotlight usually reserved for the University’s athletics program and breakthrough research. The University moved up from their 2012 No. 4 ranking.

Jamie Shutter, director of University Health Services, said UHS was able to improve its service and earn a higher rank by conducting satisfaction surveys sent to patients via e-mail and paper surveys available in every UHS clinic.

“We took the data from our surveys and built on it,” Shutter said. “All feedback is logged in our system, whether it is a compliment, suggestio or a bad experience. These are fully researched and brought forward in our monthly committee meeting.”

With the surveys, UHS found out many students thought it was mandatory to have health insurance in order to receive health care. Shutter said that the UHS worked to inform the student body about using the UHS without insurance.

“We worked to educate UT that we accept any patient as long as they are a student,” Shutter said. “A student could come in for a visit without any money in their pocket, and all fees would instead go to their ‘What I Owe’ page.”

While the Princeton Review honored UT with No. 3 in “Best Health Services,” it also ranked the University at No. 15 in the “Party Schools” category and No. 12 in the “Lots of Beer” category. Susan Hochman, assistant director for University Health Services, said that these numbers show progression and reflect much work done on UHS’s part.

“This is the first time in 10 years that the University has not been in the top 10 for Party Schools,” Hochman said. “UHS has many programs that have helped reduce the [amount of] high risk drinking on campus, such as the Wellness Network, AlcoholEdu and Know Your Line.”

The Wellness Network teaches about the consequences of high-risk drinking. AlcoholEdu presents students with a two-part program for all incoming freshmen and transfer students that encourages students to make well-informed decisions in settings where alcohol is present. Know Your Line Project teaches the difference between drinking and being drunk, and urges students to learn their personal limits to avoid situations where judgments may be impaired by alcohol.

History junior Calla Beach said she relies on UHS for healthcare.

“I have never had a bad experience at University Health Services,” Calla said. “It is so much more convenient and economical for students.”

Gage Paine, vice president of Student Affairs, said the capable UHS staff members are responsible for the lack of bad experiences and the success of UT’s student affairs.

“The people that choose to be here come to work thinking how they can help students be successful,” Paine said. “Their primary concern is having good service, and they are dedicated to making the student experience good.”

Health programs, services and healthy dining hall food options contributed to UT’s number seven place among the Top 25 healthiest colleges in the nation.

Greatist.com, a health and wellness blog, recently ranked the 25 healthiest colleges by taking student surveys from College Prowler and The Princeton Review, as well as nominations from readers. UCLA ranked number one.

Susan Hochman, interim assistant director for University Health Services, said the University offers a large number of high-quality, accessible resources to keep students healthy.

“University Health Services, which provides medical services, health promotion, a Center for Students in Recovery and other public health leadership was recently ranked by the Princeton Review as the fourth best student health services in the country and consistently receives high remarks for patient satisfaction,” Hochman said.

The seventh place ranking was mainly due to the efforts of the Wellness Network, a partnership made up of students, faculty and staff who work together to create a healthy campus community.

“The Wellness Network brings together advocates for health and wellness from across UT in order to share information, strategies and resources,” Hochman said. “Through this collaboration, we aim to shape the environment in which we learn, live, work and play to support overall health and healthy choices.”

Another contributing factor to the high rank was the Division of Housing and Food Services and their promotion of healthy dining options and their number of initiatives related to wellness, Hochman said.

Applied Learning and Development senior Sammie Hanks, president of the Health Promotion Club, said students are fortunate to attend a school that provides a healthy atmosphere.

“Being provided with these outlets promotes healthy living throughout our campus,” Hanks said. “This ranking is very honorable and is a motivation to continue to promote health, not only throughout our campus, but throughout the community as well.”

Scott Meyer, director of food service for DHFS, said the “Healthy Suggestions” food in the dining halls gives students healthy options for every meal.

“We realize that many students dine with us as freshman and oftentimes miss the comfort foods of home and turn to food items such as hamburgers, french fries and macaroni and cheese,” Meyer said. “We provide the comfort and indulgence food items mentioned, but also take strides to make students aware of the delicious, healthier alternatives that we offer such as our gluten free, vegan and vegetarian friendly dishes, quinoa and whole grain pasta and our local grass-fed beef.” 

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: UT ranks No. 7 in healthiest college in U.S.

Health programs, services and healthy dining hall food options contributed to UT’s number seven place among the Top 25 healthiest colleges in the nation.

Greatist.com, a health and wellness blog, recently ranked the 25 healthiest colleges by taking student surveys from College Prowler and The Princeton Review, as well as nominations from readers. UCLA ranked number one.

Susan Hochman, interim assistant director for University Health Services, said the University offers a large number of high-quality, accessible resources to keep students healthy.

“University Health Services, which provides medical services, health promotion, a Center for Students in Recovery and other public health leadership was recently ranked by the Princeton Review as the fourth best student health services in the country and consistently receives high remarks for patient satisfaction,” Hochman said.
The seventh place ranking was mainly due to the efforts of the Wellness Network, a partnership made up of students, faculty and staff who work together to create a healthy campus community.

The Wellness Network brings together advocates for health and wellness from across UT in order to share information, strategies and resources,” Hochman said.

“Through this collaboration, we aim to shape the environment in which we learn, live, work and play to support overall health and healthy choices.”

Another contributing factor to the high rank was the Division of Housing and Food Services and their promotion of healthy dining options and their number of initiatives related to wellness, Hochman said.

Applied Learning and Development senior Sammie Hanks, president of the Health Promotion Club, said students are fortunate to attend a school that provides a healthy atmosphere.

“Being provided with these outlets promotes healthy living throughout our campus,” Hanks said. “This ranking is very honorable and is a motivation to continue to promote health, not only throughout our campus, but throughout the community as well.”

Scott Meyer, director of food service for DHFS, said the “Healthy Suggestions” food in the dining halls gives students healthy options for every meal.

“We realize that many students dine with us as freshman and oftentimes miss the comfort foods of home and turn to food items such as hamburgers, french fries and macaroni and cheese,” Meyer said. “We provide the comfort and indulgence food items mentioned, but also take strides to make students aware of the delicious, healthier alternatives that we offer such as our gluten free, vegan and vegetarian friendly dishes, quinoa and whole grain pasta and our local grass-fed beef.”

Members at the Student Dietetic Association and the Nutrition and Wellness Association serve students, “Chilled Asian Noodles” at the 2nd annual Hungry for Health Fair Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Batli Joselevitz | Daily Texan Staff

Staying healthy throughout the year means increasing food and exercise variety in your daily lifestyle instead of restricting yourself through brief diets.

The Student Dietetic Association and the Nutrition and Wellness Association hosted The 2nd Annual Hungry for Health Fair Monday evening in the SAC Ballroom. The fair featured free cooking demonstrations, relaxation techniques and health and sustainable food organizations for students. The purpose of the event was to offer students a full view of their personal health possibilities, said Meghan Mullaney, spokeswoman for the College of Human Ecology.

Susan Hochman, interim assistant director of health promotion and public information, said UHS offers individual consultations with a registered dietitian for students with nutrition-related health concerns throughout the year.

“Nutrition plays a significant role in helping students keep their energy levels up throughout the day, which is important for concentration and focus in class or while doing school work,” Hochman said.

Hochman said the Health Promotion Resource Center at University Health Services emphasized and discussed five core messages regarding nutrition at the fair.

“Students have to eat breakfast daily, stay hydrated, eat moderate portions and snacks throughout the day, incorporate variety into their diet and handle stress without turning to food,” Hochman said.

Nutrition senior John Regnery, a nutrition peer educator with the HPR, informed students about proper ways to be healthy.

“We want to focus on letting people know that you don’t have to necessarily follow a diet to be considered healthy,” Regnery said. “You can eat what you want but just in moderation.”

Regnery said him and his fellow peer educators wanted to implement the idea of intuitive eating to students at the fair.

“It’s a concept that basically states to follow your hunger cues and not limiting yourself to what you want to eat,” Regnery said. “Your body knows best about what you need and want and if you follow that, you can still live a healthy lifestyle.”

Regnery said there’s a lot of talk in his nutrition classes about following certain diets and restricting calories but wants students to know there are other healthy options available.

Robert Mayberry, executive chef for the Division of Housing and Food Services, demonstrated how to make cold Asian noodle salad, grilled zucchini roll ups and berry crunch yogurt parfait. All the recipes were available for students throughout the fair.

While making the cold Asian noodle salad, Mayberry said the recipes demonstrated were just guidelines for students to follow, but they should make their own by experimenting with different alternatives.

“Even if you’re on the go, you can buy a couple of items for your pantry and refrigerator that are fresh and ready to use,” Mayberry said.  

Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as: Wholesome habits displayed

Students enjoy a free cycling class at the Rec, Monday afternoon. University Health Services and RecSports have teamed up to offer free TeXercise and cycling classes all week to demonstrate the important role exercise plays in maintaining a healthy mental outlook.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

Barbie and Ken stood on display at Gregory Gym Plaza Monday to show students how mainstream media and pop culture influence an unrealistic body image for men and women.

National Love Your Body Week kicked off its first event by displaying life-size versions of the toy dolls with the purpose of encouraging students to think critically about and challenge the “ideal body image” portrayed in the media, said Susan Hochman, University Health Services manager. Love Your Body Week consists of daily planned events focusing on helping students discover what a healthy and positive body image consists of.

Barbie and Ken made their appearance at the “Love Your Genes” campaign, the first event of the week, which encouraged students to donate “skinny jeans” they have lying around that might represent an unrealistic ideal for their body type. The campaign will continue taking jeans donations at Gregory Gym Plaza today and Wednesday and in the West Mall on Thursday and Friday.

During the events, UHS nutrition peer educators will be distributing positive messages about ways to love your body at workshops Wednesday and Thursday, Hochman said.

“The peer educators will address the influences that shape body image, the cost of poor body image and methods for overcoming negative body image,” she said.

Love Your Body Week coincides with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which is an opportunity to bring light to the eating disorder issue on campus, said nutrition senior Megan Destefano, a UHS nutrition peer educator.

“We want people to accept their bodies and realize it’s okay to be who you are and how you were made,” Destefano said. “We want people to understand that bodies come in different shapes and sizes and that’s perfectly fine.”

Hochman said Love Your Body Week is also an opportunity to promote the campus resources and services at UHS that are available to students who may be struggling with poor body image or who are concerned about a friend.

Nutrition senior Samantha Partida, president of the Nutrition and Wellness Association, said Love Your Body Week is an opportunity to raise health awareness.

“Most people don’t know when they’re treating their body poorly or when they aren’t taking the right approach [to becoming healthier],” Partida said. “It’s really more about being healthy and accepting who you are first before you make any changes.”

Hochman said UHS and RecSports also teamed up to offer free TeXercise and Cycling classes throughout the week to promote the joyful movement initiative.

“We want to encourage students to engage in physical activity for reasons of having fun or staying healthy rather than attempting to achieve an unrealistic body image,” Hochman said.

Nutrition senior Victoria Carrasco, a UHS nutrition peer educator, supervised the free group cycling class Monday at the Recreational Sports Center.

“A lot of people think exercise can be boring, depending on what you do, so we want to help students find something that they like to do and help them keep up the healthy behavior,” Carrasco said.

Printed on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 as: Love Your Body hosts jean drive, free classes