The mind and body have an undeniable connection, which is why many colleges and universities have begun to merge their counseling and health facilities into one entity.
Recently, Case Western Reserve University joined the movement, bringing its two previously separated offices together to form University Health and Counseling Services.
Leading this new effort is executive director Jennifer Wright McCarthy.
“College and graduate school can be intense and stressful times, and our role is to support students and make sure that they have all of the tools they need to work to their potential—so if someone has a health issue or mental health need, that’s our job,” McCarthy said.
While much of the groundwork for the new combined service was laid prior to McCarthy’s arrival in September, she plays a crucial role in guiding the merge of the two offices, creating a combined care model that she anticipates will facilitate a holistic approach to care and, in turn, lead to better outcomes for patients.
“I like the phrase that ‘there’s no wrong door for mental health services’—meaning that when someone comes in with a complaint of a stomachache or sore throat, mental issues are assessed in an appropriate way and referrals are made,” she explained. “With an integrated model and collaboration between clinicians, it’s much easier to facilitate that.”
She hopes this model will help students “go on to do the things they’re here to do—to learn, to research, to flourish—and we strive to take care of health issues they have in the most seamless way.”
Her ideas are backed by lessons she’s learned overseeing combined care models. Most recently, McCarthy worked for Goldman Sachs & Co. as an associate medical director, coordinating wellness initiatives, benefits and medical care.
Before that, she ran the occupational health and wellness programs at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she worked for 16 years, providing her with a wealth of experience.
By training, McCarthy is board certified in internal medicine.
“I love when someone walks in the door and you don’t know what’s wrong with them, and [then going through] the whole process of figuring out what’s the most likely diagnosis,” she said.
Throughout her career, she’s developed an interest in how to improve the health of populations and how to ensure that people have the access to medical and mental health support they need—and she’s looking forward to helping the student population in this area.
“It’s just such an interesting place to be,” she said. “There are so many smart people, people pursuing so many different interests. You’re surrounded by people with curious minds. When you look at the student population, it’s just bursting with potential. To be a part of that is just so exciting.”
Get to know McCarthy better in this week’s five questions.
1. Who has been your most influential mentor?
Probably my parents because of their work ethic and drive. I would also say my husband for his calm and measured approach to overcoming obstacles.
2. What was your first job?
I was a lifeguard at a camp for the children of union members on Long Island. Luckily it was located on a bay, not the ocean.
3. Who is your favorite author?
I love to read. Atul Gawande is a doctor who wrote most recently about end-of-life care. And Andrew Bacevich, a historian who writes about foreign policy. Also, Shakespeare because I love the timelessness of Shakespeare’s themes. Colum McCann, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison—I’ve got a lot. I could go on and on.
4. How do you like to spend your time when you’re away from school and/or work?
It’s mainly my four children that take up the majority of my time, but I also enjoy yoga and reading.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I love walking around the quad. You can just feel the energy. I love the wind turbine—it’s cool to be working at a place with a wind turbine. It’s not a common experience.