Health and Wellness Topics

The health education topics in this section are intended as brief guidelines that will be supplemented throughout the year by the Student Health Services with presentations, workshops, health screenings, in-office health education handouts and a yearly comprehensive Wellness Festival. In addition, please refer to our Facebook ( and Twitter ( accounts. For a guide to your own online health information search, please see this website, in the Health Information and Education Resources section.


Health News from Adraenne Bowe, NP

UPDATED ADVISORY: COVID-19 Pandemic 6/23/20

  • Initially, the outbreak of a new respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, now also known as COVID-19, was first diagnosed in Wuhan, China during January, 2020. The disease now reaches well beyond China’s borders, involving 216 countries and has been declared a pandemic and health emergency by the World Health Organization.
  • This novel coronavirus is a new strain of virus in the coronavirus family that has not been previously seen in humans. There are other viruses in the coronavirus family (such as SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that can cause illness in both humans and animals. These viruses can cause either mild illness like a cold or can make people dangerously ill with pneumonia and organ failure, leading to death.
  • Since the virus is still very new, health authorities are constantly watching how it behaves. Although originally thought to spread from animal-to-person, person-to-person community transmission is now confirmed, spreading in the same manner as colds and flu. Risk for transmission is high.
  • Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The virus can also be spread by people who have no symptoms at all.
  • As of 6/23/20, 8,993,659 human infections have been confirmed internationally, with over 469,587 deaths. Incidence in the U.S. ranks number one worldwide; the total number of cases diagnosed thus far exceeds 2,268,753 cases, occurring in all states, with 119,761 deaths. These numbers continue to increase daily. Attempts to “re-open” in some states are being reversed.
  • There is no vaccine or definitively effective treatment available for this or other coronaviruses. Intensive research is progressing. Preventive measures would be similar to those for colds and flu, including handwashing, social distancing and face masks. Recommended preventive measures are described at the following link:
  • A diagnostic test to confirm the disease is currently more widely available. Defective tests initially, as well as a short supply limited the amount of cases that could be confirmed. Testing negative however does not mean that you may not develop the illness in the future or that you did not have it earlier. The accuracy of antibody tests, which can determine if a person has had the illness, has come under question, and, if positive does not necessarily mean that a person is immune; this aspect of the disease, and others are still being researched.

THE SITUATION EVOLVES RAPIDLY. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND UPDATES:   (testing and other resources; specific to GC community) (Specific to C.U.N.Y. community)

Summer Health Tips

Skin Cancer Prevention

From Dr. Mark Horowitz, MD, Health Services Advisory Council/C.U.N.Y.:

Despite increased awareness of skin cancer, the incidence of the disease continues to increase.
Knowledge is power, so here are some quick facts on skin cancer and how to prevent it:

  • Skin cancer is not a single disease, rather a grouping of diseases. Nearly all types of skin cancer are caused by or made worse by exposure to ultraviolet light, most commonly the sun. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are skin cancers commonly found in older adults after many years of sun exposure. Although they rarely spread or are fatal, they can be extensive and require disfiguring surgery to remove. Malignant melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer characterized by the appearance of a pigmented mole and rapid spread to other parts of the body. The risk of death from malignant melanoma, while lower than in the past, remains frighteningly high.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Practicing "safe sun" every time you are outdoors is essential. Avoid lengthy exposure to sun, wear clothes that protect exposed areas, including the face and head (a wide-brimmed hat is ideal) and use a water-resistant sunscreen with and SPF of 30 or higher to reduce risk.
  •  Sunscreens need not be expensive. Look for sunscreens with the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Generic sunscreens containing these ingredients are usually very affordable.
  • Apply sunscreen often. Even if you choose a water-resistant sunscreen, apply after swimming or if you sweat. If you remain in the sun, reapply every two hours

Remember to see your health care practitioner if you find a new mole on your body or if an existing mole changes color, size or bleeds. These may be signs of skin cancer.

Editorial Note: Please keep in mind that although this advice is under “Summer Health”, skin cancer and sun exist regardless of season and preventive measures should be continued throughout the year. Wearing protective clothing such as broad brimmed hats is an additional preventive measure.


Women's Health Care

Stay Healthy! The most important things you can do to stay healthy are:
• Get recommended screening tests.
• Be tobacco free.
• Be physically active.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Stay at a healthy weight.
• Take preventive medicines if you need them.

Download or print this checklist and take it with you next time you go to see the doctor:
Click to Download “Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age” or visit

Reproductive & Sexual Health

• Menstrual Cycle
Menstruation, or a period, is a woman's monthly bleeding. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus, or womb. It passes out of the body through the vagina. Periods usually start around age 12 and continue until menopause, at about age 51. Most periods last from three to five days.

• Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
1-10 days before your period, you might feel bloated or have diarrhea, nausea, backache, tender breasts or cramping. You might notice mood changes such as irritability, depression and decreased coping skills. These common symptoms are called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some women have all of these symptoms every cycle; some never have any. Most have some symptoms with some cycles.

What you can do to relieve PMS symptoms:
• Cut down on salt and refined sugar
• Avoid caffeine
• Get regular exercise
• See your health provider if symptoms are severe

What you can do to relieve cramps:
• You might get muscle cramps the first few days of your period. These can be dull, achy pains in your abdomen, or they can be sharp and severe.
• Rest with a heating pad on your abdomen
• Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
• Regular exercise can help prevent cramps
• See your health care provider if they are severe and persistent

• See a health care provider every year for a gynecological exam [link]. If you have vaginal changes such as pain, burning or itching; develop sores; have abnormal discharge, such as a bad odor or yellow or greenish in color; have more discharge than usual

For more information about sexual health, ask your health care provider or visit the following websites:
Go Ask Alice (Columbia University):

Pelvic Exam

You should also get a yearly pelvic exam, performed by a gynecologist, family doctor, or a nurse practitioner.

Pregnancy prevention, tests, and pregnancy and abortion services

The nurse practitioner can advise you on pregnancy prevention options, including birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs (Intra-uterine device), etc. For a comprehensive explanation of birth control methods, go to Planned Parenthood’s website:

Pregnancy tests can be done at the Wellness Center. The Nurse Practitioner can provide referrals to pregnancy services, as well as pregnancy option and abortion services. Again, Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for all of your pregnancy options.

Breast Health

It is important to perform a breast self-exam once a month. If you notice any abnormal lumps, nipple discharge, or other symptoms, visit your health care provider, or the Nurse Practitioner at the Wellness Center, immediately.

How to examine your breasts:
• Lie down and place your right arm behind your head. The exam is done while lying down, not standing up. This is because when lying down the breast tissue spreads evenly over the chest wall and is as thin as possible, making it much easier to feel all the breast tissue.
• Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue.
• Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. It is normal to feel a firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast, but you should tell your doctor if you feel anything else out of the ordinary. If you're not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse. Use each pressure level to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.
• Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
• There is some evidence to suggest that the up-and-down pattern (sometimes called the vertical pattern) is the most effective pattern for covering the entire breast, without missing any breast tissue.
• Repeat the exam on your left breast, putting your left arm behind your head and using the finger pads of your right hand to do the exam.
• While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, or dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin. (The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.)
• Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine.
This procedure for doing breast self exam is different from previous recommendations. These changes represent an extensive review of the medical literature and input from an expert advisory group. There is evidence that this position (lying down), the area felt, pattern of coverage of the breast, and use of different amounts of pressure increase a woman's ability to find abnormal areas.

(Source: American Cancer Society)

For an excellent video about how to perform a breast self-exam:

The Wellness Center also has free educational brochures.

In addition, women over 40 should get a mammogram once a year. A mammogram is a quick, simple, safe x-ray that checks for abnormalities.

Men's Health Care

The most important things you can do to stay healthy are:
• Get recommended screening tests.
• Be tobacco free.
• Be physically active.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Stay at a healthy weight.
• Take preventive medicines if you need them.

Download or print this checklist and take it with you next time you go to see the doctor:
Click to Download “Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age”
More info:

Yearly Physical Exam (see above)

As part of your yearly physical exam, the doctor or nurse practitioner will exam your penis, scrotum, and testicles for any abnormalities and screen for colon cancer. It’s also important to get tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) so ask your health care provider if it’s a part of the regular exam and, if not, request it.

It is difficult to examine yourself for signs of colon cancer, so be sure to make regular visits to your health care provider. Younger men may get an infection or inflammation of the prostate called prostates. It can be treated with antibiotics. See your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
• Aching pain behind the testicles or the lower back
• Painful urination
• Having to urinate more often
• Pain during or after sex

Sexual Health

You should perform a testicular self-exam once a month. By doing a monthly testicular self-exam (TSE), men can learn more about their own anatomy, including knowing what's familiar for them and what's not. Monthly exams can help with early detection of lumps, changes in sensation or size, aches, or other unusual symptoms in the genitals. Testicular cancer and other conditions, when caught at an early stage, are easier to cure (these are the same reasons monthly breast self-exams are recommended for women). Unlike many kinds of cancer, testicular cancer is more common in younger men, meaning men should start performing TSEs around age 14.

Steps for doing a testicular self-exam:
1. Stand in front of a mirror and look for any changes, especially swelling, in the appearance of your scrotum (the sac that holds the testes). It's useful to do this immediately after a shower or bath, when the heat of the water relaxes the scrotum.
2. Rotate each testicle between your fingers and thumbs (fingers on the underside the testicle and thumbs on the top).
3. Examine the rest of your scrotum's contents (especially the epididymis) for any changes, particularly hard, small lumps. The epididymis can feel like a cord or rope, and may seem like a lump at first, however it is a normal structure; become familiar with the feel of the epididymis so you can notice actual lumps if they appear.
4. Be on the lookout for hard lumps, masses, or nodules. Often cancerous lumps are painless, but pain can be a symptom of cancer as well as a number of other infections or conditions, so keep note of any discomfort.

It's normal for one testicle to be a little larger than the other, and it's normal for your testicles and scrotum to look a bit different from those of your friends or male family members. The key is knowing what's normal for you, and keeping an eye out for any changes. If you notice pain, swelling, redness, lumps, cysts, or any abnormal changes while doing an exam, you should visit your health care provider right away. Urologists are the type of doctor who specialize in male genital health, however you can begin with your regular provider and get a referral to a urologist if necessary. Many abnormal changes could be signs of an infection (rather than cancer), which are also important to diagnose and treat.

For an informative videos on how to perform a testicular self-exam:

For more information about sexual health, ask your health care provider or visit the following websites:
Go Ask Alice (Columbia University):

Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing & Confidential HIV testing

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) damages the body’s immune system. The immune system protects the body from disease. A person with HIV can range from being very healthy to being very sick. AIDS is the stage of HIV when the immune system gets very weak. When this happens, other diseases and infections can enter the body. People can have HIV for years without getting sick.

They may look and feel healthy. They may not even know they have it. But people with HIV can pass it to their sex partners or someone they share a needle with. A pregnant woman with HIV can pass it to her baby. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. But treatments can help people stay healthy longer. And HIV can be prevented.

You can get HIV if:
• You have sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone who has HIV.
• You share needles and works to inject drugs.
• You share needles to inject vitamins or steroids or needles used for tattoos or piercing.
• HIV can be passed from a mother to the fetus in her womb, or to the baby during birth or breastfeeding. A pregnant woman with HIV can take medicine to greatly reduce the baby’s risk.

HIV doesn’t travel in the air. It must get inside the body to infect a person.

You can’t get HIV from:
• Donating blood.
• Casual contact such as hugging, dry kissing or sharing food.
• Telephones, toilet seats, towels or eating utensils.
• Tears, saliva, sweat or urine.
• Mosquitos or other insects.

How Is HIV Prevented?

Anyone who has sex or shares needles with a person who has HIV can get it. If you have sex, help protect yourself by practicing safer sex:
• Use a new latex condom and a water-based lubricant every time you have vaginal or anal sex. People who are allergic to latex can use plastic (polyurethane) condoms, which come in both male and female styles.
• Don’t use oil-based lubricants. Oils in hand lotions, massage oils, Vaseline, etc. can cause the condom to leak or break.
• For oral sex on a woman, (or on a man or woman’s anus) use a barrier such as a dental dam, a latex condom cut and rolled flat, or plastic food wrap. Use a new barrier each time.
• For oral sex on a man use a new condom each time.
• Never share sex toys. If you do share, wash them well and cover them with a new condom each time.

Come into the Wellness Center for free latex condoms (in both male and female styles), dental dams, and water-based lubricant.

What Are the Symptoms?

Many symptoms of HIV can also be symptoms of other illnesses or infections. See a doctor if any of these symptoms persist:
• Unexplained weight loss greater than 10 pounds
• Recurring fever and/or drenching night sweats
• Unexplained tiredness
• Diarrhea
• Swollen glands, usually in the neck, armpits or groin
• Unexplained dry cough
• White spots or unusual sores on the tongue or mouth

Special Concerns for Women:
• Vaginal yeast infections that don’t go away through standard treatments
• Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
• Genital warts
• Ovarian or cervical disease
• Abnormal Pap tests

Getting tested!

In addition to prevention, it’s a good idea to get tested regularly. Tests are confidential. Your result is told only to you, but it is also put in your medical file, so ask who has access to this file. You can get tested at the Wellness Center. It’s a simple blood test and results arrive in a few weeks. There is a small fee for the blood work.

You can also get a FREE confidential rapid-HIV test. It’s a painless finger-stick test which produces results in just 20 minutes. The William F. Ryan Community Health Network, which has several locations in Manhattan. In addition to the test, their staff will provide comprehensive, confidential counseling and will connect you quickly to medical services if needed. For information, or appointment call:

Ryan/Chelsea Clinton: (212) 265-4500
Ryan-NENA: Assistant Coordinator of Prevention, Education Outreach (212) 477-8500
Ryan Center: Coordinator of Counseling & Testing (212) 749-1820

The Wellness Center also invites Ryan-NENA to provide on-site tests at the Graduate Center several times each semester. Look for email notices, check this website, or call us to find out about the next one.

(Some content taken from materials published by ETR Associates)

Go Ask Alice!
Emergency Contraception Hotline: 1-888-not-2-late and
Planned Parenthood:

Immunizations and Tuberculosis Testing for Students

NYCDOHMH vaccine clinics are open to the public.  Those who are interested may receive routine vaccinations on a walk-in basis:

Facility Name: Fort Greene Health Center (NYCDOHMH)
Facility Address: 295 Flatbush Ave Extension - 5th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Directions: A, C, & F to Jay St., or 2,3,4 & 5 to Nevins St. or R, Q, & B to DeKalb Ave.
Hours: 8:30am to 2:30pm (Monday through Friday)
For more information:

Proof of Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) immunizations are required for new incoming students. Please visit the Immunization page for detailed information and to download forms.

CDC Immunization Guidelines for Adults

Travel Vaccinations
Students who need vaccinations prior to travel, please visit:

Tuberculosis Chest Centers


For referrals, visit out Healthcare Resources page or contact our office for information regarding outside healthcare providers and facilities.