The Doctor Is In
Marist welcomes Dr. Claudia Zegans as the new Director of Health Services.
March 15, 2021—Taking a job as the head of a health services office during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. Dr. Claudia Zegans, Marist’s new Director of Health Services, was eager to step into the role following a distinguished career in both academics and crisis medical management.
“I am particularly passionate about working with the college health population,” she said. “It is so rewarding to support the mission of helping students grow into happy, successful, and resilient young adults.”
Educated at Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, Zegans’ rich background includes work as Medical Director for both the Elite Medical Group (a worldwide provider of telemedicine operations) and for Global Rescue, a pioneering firm providing integrated travel risk management, crisis management, and response services through planning and risk management, medical and security response teams, and intelligence services. She has also held a variety of academic appointments, her most recent being as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, where she also served as Staff Physician in Student Health Services. She was selected for the position at Marist following a national search.
Since starting in her new role at Marist in January, Zegans hit the ground running to prepare for the spring semester reopening. She is part of the College’s Medical Advisory Team and has had a key role in setting and implementing policies to keep students safe. It’s all in a day’s work to Zegans, who dealt with COVID-19-related responses early in 2020 while at Global Rescue.
“I have experienced almost every type of medical emergency in almost every corner of the world from a case management/consultative capacity, which has opened my eyes in ways that routine medical practice never would,” Zegans explained. “At Global Rescue, we were involved early on in some of the large industry planning and development to reopen travel and tourism safely for travelers and employees alike. In my capacity as Medical Director there, I helped care for, advise, and transport individuals with COVID infection to get to a better health outcome than what was likely where they were.”
Navigating such challenges has given Zegans a clear-eyed perspective on what residential colleges and universities have faced in the last year. “All colleges are really seeking to find the right balance of protecting the health and safety of their communities with the need to continue their mission to offer a residential college environment for healthy growth and development of the students,” she noted. “There are multiple different stakeholders involved, including faculty and staff, students, parents, and the community. Each stakeholder group has unique concerns. Colleges have had to integrate scientific data with public health guidelines, and navigate the complexity of changing recommendations, state by state variations, and shifting politics in order to succeed. It is important to remember that there is limited data in many areas, and that each college has to make the best decisions that it can to execute an operational plan to satisfy this myriad of guidelines, regulations, and stakeholders.”
She also notes that the typical college health services office has seen its responsibilities grow exponentially during this time. “College health services have really had to expand their mission to learn everything there is to know about implementing public health strategies on a large scale. Testing programs, quarantine and isolation procedures, and strategic planning have all become routine for college health services at this point. Most college health offices have also had to take on some component of occupational health by providing recommendations and guidance for employees as well as students, and taking on some responsibility for the health and wellness of the entire college community, not just students.”
When COVID-19 protocols ease, Zegans’ depth of experience will be extremely useful for Marist Health Services in other critical ways. “Our students travel extensively for learning, professional development and pleasure. Understanding the risks that they face in various parts of the world is very real for me, having seen firsthand what students potentially face all over the world. My recommendations during a travel health consultation are informed by reality.”
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Zegans has lived in the northeast for 30 years. She’s enjoying the Hudson Valley and is looking forward to being outdoors more as spring takes hold. In the meantime, she has been warmed by her welcome to the College. “Without exception, every person I have met at Marist has been friendly, smart, funny, welcoming, accommodating, hardworking, flexible, kind, and understanding. I feel a bit like I have landed in some kind of utopia. I feel well-supported and happy to be here.”