The Virginia Commonwealth University Health System has opened an outpatient clinic near the College of William & Mary, combining the efforts of two state universities in an uncommon arrangement.
Named VCU Health at William & Mary, the facility opened in Williamsburg on Monday with 22 exam rooms and a 24-member staff. The clinic expands the services available for W&M students, employees and the surrounding community, offering care in sports medicine, orthopedics, behavioral health, cardiology, liver health and telehealth.
This is the first time William & Mary has outsourced health care services to another university, and it is VCU Health’s largest collaboration with another university.
In the past, William & Mary referred its students off-campus for specialized treatment. Sometimes, students went as far as Newport News or Richmond for an appointment, said Dr. David Dafashy, medical director of W&M’s student health center. Now, they can walk to a facility 2½ blocks north of the Wren Building.
The clinic won’t replace the university’s current student health center, which offers primary care. Instead, the new facility will offer wraparound services that students can’t currently receive on campus, and it will offer them to faculty, staff and community members, too.
After issuing a request for proposals for the operation, William & Mary chose VCU Health last spring and signed a 10-year contract. The building, at 332 N. Henry St., is owned by the W&M Real Estate Foundation, leased to William & Mary and subleased to VCU Health.
“Advancing the health, wellness and well-being of all people we serve is a commitment that VCU and William & Mary share,” VCU President Michael Rao said in a statement. “This partnership makes academic health care more accessible to everyone who calls Williamsburg home.”
VCU Health closed its other Williamsburg clinic, which was located about 3 miles away on Professional Drive. It wasn’t as nice a space or as convenient, said Dr. Tom Yackel, president of MCV Physicians, the medical practice that staffs VCU Health. The new facility is designed with W&M students in mind.
Since the fall, VCU Health has conducted William & Mary’s COVID-19 prevalence testing.
“The pandemic has shown us how essential strong partnerships are to W&M and to Williamsburg — especially in the area of well-being,” William & Mary President Katherine Rowe said in a statement.
“Throughout the last year, our community has committed to pursuing healthy behaviors together, because we share responsibility for the well-being of the community,” she added.
William & Mary’s biggest specialty care need is likely sports medicine and orthopedics. College students tend to be young and healthy, and sports injuries are a large chunk of the ailments that students bring to the health center. The new facility will treat NCAA athletes and intramural participants alike.
Once W&M leaders identified sports medicine as a need, they added mental health treatment and other specialties.
Dafashy said he could see the partnership between the two universities growing as new needs are realized, but he doesn’t envision a day when all of W&M’s health services are outsourced to VCU. William & Mary is committed to the model it has in place, he said.
VCU Health is not currently discussing similar arrangements with other universities, Yackel said. But it wants to partner with anyone that helps the health system meet its mission of improving the health of communities throughout the state.