How the GW Student Health Center Is Expanding Gynecologic Health Services

The Student Health Center has increased the primary care services it offers to students to include pap smears.

March 29, 2024


The Student Health Center (SHC) at George Washington University has expanded its primary care services and has hired a new gynecologic clinician to help provide more comprehensive services within the SHC.

SHC Medical Director Rebekka Christie said the addition of pap smears, a screening tool to detect cervical cancer, to the preventive services the SHC already offered has been an important step in addressing the health care needs of students.

One of the main goals of the SHC is to help students build a plan of action to stay on top of their healthcare. Christie said that means getting into the practice of going in for annual physical exams and other preventive services like pap smears.

Christie recommends that at risk individuals who are age 21 and older get a pap smear at least every three years or more frequently, if needed. The procedure can detect precancerous cells which, if treated appropriately by a gynecologist, can help prevent cervical cancer from developing. Pap smears may also detect cervical cancer in which case patients should be referred to an oncologist for treatment.

By offering the service on campus and making it easily accessible, Christie hopes it will encourage more students to schedule the essential procedure. Preventive services like pap smears are 100% covered by health insurance, including the GW student health insurance plan.

SHC hired Madison Rudnick, SMHS ‘21, a physician assistant and GW alumna, in September 2023 to help implement the new service. Rudnick said providing gynecologic health services at the SHC as a GW alumna has been a special full-circle moment.

“I have always been passionate about the power of preventive healthcare and how screenings, vaccines and education can build a foundation for a healthy life,” Rudnick said. “For many people, gynecologic exams can be intimidating. I always strive to provide compassionate, patient-centered care in a non-judgmental space to give my patients what they need to feel empowered about their sexual and reproductive health, contraception or family planning goals and any other services they need.”

Christie said Rudnick has been a fabulous addition to the SHC and is a great fit with students. “She really connects with students,” Christie said. “I think she's been a great addition to our health care team.”

Rudnick works full-time at a local gynecological office and is at the SHC part time on a biweekly basis.

“She sees patients over the course of a 40-minute appointment, so she has a lot of time to meet with them and offer her guidance. She also takes the time to listen to students' questions,” Christie said.

Rudnick, as well as the other clinicians at the SHC, can answer students' questions regarding sexual health, contraception, emergency contraception, pap smears and common gynecologic concerns. Students who are pregnant are referred to local obstetricians.

SHC has six other practitioners students can see throughout the week to receive gynecologic health care.

Christie said with the addition of pap smears, the SHC can now offer a more comprehensive array of gynecologic health care services to students.

Other services the SHC already offers include sexually transmitted infections (STI) screenings, which sexually active individuals are encouraged to do annually. These screenings are 100% covered by the student health insurance plan.

“It is important to screen sexually active individuals for treatable infections to avoid complications like infertility,” Christie said. “Sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings should be part of every individual's health care plan. There shouldn't be any stigma attached to these tests. And that's what we're trying to achieve, to just make STI screening a part of the language of our students’ primary health care.”

Students can also receive immunizations, like the human papillomavirus vaccines (HPV), at the SHC.

“HPV vaccines help protect against cervical cancer and starting in early adolescence are part of a comprehensive pediatric care plan.” Christie said. “Students who have not received HPV protection as teenagers, can obtain the vaccine as an adult at the SHC.”

Students can visit the SHC for oral and injectable contraceptives, as well as hormonal patches, but Christie explained that the SHC refers to local gynecology practices for long-acting, reversible contraceptives like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and Nexplanon.

Annual gynecologic exams, which include a discussion about the patient’s menstrual cycle, contraception, sexual health and breast health are also available to students at the SHC.

Christie said appointments for these health services have been filling up, which is a strong indicator that students are making their health care a priority.

“It just shows that there's a real interest in getting these services,” Christie said. “Students are looking for care, and to be able to offer it here at the university is a great service to students.”