Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



Degree Granting Department

Anthropology; Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Linda M. Whiteford, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Co-Major Professor

Cheryl A. Vamos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth M. Miller, Ph.D.


Access to care, Applied Anthropology, Health literacy, Medical Anthropology, Sexual health, Student health


The focus of this research was to: 1) study the perceptions of female students attending the university Student Health Center, concerning available services, 2) learn how they describe their decisions to obtain care, and 3) identify perceived barriers to reproductive health care and contraception. This exploratory study used a mixed-methods approach that included clinic public-space observations, interviews with health care providers and staff at Student Health Services (SHS), surveys distributed to clients of the campus clinic, and in-depth interviews to contextualize emergent themes. Topics addressed included sexual health behaviors and perceptions, influence of peers and partners, the propagation of health myths, and past experiences with SHS. Gathering practitioner perspectives on student barriers to care, goals of the clinic, and perceived health needs of the student community, allowed for measurement of incongruence between student and staff, thereby adding greater context to results. SHS sought recommendations in order to improve student's use of the Sexual Health and Gynecology clinic, increase accuracy of student's sexual health knowledge, and guide future clinic operations. SHS is now working with the College of Public Health to create improvement projects based on my results, including a peer education program. Research such as this can result in greater student awareness of available services, and more productive communication between patients and provide. Implications on the larger issues of gender and the search for health care, acceptance and knowledge of STI testing, and client comfort are addressed, and provide opportunity for future work in this area.