Growing up in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, Judy Platt always wanted to be a doctor. “I had a pediatrician who was fantastic and really became a role model and someone I aspired to be like,” says Platt. “I realized that I wanted to be a similar kind and caring physician who was always available to patients.”
Platt opted to pursue a career in family medicine, with a specialty in women’s health and maternity care. She attended Jefferson Medical College and later served as resident, chief resident, and clinical instructor in the family and community medicine department at Albany Medical College. “As a specialty, family medicine allows you to see children, see adults, see grandparents, and truly take care of the entire family,” says Platt, who was appointed the director of BU’s Student Health Services (SHS), effective July 1. She joined SHS as a staff physician in 2013 and was named interim director last September after her predecessor, David R. McBride, left BU to become director of the University of Maryland University Health Center.
“Judy understands the critically important role that Student Health Services plays at Boston University,” says Todd Klipp, senior vice president, senior counsel, and secretary of the BU Board of Trustees. “She very quickly displayed an ideal combination of the skills required of the SHS director: she is an experienced and talented clinician, her administrative skills are excellent, and she works extremely well with colleagues and subordinates alike.”
Prior to joining SHS, Platt was director of maternity care and an assistant clinical professor in the Tufts University Family Medicine Residency, where in addition to practicing family medicine, she oversaw all aspects of maternity training for newly graduated physicians. Platt became involved in women’s health care and education while at Tufts.
She says she particularly enjoyed working with patients in the 18 to 30 age group, so when McBride invited her a couple of years ago to shadow some physicians for a day or two to see what she thought of the experience, she accepted. “I loved it,” Platt recalls. “There was so much education and prevention and the population that we see here is so eager to learn, I thought, wow, I think this could really be a nice opportunity to do more of the wellness and prevention education work that I really enjoy.”
Since joining BU, she says, she has continued to practice women’s health, while also managing more acute issues like concussions, infections, and the occasional broken wrist.
Platt hopes to build on McBride’s efforts to “ensure great care and great resources and referrals within the BU community” and to better promote SHS’s wellness and prevention initiatives, enhance women’s health services, and create more initiatives for staff. She wants to place more emphasis on staying well, providing students with information about healthy eating and adequate sleep, what she calls “the basic building blocks of feeling well.”
“Our hope is that the more we can do to educate students about their health and about wellness prevention, the less likely they will be to suffer from a physical or mental crisis,” she says.
Platt is a fan of using technology and online tools to deliver care to the greatest number of people, but she also knows that it’s critical for students to be able to have one-on-one personal interaction with doctors, counselors, and nurses. “Just having someone here to talk to, to say, ‘Here are some helpful things you can do to feel better,’ is tremendously important,” she says. “It’s so helpful to be able to sit down in a room with someone and know that for 15 minutes someone is paying attention to you and listening to your concerns and providing sound advice. I want to make sure we preserve that clinician-patient relationship.”
SHS handles an average of 42,000 appointments a year, and as director, Platt is responsible for overseeing a staff of 60, including 3 full-time and 4 part-time primary care physicians, 2 full-time and 2 part-time psychiatrists, 13 full-time psychologists and mental health counselors, 2 part-time mental health counselors, 3 full-time nurses, 5 full-time and one part-time nurse practitioners, 3 full-time certified nurse specialists in mental health, and 4 crisis intervention counselors at the Sexual Assault and Response Prevention Center.
“Judy pays great attention to the needs of the students, but also to the organization as a whole,” says Carrie Landa, director of Behavioral Medicine at SHS. “Her approachability and commitment are the qualities of a strong leader. Her thoughtfulness and thoroughness are always evident, in all aspects of decision making.”
Married to Michael Platt, a School of Medicine assistant professor of otolaryngology, and the mother of three young children, Platt says her private life constantly informs her life as a physician. “With young kids, you are reminded that being present and being focused on the matter at hand is really important,” she says. “You have to put away your phone and iPad and really sit there and talk. It’s a great reminder to me. I’ve said at staff meetings, students need to know we have proficiency and expertise in dealing with primary care issues and behavioral medicine issues. But first and foremost, they need to know that someone cares. If students come in here and feel comfortable knowing that someone is going to listen and care about what’s pertinent to them, we can better accomplish our mutual goals of keeping them healthy and well.”