A photo of the front entrance of the columned health center. Rocking chairs sit on the porch.
Davidson College’s Health Center. Photo by Sydney Schertz ‘24

Erin Martin ’23 (She/Her), Staff Writer

The Health Educator position, formerly held by Georgia Ringle, has played a prominent role in the lives of Davidson College students. The position is defined on the college website as an “inclusive resource center that focuses on preventative health and wellness on campus.” Though it has been vacant since July 1, 2021, the role of the health educator is quite extensive. They are responsible for facilitating all mental and sexual health resources, STD/STI testing, overseeing Green Dot trainings, and providing support for survivors of sexual assault. 

Having held the Health Educator position for 33 years, Ringle was an influential part of health education at Davidson. Her job covered an array of duties that, for the last year, have not been fulfilled. 

Dr. David Graham, Director of Student Health and Well-Being, explained how last year’s Health Educator search did not lead to a new hire. “We offered the position to an alum who would have been a great fit,” he says, “but it didn’t work out with her logistically and we had to wait for another hiring cycle.” Since then, the school has been looking at a new pool of candidates–Dr. Graham cites this group as being even stronger than the last. 

Michaela Gibbons ‘22, a member of a Title IX advocacy group on campus, shared her opinion of the prolonged hiring of a new Health Educator, as well as her experiences with Ringle. She explained the many ways in which she feels the Health Educator position has benefitted the student body. She stated that Georgia Ringle was a “safe person to talk to, and she provided the student body with the support that we needed.” 

Gibbons elaborated that, when one of her friends was sexually assaulted, Ringle was the first person she knew to go to. “My friend felt most comfortable talking to Georgia. She was always on call for us,” she said. 

Historically, the Health Educator position has bridged the gap between the Title IX office on campus and students interested in filing a formal complaint for sexual misconduct. 

Another responsibility of the Health Educator is to ensure that students have access to sexual health resources such as STD and STI testing on campus. Students’ access to these testing opportunities have been reduced since Ringle’s retirement began. 

Gibbons touched on Davidson’s lack of sexual health support since Ringles’ retirement. “Georgia pushed to destigmatize STD and STI testing, and since she’s been gone, the availability of testing has definitely decreased,” she said. 

Not only does the Health Educator work closely with the Title IX office, they also lead student health advisors in trainings with incoming Davidson students about safe sex, mental health resources, and overall well-being. Without a Health Educator, the duties have fallen upon a few of the counselors, Dr. Jessica Groleau and Dr. Amanda Brandenburg, who work to fill the gaps in health education in between their counseling services. Graham added that these two women temporarily filling the role of health educator has led to some obstacles due to their lack of availability. 

Additionally, the Center for Student Health and Well-Being hired Destyn Peoples ‘21, a fellow to fulfill the duties of Health Educator Associate. The Health Educator Associate position is in charge of the Green Dot bystander program, designed to train students in the prevention of sexual misconduct. 

The job of Health Educator Associate does not encompass the same responsibilities as Davidson’s Health Educator, but their duties have expanded since Ringles’ retirement. When contacted for an interview, Peoples did not reply. 

Elizabeth Brubaker ‘23 is a student Health Advisor and shared about Ringles’ impact on the program. “There are a lot of things that Georgia always took care of that we’re a little lost on how to continue with,” she said. “While I think we’re doing pretty well putting out the same number of Health Advisor events as normal, the Health Advisors would function better with a Health Educator.” Brubaker also noted that an official leader of the Health Advisors has not existed since Ringle’s retirement, and the Health Advisors are eagerly awaiting a new hire. 

The search has taken almost a year, and the expectations of the hiring committee have expanded. Dean Byron McCrae discussed some main attributes that the search committee looked for in the candidates they have chosen thus far. “We want someone that can contribute to the community of Davidson, and someone who has a diverse skillset to be able to mentor students and connect with local community professionals,” McCrae explained. The administrators in charge of the hiring process plan to integrate student feedback into the job advertisement and allow students to be a part of the interview process. 

Both administrators and students feel that one of the most important qualities of the Health Educator is that they are someone who can embrace the Davidson community. The job listing on Davidson’s website states that one of the qualifications is someone who can “enhance the campus environment and plan for the changing needs of the campus community.” 

Gibbons is in agreement with the administration and added that “we need someone who is accessible and representative of what the students need, someone who is willing to immerse themselves within the culture and take on the good and bad of Davidson.” 

As for the future of the Health Educator position, the Davidson administration hopes to have it filled soon. “We’d love to complete the search while the students are here on campus so we can host an open forum for students to get to know the candidates,” McCrae stated. “Ideally, we’ll have the position filled by July 1st of 2022.” 

The Office of Student Health and Well- Being recommends that students in need of urgent or serious health advising resources should contact Dr. Groleau, Dr. Brandenburg, or Peoples until the Health Educator position is filled.