Operating Philosophy

Last reviewed: 1/4/2023

Comprehensive Care, 24/7

Our operating model is structured to provide the most comprehensive level of care, driven by student need, service utilization, industry best practices and above all – an unequivocal commitment to the health and well-being of each and every student. Our approach is guided by the American College Health Association (ACHA) framework for a comprehensive college health program and has been endorsed through national accreditation with the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare (AAAHC) as well as through our ongoing partnership with the JED Foundation.

Office Hours

The primary office-hour availability of our services is designed to meet the needs of our student community, based on their own schedules and most common times that care is sought. We continually evaluate utilization data and adjust as needed.

Same Day

80% of visits to Medical Services are same day appointments. On a regular basis, we explore ways to maximize staffing and resources to accommodate more same day appointments, which will help decrease the need for after-hours care.

Counseling and Psychological Services facilitates 1,000 drop-in visits annually at a number of campus locations throughout the week. Drop-in sessions do not require a scheduled appointment, but can often lead to a regular visit with a clinician.


The same, unconditional commitment to student health drives the support and structure of Columbia Health’s comprehensive after-hours care. The foremost goal of our after-hours operation is to ensure students get quick access to appropriate support and care. To achieve this goal, after-hours care is provided via different means, and per industry best practices may not include onsite services. In some cases, telephone help lines or local providers are best-positioned to provide the right level of emergency care to our students. This extensive approach to after-hours service is only strengthened by our location in a city with world-class facilities within walking distance of our campus.

Only a small and decreasing number of peer institutions maintain overnight infirmaries; many of Columbia’s peers use a similar approach to after-hours medical and mental health care.

Medical Services

After hours, Medical Services partners with FoneMed, a company that works with clients in the healthcare industry nationwide, providing trained and licensed registered nurses that help to evaluate a student’s needs and provide appropriate telephone advice. This may range from self-care suggestions to an emergency room referral. Medical Services receives reports from FoneMed on all student calls for follow-up to ensure continuity of care. This model is used by many professional organizations and peer institutions, and has been demonstrated as efficient, effective and safe.

Counseling and Psychological Services

After hours, CPS partners with Protocall, a leading nationwide and accredited provider in telephonic behavioral health services. Trained clinicians speak directly with students to provide advice, determine an immediate action plan for the evening, or make referrals for next steps in the student’s care. In case of a crisis, this system prevents delay in accessing emergency care. CPS has a clinician on call 24/7 that the Protocall team consults with as needed. In addition, CPS receives reports on all student calls for follow-up to ensure continuity of care.

Sexual Violence Response

After hours, SVR Advocates (Professional and Peer) are available by calling the SVR Helpline at 212-854-4357. The SVR Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for students seeking support, information and/or requesting in-person accompaniment to local emergency departments, law enforcement and public safety. 


In emergency situations, Public Safety can dispatch CUEMS to respond to a student to provide basic medical care and /or transport to the hospital as appropriate. CUEMS is a student-operated, New York State-certified, basic life support volunteer ambulance core, consisting of 40 active student members who are compassionate, well-trained, efficient, and responsive. Service and transport is provided to students at no cost.