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Whitman students have a reputation for excellence, whether inside the classroom, on the field or out serving the community. Yet happy, high-achieving students are also healthy students, and the college experience is hardly complete without the occasional outbreak of the sniffles or sprained ankle on the soccer pitch.

That’s where the staff of the Welty Health Center comes in. Luckily for Whitman students, they have access to some of the finest health and wellness services in the nation. In fact, The Princeton Review recently ranked Whitman No. 2 in the nation for “Best Health Facilities.”

Claudia Ness has worked at the Welty Center for 14 years.

Claudia Ness, director of the health center, credits the seven days a week, 24-hour service and significant new services, including on-site physical therapy and massage therapy, for the top ranking. She says the Welty Center has always strived to meet students’ individual needs by tailoring services to fit their busy schedules and active lifestyles. For Ness and the other Welty staff members, many of whom have devoted between 15 and 30 years to the well-being of the Whitman student body, The Princeton Review ranking is quite gratifying.

“It’s very exciting,” Ness says. “We’ve professionalized our services on par with the best health facilities, and we’re always expanding our horizons in an effort to support students.”

Beyond offering individualized treatment for students in need, the Welty Center also reaches out to student athletes on intramural and club sports teams, and not just by taping knees. Ness says the cycling team takes advantage of the facilities by taking ice baths after workouts.

“We really try to keep up on what the current needs of the students are,” says Ness, an experienced registered nurse who also has organized campus-wide presentations in the wake of public health threats such as the H1N1 virus.

The Welty staff also targets the many Whitman students who participate in study abroad programs, working with the CDC to provide the most up-to-date travel tips and ensuring that a student bound for the Amazon, for example, has the malaria medication he or she might need.

Ness adds that strong administrative support for the Welty Center has enabled the staff to continue to meet students’ needs around the clock while other college health centers have suffered from budget cuts. The Welty Center is the only college health center in the Pacific Northwest open 24 hours.

President Bridges believes the factors that have elevated the Welty Center to its high position with The Princeton Review include the “extremely high quality of the facilities and a staff that reflects the kind of student-centered attention and devotion that are foundational to the success and reputation of Whitman College. As a small liberal arts college, Whitman is unique in the high standard of care it offers.”

Ness, who has been with the Welty Center for 14 years and is now starting her third academic year as director, says she loves working with Whitman students.

“I love their energy, their zest for life,” she says. “It’s just fun working with a young, healthy population. My goal is to teach them how to stay healthy.”

The Welty Center is located on Merriam Street.

Contact: Gillian Frew, Interim Media Relations Officer