By Lisa Nault
With the snow beginning to fall and colds starting to spread, the Voice wants to introduce a new face at Simmons College who is in the business of keeping people healthy. The Voice sat down with Simmons’ new Medical Director, Daniel Barker, to get to know him better.
1. What is your role here at Simmons?
In October, I took over as Medical Director at the Simmons Health Center on the residential campus. I am proud and humbled to fill the shoes of the longtime Simmons Medical Director, Dr. Kay Petersen, who has been a staple on campus for 30 years, and is a giant in the world of college health. She has been committed to helping me make a seamless transition to my position, for which I am very appreciative.
My job involves overseeing a stellar team of nurse practitioners, a registered nurse, and a dietitian; advising on campus public health issues; working closely with student affairs, public safety, and athletics to foster wellness on campus; and most importantly, caring directly for students with medical and mental health concerns who visit our Health Center. Come see us anytime. Students are sometimes surprised at how much we can offer.
2. What are your recent and current projects?
We feel strongly about incorporating student feedback into decision-making at the Health Center. We want to be as responsive to the needs of students as we possibly can, in an effort to improve the quality of care we provide and the access to that care.
Currently, we are responding to concerns about appointment availability by expanding our hours and increasing our staffing on site. We are thrilled to have hired two excellent nurse practitioners and a dietitian over the last few months, all of whom have experience in Women’s Health.
And for the remainder of this semester, we will be open most Saturdays from 9:30 to 1:30 p.m., and will be pushing back our closing time on Mondays and Tuesdays until 6:30 p.m. in an effort to open up appointment slots outside of standard business hours. We want to make ourselves available to students. And remember, there is always someone on call through the Health Center 24 hours a day.
One other project we are excited about is the opportunity to partner with a team of students through the Simmons World Challenge, who will help us improve medical care and the resources available for transgender and gender nonconforming students at Simmons.
3. What was your role before you came to the College?
After completing my medical residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Center, I joined the faculty there as a clinician-educator and as an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. I continue with my work at BIDMC to this day, where I care for patients in a primary care setting and teach medical trainees.
The patients I take care of are late adolescents and adults of all walks of life, with all sorts of medical and mental health issues. My teaching responsibilities include supervising medical residents, mentoring, and leading classroom didactic sessions.
4. It is the honeymoon phase of your time at Simmons. What is your favorite aspect of it so far?
I have always worked in large medical clinics, including the one where I now work at BIDMC. I have nearly 40 physician colleagues in that clinic. The size of that clinic can make communication and coordination complex. At Simmons, we are a smaller group, which makes it easier to genuinely work as a team.
We meet regularly to discuss concerns within the clinic, collaborate on projects, and rely on one another to provide the best possible care for students.
One of the reasons I was drawn to the position at Simmons is that our staff cares deeply about the wellbeing of the students and the wellbeing of the college itself. They care for students like they would their own children. Many of our staff members have been at the college for decades, and have much collective experience and wisdom. I lean on them all the time for guidance.
No matter what concerns come through our door—whether it’s as minor as a cut on the finger or as major as a concussion or mental health crisis—we stay ready and are always willing to help. If we don’t have the answer or a specific service on site, we will connect you with someone or somewhere that does.
5. What are some of your hobbies or interests?
My wife and I are avid travelers. Over the past few years, we have traveled to Japan, India, and look forward to an upcoming trip to Israel in March. As soon as we can convince our 16 month-old son, Avi, to sit still for more than 10 minutes, we hope to bring him along with us.
On a more impressive note, I am a three-time league champion in my fantasy football league. Ok, maybe that’s not impressive; it’s embarrassing.
6. Tell us a fun fact about you.
I recently took up Vinyasa yoga. My wife has been pushing me for years to join her in one of her yoga classes, and I finally caved to the pressure. When she realized I can barely touch my shins from a standing position, I think she may have changed her mind. Last time we went to the gym, she asked me “are you sure you don’t want to go to the spin class?” If nothing else, my presence in the class boosts the confidence level of everyone else participating.
7. What do you think your spirit animal would be?
Tough one. I’ll say salmon; I always put forth my best effort and usually get where I’m trying to go, but sometimes feel like I’m swimming upstream. That can be life in medicine.
8. If you have one message for the Simmons community, what would it be?
Get your flu shot, wash your hands, and get eight hours of sleep. All the things your parents told you before you left for college are generally right on point. I know from experience though—easier said than done.
If you see Barker around the Health Center, make sure to give him a nice warm welcome.