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The Doctor Is In 

Dr. Graciela Desemone is shown at a recent flu prevention clinic.       

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 23, 2018) – The director of the Student Health Services Center, now five months into the job, grew up knowing her way around the University at Albany campus.

Appointed on September 15, 2017, Dr. Graciela Desemone has served students as a physician at the health center for 22 years. Her father worked at the health center one day a week when he was a cardiologist at the former Leonard Hospital in Troy. Desemone herself studied at the former Milne School.

The Milne School, long associated with the University, was among the first practice teaching schools in the country. It served as a high school and as a teacher training environment for University students. The school closed in June 1977 and Desemone was on track to be a member of its last class until she transferred in the 10th grade to Albany High School.

“Dr. Desemone’s compassionate approach places students at the center of what we do, especially as it relates to their health and well-being. Her passion and commitment to making health-related resources accessible to our students are second to none. Grace is a collaborative leader who believes that healthy students are successful students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Christakis.

“Having had my own children go through college – one of them here at UAlbany – I understand that when parents call and are upset, it’s usually due to the distance and concern for their child’s well-being,” Desemone said. “Often, the students are just learning to navigate the health care system, making medical appointments alone for the first time. Our role is to educate.”

Desemone is an energetic dynamo who enjoys talking to students and finds the campus environment more interesting than private practice. She notes the center, which serves 14,000 to 15,000 students a year, is expected to move from its offices on Patroon Creek Boulevard back to the Uptown Campus in the fall of 2019, where it will be located in the renovated basement of Dutch Quad.

Desemone handles the daily administrative functions of the office while continuing to see patients on a part-time basis. Dr. Robert Pulling is the chief of patient services, supervising the clinicians, nurses and the lab.

Many things have changed since Desemone’s father worked at the health center. Back then, students would come in with a cold or the flu, a one-time occurrence.

Today, in addition to colds or the flu, students may come in for episodic treatment of a chronic condition while they are away from home, for concerns about sexually transmitted infections or for symptoms for which they have never seen a clinician, such as chronic headaches.

Desemone did not start out planning to be a doctor. Her first love was languages; she grew up in a bilingual household. Her parents were from Argentina and spoke Spanish at home.

“I speak Spanish, and spoke both English and Spanish growing up,” she said. Every Christmas the family went to Argentina to stay with family, so she associates the holiday with warm weather and barbecues. She started French classes at age 9 and her love of languages led her to major in Romance languages and literature at Cornell University. Still, medicine was always in the back of her mind, since both her father and a brother are physicians.

Desemone went on to earn her M.D. at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

She is board certified in internal medicine, having completed her internship at Albany Medical College and residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical College. She then joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical College and subsequently left to become the medical director of the Framingham Family Health Center, serving a predominantly Latino population.

Her academic interests include improving the quality of medical care for college students and the influence of alcohol and other drug use on students’ collegiate success. In the latter area, she has collaborated closely with UAlbany Counseling and Psychological Services researchers with whom she has published and presented at various Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education conferences.

She and her husband James, an endocrinologist/diabetologist at Albany Medical College, have two daughters.

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