The coronavirus (COVID-19) was unforeseen but has affected people all in different ways. For Dr. Peter Degnan, medical director for Health and Wellness at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), his role completely changed.
Degnan said that seemingly overnight last spring, his role shifted as did many other employees’ roles at Health and Wellness. While their job is to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, a pandemic was an unforeseen event that took lots of time, care and patience to maneuver. Degnan has served as medical director at UNH for just over four years but has been with Health and Wellness for six years. This summer, Degnan participated in many groups that discussed if or when students could return to campus and the guidelines that must remain in place for the university to open. Degnan is the primary contact for public health matters at UNH.
“We re-thought our medical care models for our health center, expanding to include Tele-health in addition to continued in-person visits,” Degnan said. “We are committed to providing as much as possible the same scope of medical care and wellness promotion services as previous, but in an environment that is safe for our community and our staff.”
Degnan attended St. Michael’s College in Vermont and studied biology as an undergraduate. In college he began working for fire and rescue services as an EMT and this ended up pushing him towards medicine. He decided to attend Georgetown University for medical school and he later completed his family medicine residency in Denver. Degnan worked in community health care, then several family medicine practices across the seacoast. When the opportunity came to join the Health and Wellness team, Degnan took it. He said he has always enjoyed working with students and this opportunity seemed like the perfect fit.
Degnan’s role is split between administrative and clinical responsibilities. In addition to clinical care, he serves as the liaison for the clinical staff on the senior leadership team. He also oversees Health and Wellness’s clinical operations, clinician recruitment and staffing, and ensures adherence to their operating policies and procedures.
“Dr. Degnan is very committed to the mission of Health & Wellness and the work of the staff, and the health and well-being of our students and entire UNH community,” said Kathleen Grace-Bishop, the Director of Education and Promotion for Health and Wellness. “Dr. Degnan is a highly skilled practitioner and he is totally present to students when providing care. We are lucky to have him and thoroughly enjoy working with him.”
Health and Wellness has two other physicians, and five nurse practitioners. These seven health care workers work with patients 100% of the time while Degnan sees patients only about 60% of the time. “Lately, I’m a part of way too many Zoom calls,” Degnan said.
“No question that my favorite part is interacting with students in the course of medical care,” Degnan said. “It is an honor to bear witness to the education and whole-person development of our students over the course of their time here at UNH, and if we can have a positive impact in that process, all the better. I also love working with our staff; they are amazing.”