By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

In 2000, full-time emergency room physician Jeffrey Goldstein, M.D., received a phone call from a friend about an opening for a director of health services and college physician at Lafayette. His extensive ER experience made the New York Medical College graduate and former U.S. Navy medical officer the perfect candidate for the job. Now in his 20th year at the College, Goldstein is a crucial member of the Lafayette staff as the champion for the health and safety of students and employees alike—a role that’s recently been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. Today, his reliable campus-wide email updates about COVID-19 have made him a household name, and a source of comfort, for the Lafayette community during a time of uncertainty.

Get to know the man behind the medicine.

Balancing Act

As director of health services, Goldstein expertly juggles several roles:

  • College Physician: Goldstein personally treats students with medical needs—from primary care issues, to mental health concerns, to life-threatening emergency situations.
  • Administrative Director: He also oversees health center staff—physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and a school psychiatrist—and manages the department’s budget.
  • Chief Medical Officer: Goldstein consults President Alison Byerly and senior staff on campus-wide health issues, like pandemics—helping create and implement policies to mitigate risk.
  • Team Physician: He works with the sports medicine team to care for student-athletes.

Why I Became a Physician

“When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers, I started as a business major. I didn’t enjoy it. When I started taking science classes as electives and shadowing a friend who was a practicing emergency physician, that’s when I found my wheelhouse. I’m a people person. My personal interactions with patients and my ability to have an impact on people’s lives are what bring me the greatest fulfillment. It’s what makes me tick as a physician.”

Close Encounters

Ask Goldstein which moments from his career he will remember forever, and he’ll have no shortage of stories to tell about the patients’ lives he’s saved—even on campus.

“One afternoon, I received a frantic call on my cell to immediately come to a dorm room near the health center. A student I had been following for a serious medical condition was unresponsive. My training as an ER doc kicked in, and we began resuscitating him in the dorm. I rode in the ambulance with him and continued treating him in the ER. At one point, he was in full cardiac arrest, and I thought he was going to die. Thankfully, he made a full recovery. We developed an amazing relationship—probably a lifelong bond.”

Getting Personal

Goldstein shares some of his favorite things to enjoy when he hangs up his lab coat at the end of a long day.

Pastime: Running

“It’s my drug of choice for relieving stress and anxiety. I’ve also run a number of marathons: I ran close to three hours when I was in my 50s, and that’s an accomplishment I’m proud of.”

Sport: Baseball

“I’m a big New York Yankees fan. I grew up in northern New Jersey, and my dad used to take me to the Bronx to see the Yankees play at least once or twice a year. Ever since then, I idolized the old-timer Yankees. I also name all my dogs after former players: I’ve had a Munson, a Jeter, and a Mattingly.”

Healthy Habits: Everything in Moderation

“Being healthy is a balance of different dimensions in your life—intellectual, social, mental, physical—and I try to balance those things in a positive way and practice what I preach to my students. I eat well, try to get as much rest as possible, and limit the amount of alcohol I drink. I try to have a good mental health attitude. I try to focus on the present and not ruminate about the what-ifs of tomorrow or the oh-my-Gods of what I did yesterday.”

Whats on the Horizon for Bailey Health Center?

Goldstein has spearheaded many innovative changes that have allowed Bailey Health Center to better serve its rising volume of student-patients. In addition to extending the center’s regular service hours, Goldstein also helped establish a partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network to provide patients with additional services after hours. Goldstein has more plans for the center: “The College is evaluating an expanded collaboration with a hospital network to provide additional services and enhanced access for the community. Phase two of the [McCartney Street] residence hall construction project may include plans for a new health center with a range of new health services. We’re in the process of strategically planning to make that happen.”

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Bailey Health Center visitors are typically greeted at the door by Raven, Chief, and Finn, the center’s resident dogs. Goldstein shares how the pups came to be such iconic figures on campus: “One day in a staff meeting, I asked what sorts of things we can think of to make the health center more warm and inviting, and the topic of puppies and therapy dogs came up—and it caught on like wildfire. These dogs aren’t therapy-dog trained; but in reality, they do everything that a therapy dog would. The students love coming in to see them, spend time with them, or take them for a walk.”

Managing The Covid-19 Crisis

How has the coronavirus changed your role at Lafayette?

“Planning has become my full-time job. I have pivoted to creating plans and providing advice to the president and senior staff for mitigating the impact of COVID-19, and creating a framework for reopening in the fall. We want to make sure we fulfill our mission of giving students a great curricular and co-curricular experience that develops their minds—while at the same time ensuring their health and safety, and that of those who work for them.”

Lessons learned from covid-19?

“The mental part of managing this is just as important as the physical part. Social distancing is important, but it’s equally important not to socially isolate. Social isolation creates a whole new set of problems like anxiety and depression, which have a tremendous impact on one’s health. You also have to stay active or have another outlet for your stress and keep your mind occupied.
“It’s also the first time in my career that trying to predict what’s going to happen [with a health crisis] was incredibly challenging, if not impossible. I’m an epidemiology nerd. I love to read about how outbreaks occur and try to predict how they might impact our own community, and I talk to many people in areas of epidemiology and infectious diseases. COVID-19 has really baffled me. Every few days, it punches you in the mouth in a different way. So, it’s a lesson learned that you have to be prepared for the worst. It’s actually been quite a humbling experience for me as a public health person.”

What’s it like to be the “Dr. Fauci” of Lafayette?

“It’s a weighty responsibility. I’m not happy that the country is in the position that we’re in, but I look upon this as a challenge. I’m a history buff, and my favorite person to read about is Abraham Lincoln, who led this country through a far greater period of adversity in our history. One of my favorite quotes of his is, ‘Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.’ We’re going to find a way back [to normal], and I’m going to help Lafayette do it.”