GPI: Ilene Hofrenning, Outgoing Director of the Health Center
By Sophia Harris
How long have you worked at FSU?
What is your educational and professional background?
I grew up in North Dakota, so I went to the University of North Dakota and got my bachelor's in nursing. I worked as a camp nurse, so I worked in a small community hospital. … Then I lived in Norway for a couple of years and worked as a nurse at a hospital there, which was a fascinating experience. And then when I came back, I decided I didn't want to work in a hospital anymore. So then I worked for the visiting nurses in Cambridge, which was really fun. Cambridge is a very dense neighborhood. And there's no parking, so we would ride our bikes and our baskets with our nursing bags to see patients. I had the area sort of around Harvard Square, north of Harvard Square. And based on that experience, I sort of decided I wanted to be a primary healthcare provider. So I went back to school. I went to UMass Lowell to get my master’s as a family nurse practitioner. And then once I graduated, I worked at a community health center in Worcester - Family Health Center, Worcester - and was a primary care provider for families of all kinds. … I live in Framingham, and this job became available - doing some administrative work and being in charge of a health center and still doing clinical [work]. It'd be a nice change. So I applied for the job and came here 18 years ago.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am really proud of the environment that we've created here at the Health Center to provide high quality, easily accessible, evidence-based healthcare. I work with a great team here. We strive to, and I hope that we've made this a very welcoming place for all students, no matter your gender, race, ethnicity, health problems, economic status, health insurance, anything, that we want to make it a really welcoming, friendly, comfortable place for all students. And for the most part, I think we've succeeded with that. I volunteer for a group called the MetroWest Free Medical Program and we provide free health care for anybody who doesn't have insurance or who has insurance that doesn't pay for a whole lot. So we work a lot with immigrants. We had been working out of a synagogue in a church. And now we are just moving into our own space. And we just got a grant for electronic medical records. So that program has really grown and it's really great. We serve a lot of people. Right now, we have 300 patients on the waiting list. So, that is probably where I will be spending a lot of my retirement time - continuing my commitment to that program.
What initiatives or projects do you hope to see your successor continue?
We started a vaping cessation program here. We got a grant for that right as soon as the pandemic hit. And so we've developed this program for vaping cessation and you know, had a few students participate in that, but I would really like to grow that and get that information out there. We’ve had a slow launch because of the pandemic. … Another program that I really hope continues and I'm sure it will is the SEALS. I think that Pamela Lehmberg has done such a terrific job growing our program. … I think that's just a great program and then we know that students prefer to get information from fellow students rather than from us. So the more we can train SEALS, and maybe even grow that program, I think the better for the University.
What advice do you have for FSU students?
I really would like to see students incorporate the concept of self-care in their daily lives and carry that on for the rest of their lives. … Really thinking about self-care - “What can I do to keep myself healthy?” - manage stress, manage my time, whether it be, getting good exercise or doing something like meditation or yoga, or taking time out with friends. … There are lots of people that can help at the Health Center, the Counseling Center, CASA, dean's office - you know, there's a lot of places you can go for help. But really, to look at that idea that self-care is important. So they can do their best and be productive and be able to help others.
What are you going to miss the most about FSU?
There are a lot of things. I'm feeling kind of sad right now. I will totally miss my Health Center team. We have a great group of professionals. We've worked together for quite a while. You know, all of us really want to provide the best care that we can for students. … Everybody in the team really cares deeply about the students - of providing really good health care. … I will miss the students. I really enjoyed working with the students. I feel like the Framingham State students are really hard-working - they don't take things for granted. They are like sponges - they want to learn new things and are open and honest. I've been so gratified and impressed with how open and willing to share many students have been, and I will really miss that.
What kind of message do you want to leave the FSU community?
I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to work with great students and great colleagues. I will miss everybody here.