University launches travel assistance program

June 30, 2011, 2:00 a.m.

The University announced earlier this month that it is launching a new International Travel Assistance Program intended to provide improved medical, personal, travel and security assistance services to Stanford affiliates who are traveling abroad on University-related business, research or programs.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman announced the new program in a June 6 University-wide email. The program covers faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students as well as their spouses, domestic partners and dependents.

Assistant Vice President for Risk Management Tina Dobleman explained the University’s inspiration for the new program.

“Expanded global travel by faculty, staff, students and postdoctoral scholars created the desire for consolidated international travel assistance resources and services,” Dobleman wrote in an email to The Daily.

The program’s website provides travel, health and security information by country as well as telephone numbers to call for international travel-related assistance. Before traveling, anyone covered under the program can register his or her travel plans, which will help the University locate and contact that individual in case of an emergency.

The new program includes medical referrals to local doctors or clinics as well as assistance with lost documents and prescriptions. The Vaden Travel Clinic also assists students with pre-trip planning and vaccinations.

Not all of the services under the program’s umbrella are new. Information resources have been available to students in the past but were not as easy to access as they are on the new website.

Emergency medical evacuation services have also been available to students in the past; these services have now been consolidated to three vendors: International SOS, On Call International and MEDEX Global Solutions.

Dobleman said they were chosen because they are “leaders in the field of international travel assistance.”

The International Travel Assistance Program is the result of a joint effort between Student Affairs, Vaden Health Center, Postdoctoral Affairs, Bechtel International Center, Bing Overseas Studies Program, Business Affairs/Global Services, the Provost’s Office and Risk Management.

Dobleman said that because some of the services included in the program are billed on a per-use basis, the University does not yet have an annual cost determined for the program. Information services (from country profiles to health and security alerts), medical referrals and general travel assistance are available to students for free.

“This program does not provide medical insurance,” Dobleman wrote. “Participants are expected to pay for medical office visits, clinical services, hospitalization, prescriptions, etc. directly to the medical provider. Expenses should then be submitted to your medical insurance provider for reimbursement. It is important to understand your medical insurance coverage before you travel, as some carriers respond only to ‘emergency’ medical expenses incurred overseas.”

Despite Boardman’s University-wide email, some students who spoke to The Daily were unaware of the program’s existence or what it entailed.

“It’s too bad that the email came off as a sweet-but-disposable gesture by Stanford,” wrote Elizabeth Rosen ’13 in an email to The Daily. Rosen is a former Daily staff writer.

“I’m used to traveling in countries where I speak the language, namely South America and France,” Rosen added. “But having something as simple as a referral to an English-speaking doctor when that’s not the case seems pretty valuable.”

“I’m doing research in Tanzania this summer, which is relevant because I’m currently using the evac services of the program,” wrote Anne Adelson ’13 in an email to The Daily. “I may or may not end up using that program for Australia [in the fall].”

Dobleman explained that faculty, staff, students and postdoctoral scholars do not need to sign up for the program as its services are currently available to each of those groups.

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.

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