Practicing What We Teach, Promoting a Culture of Wellness on Campus

In recent years, “positive thinking” has transformed several industries as many have come to realize that the basis for advancing any product or service begins with serving the individual as a whole. From practices in leadership to technology development, this positive psychology approach to optimal functioning is derived from the belief that strengths and virtues enable individuals, communities and organizations to thrive.

The health care sector is no different as the delivery of health care has transformed from a model of treating sickness to one that promotes healthy living, often referred to now as “wellness.”

As a health sciences university that graduates top-notch physicians, pharmacists, researchers and public health professionals with a mission to advance community health, it is important that NEOMED faculty, staff and students not only provide resources and tools for  the community to take charge of their health but that they also lead by example.

“I personally believe that future health care providers need to be an example for their patients. Physicians and pharmacists alike end up being the role model for those seeking health and wellness” said Doug Gugel-Bryant, a third-year Pharm.D. candidate. “At NEOMED, there are countless ways for the students to increase their wellness, from having a great fitness center on campus to being exposed to healthier food options on a daily basis. The question is not ‘do I want to be healthy today?’ but rather ‘how do I want to be healthy today?’"

Bringing wellness as a whole solution to faculty, staff and students was made official in 2013 with the formation of a Health and Wellness task force that was backed by the leadership team. The task force was charged with outlining a plan that would imbed health and wellness as a core pillar of University culture. From this task force the ‘Wellness at NEOMED’ initiative was born. Through ‘Wellness at NEOMED,’ a number of on-campus programs, activities, services and facilities were developed and made readily available and accessible for faculty, staff, students and the community. Nine aspects of wellness – community, emotional, environmental, family, fiscal health, intellectual, spiritual, physical fitness and physical health – became the focus to inform the transformation of self and improve personal satisfaction and health.

The opening of the NEOMED Education and Wellness (NEW) Center and the state-of-the-art Sequoia Wellness fitness center in August of 2014 provided a cornerstone for much of the activity but wellness goes well beyond exercise. Student resources include healthy food choices, flu shot clinics, holistic wellness fairs, therapy dogs during exam week, hotlines, crisis services and counseling.

Sequoia Wellness also partners with student organizations to provide space and resources to hold events. In a recent event, the Walking Whale Barbell Club recently hosted a Lift-A-Thon Fundraiser. For a $5 donation, participants competed in bench pressing, squats and deadlifts. Proceeds from the event benefited the Cleveland Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Next month (April), the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is holding a 30 minute exercise class that incorporates exercises that can be done anywhere without any equipment. The class will be followed by a brief presentation of what Sequoia Wellness can do for students, including health assessments, behavioral assessments, exercise prescriptions, and wellness planning.

Faculty and staff are living a healthier life as well. Led by the Office of Human Resources, a smaller sub-committee of the Health and Wellness Task Force meets monthly to create programming and incentives for employees and their families. Members of the committee are Wellness Champions while others on campus are Wellness Ambassadors. Both groups are charged with spreading the word, encouraging participation and motivating their friends, family and colleagues.

Employees are able to attend free seminars to learn about a variety of health topics, such as stress, weight and sleep management, and a re-emphasis was placed on the availability of health coaching and the employee assistance program so that faculty and staff may receive personalized counseling.

To ease the cost of health care, NEOMED offers a wellness discount for all employees who utilize the University health plan. In 2014, 231 discounts were awarded to individuals who completed assessments and attended a free screening to learn about their state of fitness and well-being.

“As an institution of health and higher education, we want to be sure our faculty and staff are provided opportunities that emphasize options for individuals to enhance wellness for both themselves and their families,” said Barbara Tobias, human resources director. “We have made it a priority to not only provide such opportunities to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but to support our goal of building an overall culture of wellness at NEOMED.”  

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