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Helping faculty and staff who work in one of the nation's leading health care institutions improve their health may seem like a simple task. But far from it, according to Bob Merberg, coordinator of employee wellness in the University's Human Resources – Benefits Office.
"While we'd all like to think we place our health and well-being at the top of our priority list, the stresses and realities of everyday life make it a hard-to-achieve goal for many of us," Merberg said.
He should know. Author of The Health Seeker's Handbook: Revolutionary Advice on How to Shape Up, Trim Down, and Chill Out…from America's #1 Health Coach, and a pioneer in developing the profession of health and wellness coaching, Merberg has been working with individuals and companies for two decades to help them achieve what he calls a "whole-health approach.”
"Wellness is about much more than the absence of disease or achieving high-level fitness. It's about providing people with the tools they need to live at an optimum level in all dimensions of their life—their physical health, their relationships, their sense of well-being, and their work, to name a few," he said.
In his position – a new one at the University – Merberg is using the "whole-health approach" to develop Well-U, a worksite wellness program at the University to help faculty and staff feel their best. Since joining the Benefits Office in May, he has been conducting needs assessments and planning programs in conjunction with a multidisciplinary committee and workgroups that include representatives from Strong EAP, Facilities, Human Resources, the Medical Center Fitness and Wellness Center, School of Nursing, The Center for Rochester's Health, Food and Nutrition Services, and The University Health Service.
According to Charles Murphy, associate vice president for Human Resources, Well-U is part of an ongoing effort to foster a work environment that supports health and well-being.
"We see wellness as an investment in our employees and one element of a broad focus on improving and maintaining employee health. By making the transition to self insurance for University health plans, we have the ability to tailor-make programs that are responsive to the specific needs of faculty and staff," Murphy said. "We will work to integrate wellness with the health plans and other initiatives, such as the Return to Work program, to ensure employees have access to a wide-range of effective services.”
A Strategic Roll-Out
While planning is in the early stages, Merberg anticipates several Well-U programs will be ready to roll-out to faculty and staff by spring 2006. The first is a walking program that will provide employees with multiple tools and resources such as maps, pedometers and a web-based self-tracking system, to motivate them to increase their physical activity each day by walking, either individually or in groups. The second is a Stress Management program being created by the Employee Assistance Program that will offer a series of interactive seminars designed to learn and practice techniques for preventing and reducing stress. And, in collaboration with Medical Center researchers, Merberg anticipates launching new resources and opportunities for employees who smoke and wish to quit as the Medical Center prepares to launch its Smoke Free Campus initiative (see related story below). More intensive and diversified wellness activities likely will be implemented in fall 2006.
In addition to developing new programs, Merberg notes that he expects to promote resources already in place at the Medical Center.
"Where there's a need and an interest on the part of program administrators, we'd hope to support and integrate with existing programs. There is so much potential here. With the resources available to us, the expertise, and the commitment, the University is really primed to do a groundbreaking program in wellness," he adds.
A number of new collaborative community-based programs have been launched by Medical Center faculty and staff in the past three months, broadening the Medical Center's commitment to improving the health of the community. Ranging from a new pharmacy at an inner city community health center to a state-sponsored eating disorders clinic, all efforts are geared at increasing access to medical care, ultimately leading to a healthier Rochester. In addition, the efforts of one such collaborative program received national recognition.
"Community health is an integral part of who we are and how we serve the Rochester region and is integrated into our education, research and health care missions," C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center and Strong Health, said. "I salute our faculty and staff, who identify areas of need and develop relationships with community members to build successful programs. They, in great part, make up the foundation of our efforts, and it is their work that helps us fulfill one of our core mission areas.”
Brief information on each of the programs is below.
Expansion of Cancer Services
The growing demand for oncology services in the city of Rochester and in western Monroe County has led to a new state-of-the-art cancer treatment center on the Park Ridge Hospital Campus. The long-standing, successful partnership between Unity Health System and the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, Interlakes Oncology and Hematology PC and Highland Hospital brings Wilmot's clinical trials, research and state-of-the-art therapy available to patients receiving treatment on the Park Ridge Hospital Campus.
The Cancer Center at Park Ridge occupies close to 15,000 square feet of newly expanded and constructed space in Greece, and includes exam rooms, along with radiation and chemotherapy patient areas.
New Eating Disorders Center
Another partnership between Unity Health System and the Medical Center has led to the creation of the new Western New York Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders.
The Center, which was recently established with state funds, aims to provide comprehensive and integrated care for patients and families, as well as education, outreach, referral and early intervention services for residents living in the 30 counties from St. Lawrence County to Broome County and west. In addition, faculty from both institutions will research innovative and effective means to treat and prevent eating disorders.
The formal partnership between Unity and Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong grew out of a decades-old established system of care for people with eating disorders in Rochester in which Golisano Children's Hospital cares for adolescents and children in inpatient and outpatient programs and Unity cares for adult patients in outpatient care and patients of all ages in its partial hospitalization program.
Award for Healthy Living
In September, a collaborative effort between Medical Center faculty and the Monroe County Department of Health was honored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Healthy Living Program, which is administered by the Center for Rochester's Health, a joint program between the two organizations, was awarded HHS' Innovation in Prevention Award, which annually highlights businesses and organizations that are leading efforts to promote healthier lifestyles in seven different areas.
The Healthy Living Program won in the Faith-based and Community-based category. It taps into the African-American faith community to identify and recruit adults who are either suffering from or are at risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity and hypertension. Participating pastors and their congregations not only get the word out through their church networks, they also provide the encouragement and support necessary to prompt individuals to enroll and stick with the program. To date, the program has served more than 1,000 participants at 50 separate church-based sites throughout the two quadrants of the city with the greatest health disparities.
Convenient Pharmacy Services
Patients of the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center now have easy access to the medications they need thanks to a new pharmacy located at the Center, developed and operated by the Medical Center. For many patients at Jordan, a lack of transportation has been a barrier to getting the care they need and complying with their physicians' instructions.
The new pharmacy is one of a number of ways the Medical Center's Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals are partnering with Jordan to bolster care and services offered at the Center. Jordan joined forces with the Medical Center last year to provide women's health care, including comprehensive obstetrics and gynecology services. In January, a Teen Center offering health services for adolescents was reestablished, and the Department of Family Medicine has teamed up with Jordan to help recruit and support family physicians serving Jordan's patients.
University of Rochester Medical Center leaders have charged a 30+ person task force with planning the steps necessary to turn the Medical Center and Highland Hospital campuses into smoke-free havens for health care treatment. The switch to smoke-free could be as early as November of 2006, said Kathy Parrinello, Strong Memorial chief operating officer and chair of the Smoke-Free Campus Task Force.
"This is something that all of the greater Rochester area hospitals are considering doing simultaneously," Parrinello said. "Given everything we know about the dangers of tobacco and second-hand smoke, it is inconsistent with our mission to continue to allow smoking at our entrances and parking lots."
Parrinello's concern is shared by hospitals around the country; in the last several years, hundreds of U.S. hospitals have banned smoking on their campuses.
The task force has been asked to create policies, determine the perimeter within which smoking will be prohibited, develop protocols for treatment of patients who smoke, provide programs on smoking cessation for faculty and employees who smoke and choose to quit, and develop communications tools to aid the process across the organization.
"We are not anti-smoker. We respect that our employees, patients, and visitors have a right to smoke, but we are going to ask them not to smoke while here at our Medical Center," Parrinello said. "In addition, given the known and documented health hazards associated with smoking, we want to be proactive in helping employees and patients to consider stopping smoking entirely.”
Look for more information in Vital Signs in the months ahead.
In what some considered an upset, the Hospital Staff team won the first Great Scholarship Shootout Sunday, Nov. 13, beating the Medical School Students team 23 to 20 in a hard-fought final match in the Palestra at the University's Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center on River Campus.
In a come-from-behind win, the Hospital Staff team defeated a taller Residents team 29 to 26 to land a spot in the finals. The Medical School Students team outran the Faculty team 36 to 14 to earn the finals. In a consolation game, the Residents team defeated the Faculty team 25 to 15.
The winning roster for the Hospital Staff team included: Michael Facik, a supervisor in the cytopathology department; Eric Cox, an anesthesia technician supervisor; Eric Hernady, a research technical associate in radiation oncology; Demeatrich Pound, clinical laboratory technician; Walter Pratt, a surgical support services worker; Andre Smith, an environmental services employee; and Dave Weed, director of central utilities.
The Shootout benefited the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Endowed Scholarship Initiative. The scholarship initiative is a campaign to increase the School of Medicine scholarship endowment by $10 million. Medical students face a large and growing debt burden. Ninety-seven percent of Rochester's Medical School's Class of 2005 borrowed to attend the School. Their average debt at graduation was $134,000. Last year, the School announced a campaign to increase scholarship endowments. A $10-million increase would generate $550,000 each year in new scholarship aid.
All hands were on deck to launch Strong Memorial’s campaign to reinforce the importance of clean hands to employees, patients and visitors. Research shows that frequent hand washing prevents infections and saves lives. Informational buttons and personal-size Purell dispensers were given out to all interested employees at the House of Six Nation’s cafeteria last week, with more activities planned in the upcoming months. Please, do your part by washing your hands before and after patient care, after restroom use, before eating, and frequently when experiencing cold symptoms.
Michel Koo’s work showing that compounds in cranberry juice hold clues to preventing cavities was carried by outlets throughout the world, including Brunei, Iraq, China, Russia, India, England (Nov. 25), and Oman (Nov. 24), as well as throughout the United States (Newsday, CNN, CBS News to name a few) (Nov. 23).
Ruth Lawrence discussed breast-feeding, and its potential to prevent diabetes, with the Associated Press (Nov. 22), whose story ran in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Seattle Times (Nov. 23), and dozens of other outlets nationwide. HealthCentral.com (Nov. 7) also turned to Lawrence to discuss the link between bottle feeding and iron deficiency.
Business Week (Nov. 28) turned to John Treanor to discuss DNA flu vaccines.
A detailed account of neurologist Roger Kurlan’s work healing a patient with “fear-of-falling gait” appears in today’s Baltimore Sun (Nov. 18).
USA Today (Nov. 15) turned to Paul Coleman to discuss the importance of keeping the brain active as we age.
Michael McCabe’s work on the damaging effects of lead was covered by UPI (Nov. 15).
Work by Bill Bowen and Ruth Lawrence on breast milk and cavities was covered by UPI (Nov. 12).
In a story distributed across the country, Gannett News Service (Nov. 3) quoted Mary Gail Mercurio and Ruth Lawrence about female health myths.
Stephen Cook discusses the problem of childhood obesity in a piece that aired on TV stations (Nov. 3) nationwide.
A UPI (Nov. 2) story on environmental dangers to children featured work by Shanna Swan, Phil Davidson, and Dante Pappano.
Richard Fisher discussed recent successes against lymphoma with Reuters and other news outlets (Nov. 2).
ShuYuan Yeh’s work on vitamin E and prostate cancer was covered by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, ABCNews.com (Nov. 1), and several other outlets.
The Medical Center Vaccine Unit’s leading role in the fight against bird flu was highlighted by USA Today (Oct. 31).
Caroline B. Hall, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, received the Robert M. Chanock Award for Lifetime Achievement in RSV Research in September at the International Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Symposium in Oxford, England. Hall, who has done most of her RSV and other infectious disease research at the Medical Center, has been working with RSV her entire career, having started her research during medical school at Yale University.
J. Richard Ciccone, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the Medical Center, was awarded the Golden American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law award, presented annually to senior members for significant contributions to forensic psychiatry. Ciccone has been a leading force in shaping the national standards for the forensic psychiatry profession, including the education of medical students, residents and fellows.
Deborah G. Spratt, R.N., clinical specialist at the Medical Center, was appointed by New York State Department of Health Commissioner Antonia Novello, M.D., to serve on the Committee on Quality Assurance in Office-Based Surgery. This committee will examine quality issues as they pertain to surgeries performed in office-based settings.
Fred Sherman, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, and David R. Williams, Ph.D., the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics, have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest federation of scientists. Sherman was recognized as an early contributor to the recombinant DNA technology in solving biological problems, as well as for his work in developing yeasts for molecular studies. Williams was honored for creating new methods to overcome optical defects in the human eye, giving patients an unprecedented quality of eyesight, as well as other research that may lead to better diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.