University of Delaware
Director, Employee Health and Wellbeing
Director Employee Health and Wellbeing, UD
Very early on I knew I wanted to pursue a career where every day I could leave the world better than I found it. I initially started in the field of public health at 13 by working in a hospital pushing wheel chairs to and from units. When entering the field of public health I knew the opportunities to better the lives of others were endless, but you have to work together.
The most valuable credential that I have is my certified health education specialist certificate which has allowed me to program and motivate individual in the context of health and the thriving workplace culture consultant work which has taught me the importance of engagement and solutions to keep organizations thriving..
I walk the talk but meeting people where they are and actually MEETING people and learning what drives them individually. I make it a point to have at least 1 new authentic conversation a day with the people I serve.
I also make sure that I am living the mission by moving as much as I can, eating healthy and putting focus on self-care. If I am not spending time taking care of myself, how can I take care of my family or the people I love who I work with every day? I make sure that my family is aware of how important holistic health is. Each night we have dinner at the table together and have REAL conversation.
The resources that landed me the position I am now was an excellent manager who afforded me opportunities in all aspects of health promotion. She mentored me through her work and still continues to be my mentor to this day. Early in my carrer I had a role where I worked with a variety of different populations as well as settings. This diversified in socio economic status, work industries, ethnicities and more. Again, it has allowed me to focus my lens on the humanizing the health needs of many populations and not necessarily trying to “fix them” for everyone but help these groups resource and advocate on their own behalf
The advice I would give is to never say no to an opportunity, even as tedious as it may seem. Coming from a place of yes has brought me so much value in the work that I do and hasn’t disappointed me yet. The other piece would be to approach every health concern, program, problem from a place of authenticity. When you can connect authentically communication flows and solutions are endless. Always spend time in your day being grateful for what the world has given. As my mom has always said, if everyone in their world threw their problems in one big pile, likely you would want yours back.
Over the last 3 years here at the University of Delaware I have restructured my department though grass root efforts to hold a significant place in the value factor of our employees here at UD. I successfully, although sometimes painfully, made it my job to connect with all thought leaders across campus to help them realize the role we play in creating culture shift.
This past year in particular has me glowing with pride. We have not only grown the number of events and programs that we offer in a significant way, but we now are starting to see the fruits of our labor through individuals advocating on behalf of their health needs, our wellbeing ambassador network rapidly growing, partnering with units all across campus to collaborate and leverage this great work and holistically touching the lives of our retirees, employees and their families every day.
Many of the programs that used to be our “headlining event” for the year have now become part of our standard platform. Scalability for programs coming back year over year has been a major success of ours this past year and it has helped us grow our network and build trust with our employees. Our employees now have the opportunity to participate in multiple fitness challenges throughout the year, close to 40 fitness classes per week all over campus, social and emotional health workshops, opportunities to get involved all across campus, fun programs with student groups and much more! We thank these programs keeping us engaged year over year and building a presence of health here on campus.
Innovatively, we have also made an intention shift towards organizational effectiveness and how employee health and wellbeing plays such a significant role in this space. Imagine an organization where every employee feels valued, fueled to do a job that they find purpose in and one where they look forward to coming to every day! By continuing to assess our current culture and help to fill the gaps between where we are and where we want to be, our unit will play our part (and get other units motivated) to create a place where employees can thrive.
Culture: Pulled together all health focused groups together to create the “UD Wellbeing Collaborative” where we strategically tackle health issues around campus to service both students and employees. This collaborative is now part of our culture and the work that we do to show a united front where we make sure health is embedded in all that we do to promote and support the UD community
Campus Events include
Cost Savings: Over the last 3 years, Chronic Disease Management (DM) Programs have been facilitated through DHSS and in partnership with STAR NMPCC, CHS and various health partners throughout the state. It is estimated that by facilitating this type of prevention, we are saving $136 per member per month (PMPM), which is highly driven by a 30% hospital reduction when these individuals successfully complete the DM programs. A case can be made that a cost savings of $2,914,752 was seen based on the research and by providing this level of service to Delaware residents. Completed Participants went to 4/6 classes. The classes were majority focused on diabetes management but did also include cancer thriving and chronic pain.
Another example of innovation, 3 years back was to expand our employee appreciation platform. This platform teaches employees how to lead in a cohesive way and one where employees find value and purpose in their work. We work very closely with manager to develop climate tactics in their team so communication is clear, the environments are safe and trusting and each employee understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture.
An example of value was setting up “UD GIVES BACK” day where employees could come out and make a small boutique of flower. They could either give them to a coworker they value or keep for themselves as an act of self-care.
My vision for the health promotion and wellness industry is more connection and holistic conversation. It’s crucially vital to ensure that making a healthy lifestyle is the easiest choice and to truly ensure health promotion is an integral part of all aspects of life, community, financials, families, policies, workplaces, and policy. In regards to worksite health promotion, leaders need to strategically keep this as their focus.
An additional focus for the industry will be an emphasis where employees (men and women) are supported to return to the workforce appropriately and with adequate recovery time, so that they can contribute purposely to their work (whatever the content may be) and also be thriving parents at home.
A lot of the focus and biggest threats has always been trying to convince employees to take action in their health in a variety of unproven methods that only have caused more confusion and distrust. We cannot force wellness onto people. There have been a lot of wasted resources trying to deliver health to employees that ultimately has not moved the needle in behavior change. A lot of money is tied up in resources that do not create lasting behavior change.
Lastly, mentoring creates future leaders in our field and so it is my mission to provide students the experience they will need to do this work once they graduate. We provide over 4000 hours of practicum experience to undergraduate and graduate students a year so they are proficient in current trends, programming and get a real idea of what it’s like to work in public health.
Lastly, I will continue to have the difficult conversations with upper level leaders and c-suite decision makers so that a level playing ground is created and so that employees and organizations can thrive.