I have held my current position as the Wellness Manager at Sartori Cheese for the past three years. Sartori is a cheese manufacturer in Wisconsin - of course! The company has been growing significantly, now employing more than 525 people. I was in my professional career for a few short months before I started working with Sartori, on an as needed basis, to advise their team members on nutrition in a one-on-one format. They created a Wellness Manager position about one year after I finished my education. I received my Bachelors in Human Biology with an emphasis in Nutrition and Exercise Science in December of 2013. After that, I was accepted into the grueling dietetic internship, consisting of 1,100 hours of practical experience in the field to sit for my boards to become a Registered Dietitian in 2015. Other certifications I’ve received include an Adult Weight Management course, various WELCOA course certifications, NASM Personal Trainer, and most recently a POUND instructor. I will begin my Master’s program for Organizational Leadership in May through Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. I have always been self-motivated. I received UW-Green Bay’s Leadership Award and the “Superwoman” award from the dietetic internship group. Additionally, our organization received Gold status for the Well Workplace Award and I received the Light of Wellness Leadership Award through the Wellness Council of Wisconsin (WCWI) in Madison this past year. We’ve been very successful in our wellness efforts as a company over the past few years. We had two of our own team members receive honorable mention for the Rising Light Award through the WCWI in both 2018 and 2017, and three years ago we placed first in our bracket for National Employee Health and Fitness Day in Sheboygan County.
I decided to go into the Human Biology field because the body is truly compelling to me. The skillset I have learned in the field and throughout my studies will be useful tools to have, even as research constantly evolves. It is both challenging and rewarding to understand the bodily functions and be able to educate others. Becoming a registered dietitian has been the most valuable aspect of my career so far. The practical experience required to become a Registered Dietitian is priceless. Through practical experience I was able to identify various avenues I found best suited me. It also gave me a competitive-edge to be considered for a position as a wellness manager.
Last year I had the unfortunate experience of four major blood clots, two in my arm and two in my lungs. Exactly one year from my admittance to the hospital I stepped onstage to compete in my second figure competition. I had surgery in July, which put my training on the backend, but my nutrition played a key role. I was able to drop 7.7% body fat in a matter of four months for the stage. Now I am training for a Ragnar Relay with a team from work to complete roughly 200 miles over the course of two days from Chicago to Madison. I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, but I do these types of events to push myself that one step further and prove that you don’t need to set limits for yourself. These experiences make me a more relatable person and have helped me gain credibility. To become a leader in the wellness field, or elsewhere, you have to do what is right, not what is popular. Just because it is difficult does not give you or anyone else a reason to back down. If you are doing what you love and can share your passion, the culture will change with time.
On a national level, premiums are on the rise. Our premiums are rising overall as a company, but at a much lower rate than the national average. We are seeing less needs for prescription drugs due to weight loss and team members making smarter health decisions. We have seen the behavior change in those team members working one-on-one with me. For some, significant weight loss has been achieved, while others have been able to control their labs without further follow up or through increasing prescription medication. One person in particular has meet with me for headaches – which were frequent for her and often affected her work/life balance. Since meeting and making nutritional changes she has overcome her headaches and has been more energetic and productive. Health promotion used to be more heavily driven by leadership and HR, but the culture has seen significant changes in that sense. Team members are now driving the conversations. It is clear that our team is engaged in our wellness efforts either by asking for further vending machine changes, suggesting new wellness events, or challenging others on our internal wellness app.
For the last two years we have changed the way we score health risk assessments (HRAs). We have decided that all team members who’ve tested positive for cotinine would pay the highest premiums. It wasn’t the most popular choice at first, but with a few years of communicating this change we have seen at least seven people quit smoking. This is a huge win for the company, team member, and the environment. For those who do test and know they will test positive for cotinine, we often see that they have plans of quitting or have significantly cut back their amount of cotinine use. Most of the behavior changes stem from team members seeing their lab values at the health risk assessments and they want to improve their scores. I created a workbook that covers each lab that was tested to educate them on the whole picture of their health, not just the single lab values that may be off. This is a six-month educational program with an exercise component, where they complete weekly check-ins and assignments. This holds them accountable for six months of the year. Once completed, they can choose to retest their labs if they choose or wait for next year to test and solely receive an incentive for completing the program. Majority of those who go through the workbook score improve their HRA scores for the following year and do not need to participate in the program again. Since working for Sartori I have been implementing stages of vending machine changes. We went from soda, energy drinks, and high-calorie dense fruit pies to low-sugar, lower-calorie options and subsidized the healthier options. Within the next month we will no longer be offering any soda options and we will have high protein selections for further sustainability. We’ve measured outcomes by HRA scores, questionnaires, surveys and crosswords in nutritional literacy, and through verbal follow-up. The vending selections have improved and that is measured through sugar, saturated fat and overall caloric content.
I’d like to see health promotion in the wellness industry place a larger emphasis in environmental well-being. What’s good for the environment is good for those living in it. Environmental emphasis can set the stage to instill mindfulness and decrease waste. The importance in contributing to the environment will inherently increase awareness in health choices. The challenge we face is that many companies don’t see the value in eco-friendly options because of costs and little return on investment. I envision our company implementing composting as our starting place over the next few years. We provide fruit to team members twice a week and free coffee; all those scraps could be put to good use. If we start by educating the masses, hopefully that can trickle down to their homes and they can start their own composting and use that compost to grow their own nutritious foods locally.