Sarah’s personal journey into the wellness world started when she was an undergraduate student at D’Youville in Buffalo, NY. She studied to attain her combined bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Dietetics and decided that she wanted to continue on to become a Registered Dietitian. Her initial vision was to work in a clinical setting, but as she neared the finish line of her rotations, she was attracted to the wellness setting due to the variety of ways she could utilize her expertise and make an impact to a broad group of people. Being a Wellness Coordinator for over three years at Walsh Duffield, an insurance agency for 100+ employees, has provided Sarah with this exact opportunity. Along the way, Sarah has continued to find ways to continue her education through WELCOA certifications, including attaining Faculty status, and becoming an ACE Certified Health Coach. Sarah is also working on her ACE Behavior Change Specialist certification.
Her degree in Dietetics provided Sarah with the specific tools to help individuals in a corporate setting to manage their weight, attain nutrition goals and understand that small successes go a long way. She leads by example for those within our organization as well as for her clients outside of the Walsh Duffield walls. You’ll see Sarah utilizing our onsite CSA program, trying new recipes and taking full advantage of our onsite yoga classes at lunch. She advises her clients to “stay active” at work. You’ll see her using her fitness device to remind her to stand every hour. At Walsh, we all have stand-up workstations that are highly effective. There’s no excuse to remain sedentary all day! Mainly in the afternoon, you’ll find Sarah working away on her feet. She hosts multiple meetings in our unique Walking Meeting Room. She tells our coworkers that you can easily walk a few miles during a brainstorming session on the treadmill!
Sarah has the opportunity to manage a book of business with a variety of our clients. She works closely with our clients’ HR staff to understand what risks their organization might have on an aggregate level. We implement wellbeing programs and initiatives that help to shift the group into a healthier risk stratification. Sarah’s experience working at multiple hospitals during her Clinical Rotation as part of her dietetics program has armed her with useful tools to understand the complexity of some of the medical claims that can directly affect the organization’s health insurance premiums. This type of expertise has allowed Sarah to thrive in her role and take the lead with these groups.
There is no “one-size-fits all” wellness track. Sarah tells people that you really need to be passionate about the field as you are serving as a role model for those around you – at home, at the grocery store, at work … You wear your wellness hat all the time. This is exciting as it allows you to connect with and help people in a variety of ways, in a variety of settings.
Sarah Ray - WD Wellness Coordinator
Sarah has a passion for promoting health through leading various programs and initiatives. Sarah leads weight loss programs at her organization that resulted in a combined 73% weight loss among all participants. She also creates recipes and healthy tips along with weekly motivational emails. This program was targeted to address BMI, which is one of the organization’s top health risks.
When working with client’s organizations, the goal is to embed health and wellness into the organization’s culture. Since leadership support is key to the success of a wellness program, Sarah encourages her client’s organizations to track participation in wellness activities and review any aggregate data with management. Sarah also encourages her client’s organizations to implement policies including smoke-free campus policies and healthy meeting policies. These policies help to improve the culture of the organization by supporting a healthier lifestyle at work.
Sarah works to find innovative solutions to provide clients with resources in the community. She has connected client organizations to a grant-funded group through the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (Healthy Workplace Initiative). Through their connection to this group, one client organization was able to attain a vertical tower garden for their workplace and can grow vegetables and herbs inside year-round. They also use the tower garden to supplement their onsite cafeteria which helps offset the additional cost of using fresh vegetables.
Sarah also helps to connect organizations to CSA programs within the community. She also coordinates the CSA program for her own worksite. Employees purchase produce through the designated website and it is delivered directly to the worksite each week. Improving the access to this fresh, local produce helps support local farmers and encourages employees to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. This is always a benefit we promote during new hire onboarding because it sets us apart.
Sarah has also seen an increased interest in mental health and stress management and looks for ways to promote this within the workplace. She helps connect client’s organizations to resources within the community, such as the Mental Health Advocates of Western New York. Sarah has found that one of the best ways to introduce employees to the concept of mental health in the workplace is to use a “gratitude tree”. Employees write down things they are grateful for on a piece of paper, and place it on either a gratitude tree. They have seen the impact it has had on the morale of their employees and have leadership support to continue the initiative.
Sarah has helped develop an employee interest survey that she encourages each of her client’s organizations to send out. She feels it is essential to the wellness programming planning process. Each organization is unique, and wellness programming needs to be individualized based on demographics, work environment, culture, and employee interests. Sarah uses that data to create strategic interventions throughout the year. One of her client’s found that stress management was of interest to their employees, which is why the gratitude tree was developed to address that concern.
The biggest opportunities to the health promotion wellness industry is to continue to expand offerings in all areas of well-being. There’s a shift from solely offering programs geared toward physical health, to a more holistic approach to incorporate other areas of well-being, such as mental health and stress management. The biggest threat to the wellness industry is compliance with wellness programs that collect medical data, in exchange for incentives. Sarah will continue to monitor compliance regulations and educate her clients on the best course of action.
In the next 5 years, Sarah plans to work to engage client organizations on a more individual level. As a Registered Dietitian, Sarah is able to provide one-on-one nutrition consults to employees. She plans to develop a strategy to engage more clients in these individual consults. She also looks forward to continuing her education and staying current on best practices in the wellness industry!