Company: MemorialCare Health System
Job Title: Director, Organizational Health and Well-being
24 years in the wellness field
Organization size: 10,900 employees + 3150 physicians
MS, Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Summa Cum Laude
BS, Physical Activity and Health, Summa Cum Laude
• Certified WELCOA Faculty
• Certified Wellness Practitioner (National Wellness Institute)
• Certified Emotional Intelligence Facilitator
• National Academy of Sports Medicine, Personal Trainer
• Wellcoaches (ACSM affiliate) trained Wellness Coach
• Facilitative Leadership
• Certified LEAN Leader
• MemorialCare Health System, Fit Friendly Company 2011-2015, American Heart Association
• MemorialCare Health System, The Good Life In Balance, Innovation Award 2015 , American Heart Association
“Have you ever had an appointment with a doctor who obviously doesn’t practice what she preaches? Or met a grumpy nurse? My job is to do all that I can to make sure this is never your experience at MemorialCare.” This is often how I respond when someone asks what I do for a living. As the Director of Organizational Health and Well-being for the last 11 years at MemorialCare, I strongly believe that the employee experience drives the patient experience. Put another way, employees that are happy and thriving in multiple areas of well-being contribute to the overall health and vitality of the organization. I lead a team of five amazing wellness professionals that implement programming at our various sites, and over the years, we’ve moved from a wellness program primarily focused on physical health to a program that intentionally focuses on all components that impact health, including financial well-being, social well-being, community well-being, purpose/career well-being in addition to physical well-being. We recognize that it’s important to honor every employee’s autonomy and personal wellness journey, come alongside them when they need support, and offer resources that make it easy to prioritize well-being at work. It might seem strange to include happiness in our key objectives, but the evidence-based practices to increase happiness and positivity align with habits that also drive health and well-being.
Melanie Cumbee, Director of Organizational Health and Well-being
Professional Development and Leadership
My journey in health and wellness started when I began teaching fitness classes for a community center. Seeing people of all different ages and backgrounds come together to improve their health was inspiring, but I also saw impact in areas that surprised me. Families got healthier together and relationships improved. Mindsets shifted from “I can’t” to “I do!” I began to work in corporate wellness, teaching fitness classes and lunch and learns and quickly realized that there was an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the environment where we spend one-third of our lives. I was also drawn to the potential ripple effect—that working with groups of employees could influence their families, and ultimately, our communities. It became obvious that worksite wellness was the place for me! When I started at MemorialCare in 2008 to launch our wellness program called The Good Life, I utilized every WELCOA resource and listened to every WELCOA webinar that kicked off with Dr. David Hunnicutt. I absorbed the expertise of the guests, and it became the foundation for all my other training. Next, I completed my masters in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, graduating summa cum laude, then followed my advanced degree with a Certified Wellness Practitioner designation from the National Wellness Institute and went through Wellcoaches training. The combination of program specific education and training in coaching has been invaluable. It’s helped me to have an evidence-based perspective in both program design and behavior change. Getting training outside of the wellness field has also been tremendously helpful in my leadership development and in my ability to grow and evolve our program. I think this is essential for anyone who desires to become a leader in worksite health promotion because the field is rapidly changing to integrate and overlap with organizational development and other HR initiatives such as engagement, recruitment, and retention. Occupying this space makes much more sense than the medicalized model of worksite wellness. My certifications in Emotional Intelligence, Facilitative Leadership, Resilience, and LEAN have been essential in helping me to bridge the gap from organizational development to well-being. I serve on MemorialCare’s Leadership Academy Faculty, which is an intensive year long program for leadership development. In the Academy, I teach emerging leaders about the business case for well-being and the integral role they play as leaders to create a culture that not only gives permission, but encourages prioritizing it.
Loving and leading The Good Life is a priority for me, whether it’s guiding a company hike to the Hollywood sign, attending Zumba classes, having a moving meeting, cooking healthy “comfort” food for my family on the weekends, or walking my dog to make sure we both get 10,000 steps. I stay motivated by my personal passion and desire to keep up with my coworkers and family!
Success Stories and Innovation
Since The Good Life program started 10 years, it’s made an incredible impact in multiple areas. Shortly after we launched the program in 2008, MemorialCare was recognized as a Great Workplace by the Gallup organization four years in a row. In our most recent survey, 77% of employees report feeling proud of our company culture and 75% report that The Good Life makes MemorialCare a great place to work. We’re extremely fortunate to have senior leadership that not only supports The Good Life but leads by example. In fact, The Good Life was conceived as an employee engagement strategy in the 2006 Leadership Academy. Our CEO and COO demonstrate their ongoing commitment by supporting the investment of onsite staff, meaningful incentives, and company events that focus on well-being related topics such as happiness. Our data reflects the impact on behavior change as well. 93% of employees report developing positive daily habits over the last year, and we’ve seen encouraging trends in employees who averaged less than 5000 steps last year increase their average to approximately 7000 steps this year. In 2015, we received the Innovation Award from the American Heart Association for our onsite coaching program called The Good Life In Balance. This onsite coaching program is for employees with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or weight management concerns and provides a certified wellness coach, dietitian, and clinical support if needed by a pharmacist and physician. We’ve seen clinically significant reductions in A1c (.07), 92% medication compliance for diabetes participants, and approximately two-thirds of employees lost at least 3% body weight. And although we can’t completely take credit for the 1.6% reduction in healthcare spending over the last five years, we’re confident that The Good Life is a contributing factor.
Maintaining and maturing a well-being program in a health system has some unique challenges, including the variability of work due to patient loads and employee shifts. One of the greatest lessons we’ve learned is that we can’t wait for employees to come to us—we have to take wellness TO the employees. We’ve created several unique solutions to address these challenges. First, The Good Life team regularly does wellness break “rounding” where we stop into a department and offer a stretch, deep breathing, or a laughter break based on the department need. Last year we did over 2100 wellness breaks! Second, because lunch and learns were rarely attended by clinical staff, I developed an initiative called “Well-being on Demand” that provides a menu of topics that a manager can request for a team meeting or huddle. These 5-10 minute micro-lessons include education on topics such as positivity, resilience, and developing healthy habits. Third, to help nurses stay hydrated, we do “spa water” rounding to provide fruit-infused water for staff, and to express appreciation for the excellent patient care they are providing. Finally, in 2017 we launched an app (with partner Virgin Pulse) to encourage employees to prioritize their well-being, create a wellness vision, and embrace self-leadership in the wellness areas most important to them. Having this technology has helped to unite a 24/7 workforce in multiple locations. We’ve had over 7200 employees download the app and 68% use it monthly. It’s also important to approach well-being from other creative angles, using the “health by stealth” approach. We developed a program called Summer Camp, where employees can experience something new, such as a drum circle, knitting, painting, or tai chi, and perhaps develop an interest in a new, stress relieving hobby. We also create challenges around habits or themes that enhance well-being, such as a gratitude challenge or our Grow Your Happy challenge. It’s a powerful reminder that there are many different ways to enhance our health, and we can have fun doing it!
Vision for the Future of Health Promotion
Although there is a lingering focus on biometric screenings and physical health only, I believe we’re turning a corner in the health promotion industry that will take us back to our roots where employee satisfaction and engagement are the primary drivers for a well-being program. We’re also becoming part of the culture conversation rather than the cost containment conversation, and that’s important. I think we’ll continue to expand the breadth of wellness programs to include career well-being, helping employees utilize their strengths and maximize their personal and professional potential. And finally, as the daughter of two psychologists, I’m most excited about the opportunity to leverage the science of positive psychology and optimism, especially in healthcare. The best is yet to come as I continue to support our physicians, nurses, and staff to maintain joy in their work, build resilience, and flourish in their personal well-being.