Every quarter, Capella Healthcare salutes a “Health Hero” from its Workforce. Do you work with someone whose personal commitment to their own health is an inspiration to others? Nominate them for our Health Heroes feature. Just email us at Connections@CapellaHealthcare.com
Dr. Erik Swensson sets the example by losing 20 pounds
As a practicing surgeon for 30+ years, Dr. Erik Swensson was on his feet most of the day. Then he underwent major back surgery and took a position requiring travel and office work as Chief Medical Officer for Capella Healthcare. Not surprisingly, he gained 20 pounds.
But over the past few months, he’s set an example that many should follow. He changed his eating and exercise habits and lost the extra weight. And, he feels great.
“It’s all about balance,” Dr. Swensson says. “I’ve been cutting back my portion sizes and high caloric foods. I don’t feel deprived. I still have ice cream and cookies, but I’m much more aware now of how much I’m eating overall. I aim to not go above 2,000 calories a day.”
“Regarding exercise, I knew that it simply was not realistic for me to join a gym because I travel too much. But setting a routine to ride a stationary bicycle was realistic. I ride a half hour four times every week, and can do this consistently, even on the road, since most hotels have work-out areas now.”
And, since January is the time most people set resolutions to get in better shape, does Dr. Swensson have tips for others?
“Be realistic. People who try to change too much, too fast need to realize that this isn’t the best way to be successful. A realistic weight loss plan will result in the loss of 1-2 pounds a week. I lost my 20 pounds over a six month period. It’s about a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.”
Demonstrating the importance of family support for his challenge, Dr. Swensson’s wife, Dr. Edythe Schlossstein, who is an internist, changed her cooking style.
Editor’s Note: In 2012, Muskogee Regional Medical Center opened a fitness center to help employees and volunteers live a healthier lifestyle. Here are two perspectives from this quarter’s Health Heroes.
Muskogee Regional’s Employee Gym Makes a big impact on staff and volunteers
Sonja Lyons, Admissions
“The employee gym has truly been a blessing in my life! I have been going faithfully five to six days a week since the gym opened on January 1. It is so convenient being able to come in and work out before going to work. Usually, I have the gym all to myself since I start work at 5:15 a.m. That puts me in the gym around 3:30 a.m. So, needless to say, I am very proud of my dedication which is paying off nicely.
“Other than losing weight, I am striving to make daily exercising a lifestyle. I’ve been fluctuating in size for several years so once I reach my goal there are plenty of clothes in my closet that I will be able to fit in again. Because of the gym being on site it has been easier for me to lead a healthier life at work and outside of work. It has motivated me in more ways than one, and I am so excited to reach my goal and spend the rest of my life maintaining my new and improved look.”
Scott Butler, Volunteer
“Last year, I wasn’t feeling very well, so I went to the doctor. He did a glucose test and it came back at 300. He told me to lose about ninety pounds. That was about the time the gym opened. So I stopped eating sweets, cut out all junk food, and started working out three days a week. My weight was 307. I have now lost 27 pounds and I’m still working on it.
“Since I started working out and watching what I eat, my metabolism has jumped way up. I feel so much better. I can’t stand to sit around; I need to be doing something all day. With medication and the gym, my sugar stays where it needs to be. Thank you for asking about my story, I love to tell it.”
Scott’s story was so inspiring, it sparked a story in the local newspaper, the Muskogee Phoenix. Read more about Scott at this link: http://tiny.cc/4cophw
LeAnne McWhirt, Clinical Coordinator of Wound Management and Hyperbaric Medicine
Muskogee Regional Medical Center, Muskogee, OK
LeAnne McWhirt, RN, BSN, CWCA, CHT, Clinical Coordinator of the Muskogee Regional Center for Wound Management and Hyperbaric Medicine, began running last year to improve her overall health. It was also her goal to participate in the Walk the Talk Health Challenge presented by the City of Muskogee Foundation. Her running has evolved to the point of completing multiple 5K and 10K events, a 15K and a half marathon.
She also took part in the OKC Memorial Marathon on April 29, challenging all Muskogee Regional employees to participate with her in memory of those who lost their lives in the OKC bombing in April of 1995.
As a result of this healthy balance of exercise and healthy eating in six months, LeAnne dropped 6% of her body weight, lowered her total cholesterol by 21% and decreased her ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) by 33%.
“Our body and mind our interconnected,” she says. “When the body is maintained and exercised, our mind is as well and vice versa. I really credit exercise in assisting me in the balance of work, family and school. Running has also been an outlet to forge new friendships and to strengthen old ones.”
Family Practitioner Dr. Alan Drake
Capella’s National Physician Leadership Group
Family Practitioner Dr. Alan Drake, a member of Capella’s National Physician Leadership Group, nominated fellow family practitioner Dr. Ty Webb for our Fall 2011 Health Heroes feature, citing his personal commitment to wellness and his influence on others. Dr. Webb responded to a few of our questions and we thought we’d share his answers in their entirety.
How long have you been running and what got you started?
I started running track in high school as a means of seeking identity. Back then, I was a sprinter, so I thought running a mile was difficult, more than two miles torture and more than three miles was crazy. I didn’t get serious about running (or any exercise) for health until my mid-30’s. That was 10 years ago this Thanksgiving – I couldn’t even run ½ mile. I committed to running at least a little every day. Five months later my younger brother who NEVER ran, called me and told me he had done Nashville’s first Country Music Half Marathon. He challenged me to run it with him – I couldn’t say no, but I also couldn’t run more than 3 miles at that point. A year later, I completed my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) and we’ve done it every year together since then. Four years ago we even completed the full marathon, which is a whole new experience in insanity.
We have also enjoyed cycling since we were kids, so six years ago, we added two more annual events to our calendar: a triathlon each summer and the Multiple Sclerosis fundraising ‘Bike to Jack & Back’ each October.
Have you seen any health benefits from your activities?
While my cholesterol has improved, I don’t really care – I exercise because I FEEL better. Mentally, I’m sharper. The discipline of exercise also requires adequate sleep – so I am much more rested and energetic. I am able to play with my children more easily and I can do chores on the farm more easily. I don’t know if I have fewer aches and pains, but I do believe that I heal more quickly AND I know my asthma control is better when I consistently exercise – so I rarely skip more than 2 days. I also found that daily exercise in the winter is a very effective antidepressant.
Do you use your experiences to motivate your patients?
I draw from my experiences when advising my patients, but I don’t usually use myself as an example for them – I try to keep the focus on them, not on me. I lost 20 pounds by the first ½ marathon, but didn’t lose my next 10 pounds until 9 years later. This is a good example of how the long term benefits can be additive, just like compound interest when trying to save money for the future – you just keep putting in, but the results seem rather paltry, until 5 or 10 years later when you realize that your efforts are paying off. We live in an obese nation – my BMI is now 22 but my office staff accuses me of being ‘scrawny’. People don’t know what normal BMI looks like anymore and I try to prepare my patients for that when they are trying to lose weight. The bottom line, however, is that rarely will someone actually make a lasting lifestyle change because of a lab value, or what the scale says, or even based on disease (like diagnosis of diabetes). We are not motivated by the abstract or by risk; we change our lives because we FEEL better.
What’s your next goal or adventure?
I’m coaching my son’s High School Soccer team and having fun teaching the boys to run. My next race will be a local 5k – I’ll be racing my son who just decided this year to run cross country. My other goals for the next few years: complete a half-ironman triathlon, run a full marathon in under four hours, and somehow qualify for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. The Boston Marathon is like the World Cup, SuperBowl, and World Series rolled into one – it’s a little beyond my ability level – but who knows down the road…
What’s the funniest, scariest or most motivational thing that’s happened because of your commitment to wellness?
Life is quite humorous and inspirational so nearly every run or ride will have a moment that makes the difficult effort melt into a smile. My wife and I have taken two running cruises which have been amazing – what a cool way to see exotic locations. My mother-in-law long suspected I was some type of psycho exercise-nut, until she went on vacation to the west coast and saw ‘everybody’ exercising. I don’t get a hard time now. I am very proud of my office staff: we fielded TWO triathlon teams in a local event last summer (6 out of 22 employees), one quit smoking and two have walked 4-5 miles before work nearly EVERY weekday the past 2 years. I am most proud of my family: my wife has taken up walking and completed the ½ marathon twice, my oldest son ran the ½ marathon this year at age 16 (and beat me!), my daughter has taken up running and soccer, and my youngest son is just starting to run at age 13. These accomplishments are fun to list, but the real victory is in seeing them BELIEVE they can make changes in their lives.
Jan Kozak, ER Registrar
River Park Hospital, McMinnville, TN
Jan Kozak used to ride her bike to school every day. Now she rides it to work every day at River Park Hospital in McMinnville, TN, where she is an ER Registrar. She thinks it’s important for people working in health care to set a positive example for others, but says biking (and staying fit) is almost a selfish thing for her. “I never feel good unless I do something physical. It is really just such a part of my life that it’s normal. I tell people it comes to be like brushing your teeth in the morning, it’s just what you do.”
Learn more about Jan – including her worst wreck ever – by reading this Q&A.
Is it important for those of us who work in health to set an example for others?
We all need to be encouraging to others in healthy responsible choices for self and environmental preservation.
How long is your ride to work?
My ride is about seven miles from my park and ride spot. I use to try to ride from the house, that’s only about an extra mile but a couple of the houses I pass have dogs that can get a jump on me in the dark. There is much less drama that way.
Have you experienced any health impacts as a result?
I never feel good unless I do something physical. Really it can almost be a selfish thing.
What have your peers said about it?
Nobody really notices anymore unless I don’t ride, then they kind of ask what’s up.
When did you start biking and do you bike for fun (or outside of commuting), such as with family or a bikers group?
My father got me my first ten-speed on my 11th birthday. He bought it from a guy at work – a yellow Schwinn Varsity – and I was hardly ever seen again. We lived in Pontiac, Michigan. I would ride to other towns, anywhere I wanted. I even waited a year to get my driver’s license because I didn’t need it. I rode to school.
What else do you do to stay fit?
I swim laps all year and run some in the winter months I can’t ride.
What motivates you?
It is really just such a part of my life that it’s normal. I tell people it comes to be like brushing your teeth in the morning, it just what you do.
Have you had any close calls with cars?
Probably every day, but the worse was the semi that sucked me under. When I called the company to complain – he never stopped – she asked if I could identify the driver. I told her no but I could identify the tread on his trailer tires. She fell silent for a moment. But the biggest physical injury came when I hit a dog, I think, going about 35 mph. I don’t remember still. I was found unconscious in the road.
How far do you ride each week?
I ride as much as life will let me, on off days I try to ride about 50 miles.
Save much on gas?
Probably, but I drive a Toyota Yaris. That replaced a 1992 Geo Metro that didn’t quit for 350,000 miles.
Ryan Lee, Pharmacy Technician
National Park Medical Center, Hot Springs, AR
National Park Medical Center Pharmacy Technician Ryan Lee has qualified for a coveted spot in the world’s oldest marathon, the Boston Marathon. Having worked at NPMC for 13 years, Lee has not always been a runner — in fact he’s only been running seriously for six years – so fellow employees have gotten to witness his transformation as he’s lost 40 pounds.
“It’s a funny story,” he says. “I have a brother who told me one night that I should think about losing some weight. The next morning I got up and jogged a mile…I thought I was going to die! But it just went from there.”
Lee now runs an average of 50 miles a week. He ran the Little Rock
Marathon, his very first, in 2008. Since then he has run marathons in Dallas, Chicago, and Indianapolis, where he ran his qualifying time of 3:10:37. Since the 2011 Boston Marathon was already full, Ryan will be running on April 16, 2012.
Ryan’s running has motivated his wife, Jennifer – also an NPMC employee of 10+ years – who started running last year through the local “Women Can Run” workshop. He hopes that it’s something that they can all do as a family, as their 4-year-old daughter, Madison gets older.
Laura Herring, RN, Manager of Occ Med & Employee Health, Willamette Valley Medical Center
Fear of rapidly increasing immobility and pain were the two motivating factors in Laura Herring’s decision to significantly change her lifestyle. So she took action, refocused her priorities, and has since lost 70 pounds.
“I was facing at least one and perhaps two total knee replacements in the near future. I was no longer able to participate in many of the activities I had previously enjoyed – golf, aerobics, hiking – to name a few,” she explained. “By the end of each work day I had a significant amount of pain in my feet and knees.”
So Herring took a week off in April to refocus her life. As a result, she started exercising and eating healthier. She chose to enroll in a medically managed weight loss program, Willamette Weight Loss, supervised by one of WVMC’s physicians. The program uses protein-based meal replacements coupled with ‘lean and green’ meals.
“Between the replacement meals and the real meals I’m putting something in my mouth 5-6 times per day. Plus I started to do water aerobics 4 to 5 times per week,” she says.
Her goal: to lose 100 pounds. To date – in just eight months – she’s lost 70.
“The benefits are HUGE – no pun intended. I can MOVE again without pain!!! I take only the occasional ibuprofen now. My blood pressure is down. I have a much more restful sleep. I’m addicted to water aerobics. I can take a walk again with my husband. What a joy! I am more productive at work and I think more clearly. I am excited about travelling again. EVERYTHING is better and more fun!!
“Healthcare providers as a group aren’t the best at self-care. I finally understand that if I take care of myself first, then I will always have an abundance of energy to take care of others – in whatever form that takes. I am quite passionate about this whole wellness thing. If I can do it – anybody can do it!!”