Archived Story

Promote health, not healthcare

Published 9:35am Thursday, August 7, 2014

By Bre Kluck

Mayo Medical School and Mower Refreshed

Since beginning medical school last year, I have increasingly been pondering this question: How can we, as providers and community members, shift the focus of some of our energy into promoting health, rather than reacting with healthcare? To me, seeking ways to decrease our risk of attaining chronic illnesses, all while improving our mental health and relationships with others, seems like an obvious path to follow. However, this is often complicated by finances and varying levels of community engagement, among other factors. I decided to dedicate one of the weeks of my summer interim to learning about how various leaders are discovering solutions to their difficulties, all while finding creative ways to promote health and wellness in their communities.

To get the ball rolling, I reached out to one of my Mayo Medical School mentors, Dr. Dave Agerter, who through Dr. Mark Ciota, supported my interest and connected me with Sandy Anderson at Mower Refreshed. From the beginning, Sandy welcomed me and transparently shared the successes and challenges of the Mower Refreshed initiatives: Healthier Choices, Mental Fitness, Workforce Wellness, and Latinos Saludables. One of the greatest leadership “pearls” (what we call important pieces of advice in the medical world—we young medical students like to pick up on these) offered by Sandy was that at the end of each day, she asks herself, “Did I engage, equip, and/or empower today?” By having a daily check-in with these questions that originate from the Mower Refreshed motto, Sandy is able to stay on track, ensure that she is using her talents to the best of her ability, and promote the wellness of her community daily. This is just one example of effective leadership that I was able to witness during my week in Austin.

I also had the opportunity to meet with Pam Kellogg (Mower County Public Health), who reaches out to some of the more vulnerable residents of Mower County, and Karissa Studier (Mower County Statewide Health Improvement Program), who tirelessly works to improve health and decrease healthcare costs by addressing prevention and reducing behaviors that are linked to chronic disease. Diane Baker of the United Way of Mower County and I had a wonderful discussion about the organization’s goals of providing basic needs, supporting education, supporting the economic stability of individuals and families, and promoting healthy behaviors, wellness, and healthcare access within the county. I met with Laura Helle to chat about Vision 2020, a local initiative in the process of completing 10 projects by the year 2020 that will improve the livability, offer opportunities, and preserve and support the pride and spirit of Austin. I concluded my meetings with community leaders by meeting with Mr. Gary Ray, Chair of the Hormel Foundation. I enjoyed learning from his leadership experiences and was blown away by the generosity offered by the Hormel Foundation to many recipients throughout Austin — what a unique and extremely positive asset the Foundation is to the community.

Even as a Rochester native, I knew very little about Austin before this week, except the common association with Hormel Foods and that I had played soccer there in high school. Therefore, in addition to meeting with such a diverse and dedicated group of community leaders, I also decided to make the very most of my experience by exploring some of the hidden gems that Austin and Mower County have to offer. Outdoor yoga at Bandshell Park? Count me in. Sale at South Central Athlete? Oh yes. Visiting Twice Is Nice not only one, but two times? That seemed only fitting to the name. Making plans to return to Mower County to ride my bike on the Shooting Star State Trail? I can’t wait. By making the effort to fully integrate myself into the community — if only for three days — I was able to more fully understand the unique needs and assets of the Austin community that I had been hearing about from the leaders. Although it’s sometimes easier said than done, I would challenge all of us to set times that we are able to take a break from our routine and set out to explore the colorful communities of southeastern Minnesota from a refreshed perspective.

I now find myself entering my second year of medical school with a refreshed and motivated viewpoint, thanks to the people I met and seeds of ideas that were planted in my mind while in Austin. I’ve already integrated the Mower Refreshed “Take 5” initiative into my daily life — taking five deep breaths, letting go of five worries, and taking time to appreciate five blessings in my life have been a couple of my favorites so far. My next goal is to start integrating my own form of Wellness Wednesdays into my routine. My first idea is to put those healthy Pinterest and newspaper clipping recipes that are always lying around my house to use (Step 1: print the recipe, Step 2: find time in between studying to go to the grocery store, Step 3: make and enjoy the dish). All we need is a little motivation and support, and I would say all of us can all find that in Mower Refreshed.


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