Lightbulbs and Wellness Centers

light-bulb-momentToday I had an “ah-ha” moment. I was the equivalent of a cartoon character with a lightbulb over my head. And let me tell you, I’ve been waiting for this moment since the beginning of my studies at the School of Public Health.

Let me back up. Today, we visited the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center. The Wellness Center works in conjunction with the Tallahatchie General Hospital (TGH) to make the city of Charleston, Mississippi healthier. They have their work cut out for them – a few years ago a state assessment was released saying that Tallahatchie County (and therefore the city of Charleston) was ranked the 81st healthiest county in the state – and there are only 82 counties in the state. So, how do you help the second unhealthiest county in the state? You enlist a rock star named Dr. Catherine  Woodyard and an amazing philanthropist and media executive named James C. Kennedy.

THC.jpgDr. Woodyard took a community needs assessment from her doctoral studies, wrote a grant from the results, got grant funding amounting several million dollars, and then actually opened a facility that has forever changed a county. When a person thinks “wellness center,” they may think of a gym, locker rooms, perhaps a community meeting space, and not much else (perhaps that’s just my hometown!), but TGH offers so much more. At the Wellness Center of TGH, members (and in some cases non-members) can access physical and occupational therapy, cooking classes, classes on managing finances, children’s activities, body positive classes for young women, group therapy for older adults, fresh gardens, a playground (the only non-school playground in the entire county!), transportation assistance, and a clinic so the community doesn’t need to run to the emergency room for minor illnesses. Is anyone else impressed? I am. Even better – everything that Dr. Woodyard listed was backed in research, from the types of offerings, to the cost of membership. This woman effectively took my 2-year HBHE coursework and applied nearly every single aspect of it.

Back to the lightbulb moment. Even though I have graduated and am currently seeking a full-time job (hire me!), I still struggle to answer when my family and friends ask about what do I want to do in my career. If “Dr. Catherine Woodyard” was a job title, I would want that job. While that answer would probably be met with weird stares, it’s true. This woman is working in health promotion and wellness, is answering a direct need of this disenfranchised community, and is so comprehensive that I’m pretty sure I was drooling during the tour today. She seems to have thought of everything, and the community is responding by showing up, getting healthy, and coming together. The lightbulb moment is the realization that I want to do this, be this, enact this change. We need more people like Dr. Catherine Woodyard, and I want to be like her in my future career. Finally, I believe that I can answer the question about what I’d like to do in my career – and it feels GREAT!

For a news story about the beginnings of the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center, click here

Hotty Totty, y’all!!

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