April 22, 2019

Makeba Harris, center, a billing specialist and wellness champion, walks coworkers through a tunnel at the Clinton Billing Office.
Makeba Harris, center, a billing specialist and wellness champion, walks coworkers through a tunnel at the Clinton Billing Office.
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Well-being focus nets UMMC Healthiest Workplaces kudos

Published on Monday, August 12, 2019

By: Ruth Cummins, ricummins@umc.edu

If Makeba Harris catches someone at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Clinton Billing Office eating a healthy salad or taking advantage of their building’s walking trail, she might surprise them with a happy.

She encourages them to meditate, perhaps pausing long enough to savor the smell of lavender. She points them toward wellness events, including a farmer’s market and Weight Watchers classes.

“I stay connected with my coworkers. We talk about different ways to stay healthy,” said Harris, a billing specialist and one of the UMMC Office of Well-being’s Wellness Champions.

Harris and the other champions appointed by the Office of Well-being play a vital role in transforming the Medical Center into a healthy place to work. It’s just one of the reasons UMMC is the first-place winner in the 2019 Healthiest Workplaces in Mississippi competition sponsored by the Mississippi Business Journal.

WalkingDay-NPHW-10.jpg
Tanja Bisesi assistant professor of radiology, and Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, chat during a heart-healthy campus walk.

“We are the leading health institution in the state and the only academic medical center,” said Dr. Josh Mann, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and director of the Office of Well-being. “If we are going to lead on health for the state, we also need to lead when it comes to the health of our own community.

“This award recognizes the work we are doing as an institution, and the coherent identity we have that is all about health.”

Also sponsored by the Mississippi Business Group on Health and the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Healthiest Workplaces Awards go to the employers that show that they have the best worksite wellness program in the state. In 2017 and 2018, UMMC received third-place honors in the health systems category.

A multi-stakeholder committee selected winners based on evaluation, planning, implementation and innovation in health industry best practices.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of this program,” said Tami Jones, Mississippi Business Journal associate publisher. “We all know that our state leads the nation in a number of negative health indicators, and it is really encouraging to recognize great companies who are working hard to change that.”

Ivory Stuckey, an administrative assistant and UMMC Wellness Champion, shops for kale at a November 2018 Farmer’s Market at the Clinton Billing Office.
Ivory Stuckey, an administrative assistant and UMMC Wellness Champion, shops for kale at a November 2018 Farmer’s Market at the Clinton Billing Office.

The Office of Well-being is a hub for a range of wellness activities. “In previous years, the focus was only on the Everyday Wellness program,” Mann said. “Over the past year, we have been able to add other initiatives. We started employee burnout prevention work, including measuring symptoms across the campus using the Well Being index.

“We’re looking at ways to make the workplace less stressful and more fulfilling,” Mann said. “We’re blessed to have many partners on the UMMC Well-being Committee and across the Medical Center who are enthusiastic about working together to accomplish this.”

Dr. Abigail Gamble, left, assistant professor of preventive medicine, weighs in Pam Greenwood. a Human Resources service partner, during a diabetes prevention class.
Dr. Abigail Gamble, left, assistant professor of preventive medicine, weighs in Pam Greenwood. a Human Resources service partner, during a diabetes prevention class.

That includes two large initiatives implemented outside the Office of Well-being that significantly contributed to UMMC receiving the award: Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation, sponsored by the Office of Nursing Quality, Development and Professional Practice; and the Diversity and Inclusion Champion program, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Everyday Wellness strives constantly to educate employees on being proactive in their own health and wellness. Just a few examples: In June, the program sent all employees safety fact sheets on sun exposure, detailing how to avoid skin cancer by being aware of risks, including UV exposure. Employees also received information on being mindful as a way to curb stress and promote peace of mind.

In May, the office sent employees education on delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes and also launched the 10-Day Fruit and Veggie Challenge in conjunction with UMMC’s Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation initiative. The challenge to get in at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day for 10 days in a row increases awareness of the importance of healthy eating.

Ongoing programs include a number related to weight loss and diabetes prevention in addition to a range of campus presentations. One of the most popular is a series focusing on compassion for self and others led by Doris Whitaker, UMMC director of pastoral services, and chaplain Linda McComb.

Portrait of Brea Cole
Cole

“We’ve expanded employee wellness beyond these walls to include the Jackson Medical Mall and the Clinton Billing Office,” said Brea Cole, manager of the Everyday Wellness program in the Office of Well-being. “There’s a sense of momentum and buy-in across the institution. People ask all the time how they can participate, or give a presentation in their area of expertise.”’

Cole and Harris are silver winners in the Workplace Wellness Warrior program sponsored by Active Health, a private management company that helps organizations including UMMC achieve their wellness goals.

As part of her wellness champion role, Harris encourages her coworkers to exercise and eat a healthy diet. “We talk about different ways to stay healthy and different wellness events hosted by UMMC,” she said. “I promote them through emails and conversations, and we have huddles in the morning to talk about wellness and Active Health events coming up.”

Her office hosted a farmer’s market and wellness fair this spring, and this fall will host a second event. There’s a weekly weigh-in, and Harris said employees enjoy meditation sessions to promote mindfulness.

“It gives us ways to stay connected,” she said.

On the horizon this academic year is the fall launch of RISE, or Resilience in Stressful Events. First developed at Johns Hopkins University, RISE focuses on peer support for health care workers who are “second victims,” or those who struggle with emotional issues that stem from bad patient outcomes.

Another is a program for workplace violence prevention to keep employees and students safe. “This is being recognized as an important issue nationwide for hospital employees and other health care workers,” Mann said. “We have a diverse group of people across the Medical Center who are working to develop recommendations for the main campus and off-site locations.”

The focus on employee well-being is paying dividends in many ways, Mann said.

“Most of us spend more waking hours at work than any place else,” he said. “We believe healthy employees will be happier, more engaged and more effective.”