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Changing The Way We Think About Wellness

 By Ensign Carrie Dillon, U.S. Navy, SOM Class of 2019

Ford Lannon is an Army medical student in the Uniformed Services University F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine class of 2019. He is a former green beret and a father of three. When asked what he does to maintain balance in his life and stay well, he hesitated. “I feel guilty, actually,” he said. “I guess I could be doing more, like yoga and meditation.”

students do sit-ups in PT

Lannon was a bit surprised to learn that wellness is so much more than these activities, and he is not alone. Wellness, for many in the military community, brings to mind these same words -- yoga, meditation, healthy eating -- and while Lannon is very open to these avenues, there are many service members who cringe at them. There is a myth that wellness is something that makes a person “softer” in some way or takes away the fighting spirit that military members have come to respect. Like Lannon, service members typically don’t realize how all-encompassing wellness is as a part of their daily lives and how many ways there are to address their health and well-being.

Wellness has evolved over the last half century to become a holistic and multi-dimensional approach to self-optimization. It is essential for a well-balanced and prosperous life and is traditionally defined through six dimensions: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and social. While each individual might embrace different dimensions, a holistic approach that incorporates all of these dimensions is key. Lannon was excited to know that many of the aspects of his life already incorporate wellness such as taking time to focus on playing with his children, using the pull-up bar in his home in between study breaks, going on a date with his wife or activities with friends. “One of the things that is so great about USU is that we are a very social community,” Lannon noted.

a student studies in a study nook

Many individuals don’t realize that certain aspects of their lives can contribute to their wellness. Lannon agrees that having resources available at school is beneficial. “Even if you have a full schedule, there are still things you can fit in your life for wellness without even realizing it.”

Instead of softening service members, incorporating wellness into your routine builds resiliency and ensures a better fighting force. This sense of well-being extends to the members of the medical community as well. Wellness is essential to be prepared as a medical provider in any environment, which might someday end up being the battlefield or a setting with limited support or resources.

Working toward being well is similar to strength training. It takes time and dedication to see the big pay-off. In short, wellness and health make you stronger, allowing you to thrive amidst life’s challenges. Not only is this important for your success in life and career, but for the success of the patients you care for. In addition, helping others is another way to help yourself and promote your well-being through the social dimension. While these tenets are important to you as an individual, teaching patients about them is also important and makes a healthier community as a whole.

students pet a therapy dog

The Student Wellness Advisory Board (SWAB) is a relatively new development at Uniformed Services University. The SWAB has been working together with many of the programs in the university to create new wellness initiatives and expand existing ones. One of the latest projects the SWAB is developing in collaboration with the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) is a Health and Wellness Fair on the USU campus. “Be the Best You at USU” is happening March 13 from 1130-1330 in Bldg. B, in the Hall of Flags, Sanford Auditorium, and small dining room. There will be many activities and booths to explore and learn more about the different dimensions of wellness and how to address them in your life especially as a student at school and away on rotation. This fair is open to all interested individuals who work on the Naval Support Activity Bethesda base. For more information go to