USF Wellness Program - Focusing on Employee Health

USF Health Initiative for Faculty, Staff, Students & Community

In keeping with USF Health’s core values to improve life by looking at the full spectrum of health, the USF Wellness initiative is being launched for its employees.

Over the course of the next year, employees from the Colleges of Public Health, Nursing and Medicine, as well as the USF Physicians Group, will be presented with opportunities to participate in a variety of health-focused programs, courses and pilot projects.

The overall goal of these activities is broad in scope, but singular in focus: to improve the health and well being of USF employees, said Robert Pedowitz, MD, chair of the USF Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine and co-chair of the USF Wellness Executive Council.

“The aim is to take a proactive approach to prevention, starting with our own valued assets, our employees,” Dr. Pedowitz said. “Such a project is a natural extension of the USF Health vision: improving the health of our own USF Health community.”

The fully integrated effort – planned by representatives from all three USF Health colleges for employees throughout USF Health – has been in the making for several years. Sharing the wellness charge with Dr. Pedowitz is Donna Petersen, ScD, dean of the College of Public Health and also co-chair of the USF Wellness Executive Council.

Starting at home…
“If we want to truly realize our vision of a healthier community enjoying a better quality of life, we have to start at home,” Dr. Petersen said. “We have to make ourselves healthier, we have to invest in our collective well being, and we have to demonstrate that it makes a difference before we can bring the greater community along to this way of thinking.”

The real push for a wellness program came in the past six months following a USF Health Leadership Institute real-life case project that looked at the current wellness initiatives taking place at USF. What the project team found, Dr. Pedowitz said, was that there are several existing smaller programs scattered around USF Health and even overlapping in some areas, but no coordinated effort to bring a unified program together for everyone.

The USF Wellness Executive Council (listed below) took the Leadership Institute findings as a guide for developing, implementing and evaluating a full-encompassing wellness effort for employees.

Workplace wellness programs have long been associated with healthier employees, which translate into better productivity for employers. The USF Wellness Program is aiming for that outcome, as well, but is also taking a more philosophical look at the project.

“So much of what we do is a ‘reactive’ approach to health care: someone has a broken bone, we fix it,” Dr. Pedowitz said. “Well, now we’re pushing USF Health to take a more ‘proactive’ role, using a more preventive and healthier approach that could help employees avoid healthcare costs in the first place.”

Just to give a hint, Dr. Petersen said that this soon-to-be-launched wellness initiative is starting with a focus on physical activity but it won’t end there.

“We will be asking our colleagues to share with us what would help them make a difference in their ‘health lives,” Dr. Petersen said.

“Is it nutrition counseling and cooking classes? Is it stress management or stress reduction? Is it smoking cessation or addiction counseling? Or is it creating a work environment that encourages healthier habits? When it comes to improving our health, we are interested in any and all ideas to help us do that,” said Dr. Petersen.

USF Wellness to reach Tampa Bay community …
Although initially designed to focus internally on USF Health employees, Dr. Pedowitz said that future goals for the initiative is to go beyond USF Health by “reaching across campus and out into the community, and becoming a national model for taking a proactive role in healthcare.”

Coming Soon…
The USF Wellness Program will feature a variety of health-focused activities, including options that are interactive, team-based and independent.

Some activities make use of the USF Health grounds, with sign-up tables for kickoffs, and others tap into the internet, with web-based options for employees to track their progress as they work toward their goals. One program even features a chance to earn cash rewards for making a goal.

Although several ideas are in the works, employees are encouraged to submit their ideas for healthy options. For more information or ideas for this program, please contact Dee Jeffers, Wellness Program Director at

The first in the series is set to start in September. Be on the lookout for a USF Health Wellness resources web page for updates, options and opportunities for making YOUR life better.

Meet the team…

USF Wellness Executive Council

Robert Pedowitz, co-chair
Donna Petersen, co-chair
Julie Baldwin, COPH
Denise Edwards, COM
Kevin Kip, CON
Deanna Wathington, COPH, COM
Micki Cuppett, COM
Michael Hoad, USF, USF Health

Wellness Operations Staff

Dee Jeffers, program director
Christina Bernadotte, research support specialist

Story by Sarah Worth, USF Health Communications
Photo gallery by Eric Younghans, USF Health Media Center