The team at the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) Center for Wellness has a broad audience, providing services to not just faculty and staff, but also to students – many away from home for the first time – family members, and other Harvard affiliates. Jeanne Mahon, Director of the Center for Wellness, Erik Sjostrom, Administrator of Wellness Programs, and Amanda Ayers, Health Educator discuss how they reach this wide constituency and coordinate across Harvard’s schools and units to keep us well.
What do you do and what is your team's biggest contribution?
Jeanne Mahon: We contribute to the wellbeing of the Harvard community by providing resources, workshops and therapies, like massage and acupuncture. We also work to connect with many other groups at Harvard – Athletics’ Recreation, the Office of Work/Life, Office of Student Life, Common Spaces, Office for Sustainability, the graduate schools – to partner and provide coordinated wellness services. For example, we work with the Freshman Dean’s Office on the Serenity Room, a reflection and meditation space in the basement of Gray’s Hall, that’s open to students as well as all Harvard affiliates. I see our role as helping people learn about and access the incredible resources here, even those not offered by us.
Erik Sjostrom: As the administrator of wellness programs, I coordinate the practitioners who offer massage and acupuncture and the instructors who lead classes and workshops. My goal is to make these widely used services as straightforward as possible, so it’s easy for affiliates to access. At Harvard, there are many different services for students and employees. We consider these existing services and try to fill in the gaps. For example, if Athletics provides drop-in classes, we provide classes that have a semester-long focus.
For individual appointments, we separate the administrative details from the patient-practitioner relationship completely. This allows the practitioners to give full attention to the patient and the treatment.
Amanda Ayers: I’m a health educator, supervising peer education groups and coordinating the HUHS undergraduate health assessment that seeks to understand student health in a range of topics, including nutrition, sleep, stress, sexual health and others. I also work to bring KORU mindfulness programs to the schools. As a group, our biggest contribution is supporting and communicating a holistic view of wellness – so not just food and exercise, but also things like social connection and mindfulness.
What don't people know about you and what your team does?
Amanda: All the things we offer! People know about massage, but we also have sleep workshops, mindfulness and meditation workshops – and we can bring those things on-site to teams, work groups, student groups, etc.
Jeanne: Right now, that we’ve moved. We’re above Flour, at 114 Mt. Auburn Street. Also, we work with everyone in the Harvard community – students and employees, but also families and any Harvard affiliates can come and use our services.
Erik: A lot of people don’t realize that we offer appointments outside class and business hours – we’re open weekday evenings until 9 p.m., and have Saturday massage appointments from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, as Amanda said, we will help coordinate a new class for a school or department if a suitable space is available.
What is the most challenging thing about your work?
Jeanne: Just letting people know what’s available in such a busy place like Harvard, with so much going on.
Amanda: Since a lot of my work is with students, it’s getting them to take care of themselves. Students want to get A’s, be in activities, and the first thing that they drop is exercise or sleep. Or they’re choosing what they eat for the first time. I’d love for them to begin to value their health.
Erik: Providing services from trusted, experienced practitioners and instructors as conveniently as possible. With so many clients on similar schedules, sometimes there is an overwhelming demand for appointments on certain days or times of the year (e.g., not everyone can see their favorite therapist at 5 p.m.).
What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?
Jeanne: Our team has a lot of different roles and backgrounds – administration, business, public health, massage therapists. I just completed my master’s in education. What we share is goal of creating a place and having a tone that is different from the office space – one that is relaxing, welcoming, calming, an oasis.
Erik: I have experience in technical sales and service roles in for-profit businesses, unrelated to healthcare. The communication and problem-solving skills from previous positions have been important here, in the Center for Wellness. Applying these skills when helping people improve their wellness is very rewarding.
Amanda: I have a master’s in public health from B.U., but I’ve been active in health education in the university setting for many years, since I was an undergraduate.
What does your best day look like?
Erik: Sharing the happiness and relief with someone who is no longer in pain, no longer over-stressed, or who is happy to be exercising again. This happens every day!
Jeanne: Personally, I really enjoy teaching meditation and mindfulness. And when all of our treatment rooms are full, providing services to our community, that’s a great day.
Amanda: My best day incorporates teaching KORU Mindfulness – it’s one of the most rewarding things I do. I love interacting with the team here. And working with students, helping them dream up a program that they want to implement on campus.