Students Learn From Health Promotion Leaders at HERO Forum

Three students at a conferenceConferences come and go. There are thousands of them every year. However, for our students who are attending the annual Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Forum on Employee Health Management Solutions on Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, it’s not “just another conference.”

For the American University students who are pursuing an MS in Health Promotion Management, the HERO Forum is a rare chance to hear from the type of world-changers they themselves are striving to become—the type of professionals who are helping communities change lifestyle behaviors toward a state of improved health.

In other words, our students view this as part of their life’s work, not just a place to view PowerPoint presentations and nab a few business cards.

AU student Katherine Richards is most excited about the keynote address, “How we are Building a Culture of Health in America.” It will cover the many inter-related factors involved in health and well-being, including “where we live, how we work, the soundness and safety of our surroundings, and the strength and resilience of our families, our communities, and our economy,” according to the event website.

Two students at a confernce“I am anxious to learn how different industries and companies are contributing to create a culture that is centered on wellness,” said Katherine, whose classmate Mara Metroka is particularly interested in a talk by Tanya Gilbert titled “A Health Promotion Consultant on Improving Mental Strength to Promote Weight Loss.”

“I am very passionate about positive self talk and the power of ‘change your mind, change your life,’ so I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say!” Mara said.

Many of the topics Katherine and Mara will be engaged in are quite similar to what they find daily in their AU master’s program in health promotion management. For instance, both the program and the HERO event are fully focused on how various aspects of healthy lifestyle efforts work in unison to create a culture of wellness. Employee health is just one of the many components—but an important one, Katherine said.

“Employers have a wonderful opportunity to encourage their employees and employees’ families to live healthy lives. As a result, both the employee and the employer benefit,” Katherine said. Other key aspects of improved health and well-being include exercise physiology, human biochemistry, behavioral psychology, global health, and nutrition.

HERO’s message of health and performance through employer leadership resonates with Mara, who once spent an overworked, exhausting year working in the hospitality industry.

“The employees I was managing were often sick, or unhealthy—not performing at their top level,” Mara said. “Through this experience I realized the need for a healthy work life balance, and how in so many corporations it is lacking. I want to change that.”

Two students at a conferenceIt would not be unprecedented for an AU graduate program student to make that type of difference. For example, Jennifer Flynn (MS ’97), an AU grad and a HERO Forum speaker this year, is a strategy consultant for Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions. She went from writing papers to literally helping save lives.

Katherine, Mara, and their peers are making their own strides toward such world-focused success. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s coming. Their presence will be felt. Health and well-being across this world will be revolutionized.



Are you interested a master’s degree in health promotion management? Learn more about the MS program at American University.

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