Since beginning medical school last year, I have increasingly been pondering this question: How can we shift the focus of our energy into promoting health, rather than reacting with healthcare? To me, seeking ways to decrease our risk of attaining chronic illnesses, all while improving our mental health and relationships with others, seems to be an obvious path to follow. However, this path is often complicated by finances and varying levels of community engagement, among other factors. I decided to dedicate one week of my summer selectives to learning about how various leaders are discovering solutions to these difficulties, all while finding creative ways to promote health and wellness in their communities.
To get the ball rolling, I reached out to the consultant in my mentorship family, Dr. Dave Agerter. He supported my interest and connected me with Sandy Anderson at Mower Refreshed, a unique community wellness movement in Mower County, Minnesota. From the beginning, Sandy welcomed me and transparently shared the successes and challenges of the Mower Refreshed initiatives: Healthier Choices, Mental Fitness, Workforce Wellness, and Latinos Saludables. One of the greatest leadership “pearls” offered by Sandy was that at the end of each day, she asks herself, “Did I engage, equip, and/or empower today?” By having a daily check-in with these questions, Sandy can stay on track, ensure that she is using her talents to the best of her ability, and promote the wellness of her community. I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Mower County Public Health, Mower County Statewide Health Improvement Program, United Way of Mower County, Vision 2020, and the Hormel Foundation. These leaders provide creative solutions to addressing health, education, economic stability, and community pride and spirit by providing programs, volunteers, and monetary resources to shift the culture of health and wellness in Mower County.
In addition to meeting with these dedicated community leaders, I also decided to make the most of my experience by exploring some of the hidden gems in the Austin, Minnesota area. Whether it was attending an outdoor yoga session, supporting the local economy by stopping at locally-owned boutiques, or making plans to return to the local bike trail, I attempted to fully integrate myself into the community. This involvement helped me understand the unique needs and assets of the Austin community that I had been learning about. I would challenge all of us to take a break from our routine and set out to explore the colorful communities of southeastern Minnesota from a refreshed perspective—there is so much the area has to offer.
I found myself entering my second year of medical school with a refreshed and motivated viewpoint, thanks to the people I met and seeds of ideas that were planted in my mind while in Austin. I’ve already incorporated the Mower Refreshed “Take 5” initiative into my daily life—taking 5 deep breaths, letting go of 5 worries, and taking time to appreciate 5 blessings in my life have been my favorites so far. My next goal is to start integrating a form of Wellness Wednesdays into my routine; my first idea is to put all the healthy Pinterest recipes I’ve been accumulating to use. All we need is a little motivation and support, and I would say we can all find that in Mower Refreshed!
Bre is a second year medical student who is interested in pediatrics and family medicine. She is a native Rochesterite and enjoys spending time outside, keeping active, and being involved in the community.