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Buckeye Summit convenes Ohio State community to learn about health, well-being and addiction

Hundreds of attendees spend day discussing issues with goal of creating healthy communities

From wellness and well-being to addiction and recovery to solutions and a commitment to do better, the  2018 Buckeye Summit focused on supporting and building a healthier world.

More than 400 alumni, faculty, staff, students and supporters filled a conference room at COSI Columbus Friday to discuss some of the great health challenges of the 21st century. The summit focused on building a healthier community – and for the audience, community meant their homes, central Ohio and the larger world.

Presentations and panels at the summit focused on preventive care and wellness as well as the nature and impact of addiction. Guests were entertained by a fitness course from Shelley Meyer, instructor of clinical practice at the  College of Nursing, and a session on mindfulness from Maryanna Klatt, professor of clinical family medicine at the Wexner Medical Center. President Michael V. Drake opened the summit with a reflection on the power of Buckeye Nation.

“I was thinking about the Arthur Ashe quote ‘start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’” Drake said. “It lets us know that each of us, when we address these really large societal problems, each of us can do something to advance us forward. And it may not be enough to make a measurable or huge difference. But everyone making a little difference, adding a little bit, can make a big difference.”

Richard Carmona, 17th surgeon general of the United States and distinguished professor at the College of Nursing, moderated the summit and discussed the personal challenge of leading a healthier lifestyle.

“The difficulty is taking ownership and responsibility in well-being,” he said. “But if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be around to take care of our children. And the cost is going to be pretty significant.”

Carmona introduced his colleague Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing, vice president for health promotion and chief wellness officer for Ohio State. Melnyk emphasized the importance of taking simple steps for better health, noting that many of the most lethal health problems were preventable through better self-care.

“We must act with urgency to do more. We must not wait until people are in crisis to do something,” Melnyk said.

Ohio State is a national leader in promoting health and well-being and has seen a decrease in health care spending on faculty, staff and students because of a culture of wellness, Melnyk said. The university has incentivized healthy behavior and it has paid off.

The summit also confronted the challenges surrounding addiction. Members of the university-run Generation Rx discussed the misuse of prescription medication. President’s Prize winner Alina Sharafutdinova, a recent graduate of Ohio State, talked about her project that seeks to fight substance abuse through education and engagement. Dean of the College of Social Work Tom Gregoire celebrated his own journey of recovery and his 39 years of sobriety.

Ohio State University Alumni Association President and CEO Jim Smith said the university’s broad reach is a powerful tool in addressing these issues. He asked the audience for their ideas to build healthier communities.

Some responses included:

  • Find opportunities for Buckeyes to make changes in their own communities.
  • Become a lifelong learner, be an advocate for healthy lifestyles and share that information.
  • Focus on the youth and the next generations to be healthier.

At the end of a full day of presentations and discussion, those who attended the summit came away engaged and inspired.

Glennon Sweeney, senior research associate at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, said she was impressed by the level of thought and conversation around these critical issues of health. She said the discussion at the summit will aid her work at the Kirwan Institute.

“There’s definitely not enough emphasis on health and well-being in our culture at large and particularly in our most disadvantaged communities,” she said. “Thinking about how we can take the energy from this event and focus on the most disadvantaged communities in central Ohio and work in partnership with them to build this culture of well-being is something that I’ve been thinking about all day.”

Drake said Ohio State should be at the center of addressing these issues. The university’s land-grant mission demands that Ohio State lead the quest for solutions.

“So what we’ll do is take what we’ve learned here today, incorporate that and take it out into the world to do good,” Drake said. “We will have the ability to harness the power of Buckeye Nation to make our whole world better.”