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Upstate wellness coordinator wants wellness and well-being embedded in Upstate’s culture

Christine Podolak, MS, took over as Upstate Medial University’s wellness program coordinator in January, bringing years of education and experience in community and public health at Upstate and Binghamton to her new role.

Podolak previously worked in a variety of positions, include as the associate director of experiential education in the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Binghamton, adjunct instructor for experiential public health courses, program manager for Health Systems Science & Community Engaged Learning in the Norton College of Medicine, care coordinator in the Psychiatry and clinical research coordinator in the Emergency Medicine. She earned a master’s degree in community health and a bachelor’s degree in health science, both from SUNY Cortland.

In her new role, she is responsible for the planning, promotion and/or support of several Upstate wellness programs, including Pathway to Wellness, programming and initiatives within Upstate Well that focus on personal resilience and provide and promote well-being opportunities and resources for employees and learners.

“I have always had a passion for health and wellness academically, personally, and professionally,” Podolak said. “This work is meaningful to me and gives me purpose. We spend a lot of our time at work, and no matter what we’re doing should feel valued, respected, and fulfilled. I’ve been learning more about professional fulfillment and the concept of ‘esprit de corps.’ I want to continue to see a decrease of burn-out and an increase of retention here at Upstate.”

Upstate’s Chief Wellness Officer Leslie Kohman, MD, said that part of Podolak’s job is to re-imagine Pathway to Wellness, which is envisioned as the personal resilience arm of the wellness program. Pathway includes Mindful Meditation, Tranquility Tuesdays, Yoga for All, Wellness Speaks and other activities that staff can participate in while at work. The goal is to offer a variety of options for people to help themselves be happy and fulfilled in their roles. 

“Christine brings expanded expertise to the Upstate wellness initiative,” Kohman said. “Her master’s degree in community health and her experience in public health program administration provide a solid foundation for this newly created role which supports both Upstate Well (the umbrella term for all staff wellness initiatives) and Employee/Student Health. Her experience as a program manager in the College of Medicine is directly relevant to managing new and complex projects within the wellness initiatives.”

Additionally, Podolak leads and organizes the Upstate Pathway to Wellness Ambassador Workgroup, which meets quarterly to advocate, lead, and support personal resilience wellness initiatives that promote a culture of health and well-being for the Upstate community. She also serves on the Well-being Council and Executive Council and as the Wellness Ambassador on behalf of Upstate for the state Office of Employee Relations. Her role also includes providing project management support to Kohman, as well as to Jarrod Bagatell, MD, medical director of Employee/Student Health.

She urges Upstate employees to check out both the Upstate Well and Pathway to Wellness pages: https://www.upstate.edu/wellness/ for more information or to contact her if they are interested in joining the Well-being Council or Upstate Pathway to Wellness Ambassador workgroup.

“I want to see wellness and well-being completely embedded within the culture of Upstate,” she said.

Caption: Christine Podolak, who was named wellness coordinator in January, at the Public Health Week fair at the Upstate Community Campus.