Carnegie Mellon University

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January 13, 2014

Health Care Hero

Martin's Passion is Building a Healthier "U"

By Bruce Gerson

Paula MartinPaula Martin is taking the "build it and they will come" adage to a whole new level.

The director of Health Promotions Programs at Carnegie Mellon doesn't have a new facility, event, specific program or curriculum in mind; she's reaching higher to create a healthier lifestyle for the Carnegie Mellon community.

Her myriad efforts are being recognized at the university and in Pittsburgh. She was named a finalist for the Pittsburgh Business Times' Health Care Heroes Award, which honors individuals, companies and organizations in western Pennsylvania for their contributions to improving health care in the region.

A registered dietitian nutritionist who earned her master's degree in wellness and human performance at the University of Pittsburgh, Martin has expanded her role at CMU during the past eight years. She began as a dietitian who counseled students on nutrition. Today, she continues to maintain a full counseling schedule, but also has created and further developed many outreach activities, and collaborates with university partners to promote health and wellness.

"Paula has had a significant impact on the nutritional health of the campus community at the individual and community level through her work with Dining Services, Human Resources and our clinical staff at University Health Services," said Anita Barkin, director of University Health Services. "She has a passion for health and wellness and
a deep commitment to Carnegie Mellon that inspires, motivates and excites others who work with her or seek her counsel."

One of the outreach efforts Martin leads is the Peer Health Advocates (PHA) program, a group of 13 students who are trained by Martin and her colleagues to help spread important messages about health to their fellow students.

"They're our outreach arm, they're the face of the Health Center and their focus is on education," Martin said. "They focus on sexual health, alcohol and other drugs, stress and sleep, and also touch on nutrition and healthy eating topics."

The PHAs communicate to the student body by tabling at the Fence, chalking sidewalks and through a social media page. Some of the tabling events include Free Condom Fridays, which is the first Friday of each month, and Wellness Thursdays. Martin said the PHAs also host "edutainment" programs for students, such as Condom Bingo and Alcohol Jeopardy.

"Paula always looks for opportun-ities for the PHAs to reach out to the campus community and is always willing to work extra hours to help with the harder programs we present, such as nutrition, or attend other events," said PHA Janet Lorenz, a senior civil and environmental engineering and humanities and arts major.

"It's not just PHA that has made me so interested in health practices on campus, but Paula's ambition and love for her work that inspired me to help my fellow peers," she said.

In addition to the PHAs, Martin coordinates programming for house-fellows and resident assistants, whom she calls "extended advocates."

Martin has forged a partnership with Dining Services to provide healthier eating choices. She helped to develop a food icon system portraying healthful choice, heart smart, whole grain and vegetarian options. Some food vendors are displaying the icons on their menu boards, and the icons are prominently displayed on their online menus.

Martin is working with Dining Services on a website that will give consumers the nutritional value and the nutrition facts panel of each food item prepared on campus.

"It's all about making it easier for the individual to make decisions that they know are better for their health," she said. "Students, faculty and staff have a higher level of overall knowledge about health in general. So, our dining vendors have to be well versed, too."

Kim Abel, former director of Housing and Dining Services, says Martin has made CMU a healthier campus.

"Paula single-handedly improved nutrition education at CMU. With a multi-faceted approach, cool persistence and a solid commitment to improvement, Paula worked with the dining vendors to increase healthy menu options and modify recipes to achieve healthier food preparation," Abel said.

In addition to Dining Services, Martin has worked diligently to form working partnerships with the Department of Athletics, Student Affairs, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Environmental Health and Safety, and the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research, which is sponsoring a Food and the Environment lecture series this year.

"We are very decentralized at CMU, so getting to know one person, making connections across departments makes a big difference," Martin said.

Martin directs a counseling program for the intercollegiate sports teams covering topics such as nutrition and eating disorders, alcohol and tobacco use, and sexual health. She's a key player in the Pathways to Health program for faculty and staff, and is partnering with Student Affairs and CAPS on a new initiative titled Mental Health First Aid. The program, which may be offered to the entire university community, teaches individuals how to identify a peer coping with a mental health issue and what steps should be taken. is another counseling tool that falls under Martin's purview. The online alcohol awareness module for first-year students is offered from when they arrive in late August through mid-October. Martin said it might soon be offered to first-years before they
arrive on campus.

Martin, along with her team of health promotion specialists, takes her messages to the classroom as well, teaching several six-week, six-unit courses for students. The classes include "Managing Stress, Restoring Harmony," "Personal Nutrition" and "Relationships 101."

"Paula's goal has always been to improve mental and physical wellness, and she has found creative ways to reach students and faculty alike," said PHA Olumide Martins, a senior biological sciences major who lauded her work with EH&S to establish designated smoking areas on campus. "Her efforts have had a remarkable impact. To the campus community, Paula is a role model and hero."

Health and Wellness Event Set for Feb. 21

"Crossing Boundaries, Transforming Lives" is the theme of President and Mrs. Suresh's inaugural year at Carnegie Mellon, and First Lady Mary Suresh is working with Student Affairs and Health Services to lead a health and wellness component to the theme.

The program, which is still in the planning stages, will kick off on Friday, Feb. 21, when Mrs. Suresh will host a university-wide, interactive event for students, faculty, staff and their families titled "Discovering Health: Exploring Wellness."

The event in the University Center, which is scheduled to run from 4:30 - 8 p.m., will promote physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellness, and will feature some of the health-related research being conducted at the university.

"It will be a fun, energetic event for small children up to retirees, faculty, staff, students and spouses," said Paula Martin of University Health Services.

Paula Martin stops by El Gallo de Oro in the University Center to see owner and operator Shah Nevisi and the food being prepared.