Emory Report

April 13, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 28


For Hodge, fitness for all
at Emory is a job 'well' done

Being happy is about wellness. Staying in shape is about wellness. So is eating right, managing stress and staying spiritually fulfilled. Wellness is what's behind the Blomeyer Fitness Center in the 1525 Building. Those little green apples painted on streets and sidewalks around campus? They're about wellness too.

Yvonne Hodge spends her days making sure Emory is as "well" as it can be. As manager of occupational health promotion in the Emory Well House, Hodge does more than just think about wellness from 8 to 5. The tips on wellness she hands out freely to all who ask are not just nifty soundbites lifted from books-they are words to live by for Hodge.

"Wellness and well being have been personally important to me, just as they are to the faculty and staff our programs now serve," Hodge replied when asked if she had faced any wellness challenges. "As a law student, watching my weight became a problem for me. I gained a lot of weight [while] working and going to school in the evening. A friend of mine told me about joining Weight Watchers so I enrolled in the classes and lost more than 40 pounds. Now I am a Weight Watchers leader."

These days Hodge leads two Weight Watchers classes every week, and the combined 62 people in the classes have lost more than 300 pounds between them in just a few short weeks. "I'm a very high proponent of physical fitness-working out allows you to maintain your ideal body weight, and it also relieves stress," Hodge said. "My schedule usually includes morning and evening workouts as well."

But staying fit is only one part of wellness, and Hodge works just as hard on her spiritual well-being. She is an active member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, teaching Bible lessons and coordinating programs for children. Last month Hodge took a group of 23 kids to Birmingham, Ala., to see the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park and the Civil Rights Institute.

"When you talk about children from 5 to 12 years old, they have no concept of what it was like 30 years ago, so they're fascinated," Hodge said. "In December I scheduled them to see Spike Lee's movie 4 Little Girls, and during Black History Month the children presented a skit on the four little girls in church." She's also organized trips to Georgia's Sky Valley, to Chattanooga (Tenn.) and to The Carter Center to see the replica of President Jimmy Carter's Oval Office.

"I enjoy working with people and helping them improve their health and their whole quality of life," Hodge said. "It takes a whole lot of things to make a person healthy-responsibility for your own health, exercising regularly, eating well and eliminating stress. You also must have good self-esteem and then project that. It encompasses a lot."

Hodge's professional work has encompassed its share of activities. After earning her law degree from Atlanta's John Marshall Law School, she worked for MARTA and then founded her own legal support company. In 1982 she went to work for the city government as a legal assistant handling workers' compensation claims.

Three years later that job led directly to Emory Human Resources, where Hodge worked for 11 years managing workers' compensation claims, unemployment and educational benefits, service awards and health-related benefits. She received the Emory Award of Distinction in 1994 for her HR work and community involvement.

But November 1996 saw a "great paradigm shift" for Hodge. "The University decided to move workers' comp out of Human Resources into the hospital to put it more in the medical setting," she said. "This gave me an opportunity to do something new, something new to cheer about. I'm an upbeat, very positive person, and it's turned out to be a good working fit for my lifestyle."

One program Hodge has helped implement is "fitstops," in which the Well House staff travels to different buildings and offers Emory employees one-stop shopping for a range of health checkups including blood pressure, lung capacity screenings, vision screenings, flu shots, blood drives, summer camp information, smoking cessation classes and ergonomic assessments. She enjoys being able to coordinate the different deparments and offices on campus to make the fitstops happen, but Hodge also has relished helping create a resource for Emory faculty and staff to take fitness into their own hands.

"Opening the Blomeyer Center was really a wonderful experience for me, to be able to coordinate and work with that effort," she said. "We had a series of fitstops where we offered memberships to employees, and we were able to have 600 members signed up before the center even opened. That was exciting."

And the little green apples dotting sidewalks around campus? Those are part of the AppleWalk program, forming a trail along which employees can walk at any point of the day, for as long or short a distance as they choose. It all contributes to Hodge's driving goal: "I'm interested in helping the University and its employees make themselves as healthy as they can be."

-Michael Terrazas

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