Personalized Health Coaching Services
One on one telephonic coaching is available to benefit eligible GVSU faculty, staff and spouses at no cost to the member. Topics range from weight and stress management to nutrition. Members contact their provider directly and set goals to accomplish desired behavior changes. Qualified Health Coaches help direct and provide resources to help members meet their goals in a confidential and personalized manner.
Priority Health members sign up now by emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the 1-800 number on the back of your insurance card.
Success Story: Patricia Stephenson
“I went from ‘I know everything and I don’t need help' to 'I don’t know everything and I do need help.’”
Health coaching is not everyone’s first thought when it comes to improving their health, and that certainly was the case for Patricia Stephenson, an affiliate professor in the Statistics Department, who thought she didn’t need any guidance.
Patricia had been active and athletic for most of her life, but suffered a “series of unfortunate events” beginning with a car accident, then an Achilles tendon injury, “aging lady issues,” and subsequent surgeries. This caused her to gain weight, and her physical problems led her to become mentally discouraged, which prevented her from doing the things she had always done.
She first went through denial because “we humans don’t think we need help.” But eventually, Patricia says, “It felt like I was spinning out of control and I didn’t know how to get back.” She decided to participate in the Healthy Choices Wellness Program, and her Know Your Numbers results suggested that she receive three months of health coaching.
“I confess the motivation for this was the financial incentive. Then I met Amy. In those three short months I got hooked because I saw small changes happening.” Patricia credits Amy, her health coach, for getting her through life’s struggles and stresses, big and small. “She held me accountable, but was encouraging and focused on the successes. I thought health coaching was only about diet and exercise, but I have slowly learned that it is far more than that. Health is a holistic endeavor, encompassing all aspects of life.”
However, these changes didn’t happen in one conversation. “[It’s] a continuous dialogue. [Health coaches] need to get to know the specifics of a person’s life in order to make customized suggestions that lead to improvements.” And for Patricia, that was peace. Something as seemingly simple as making lunch had become a stressor, so figuring out how to restructure her day to eliminate further stress allowed more peaceful living. “In my case, getting back in control and reducing the stress and discouragement that had invaded my life required purposeful planning. Amy could see the small places where I could easily incorporate a little change here, a little mindfulness there, in ways that were easy and stress-reducing.”
“It’s quite a gift to have someone available that gives you that personal attention for your unique life.”
In addition to health coaching, Patricia has also participated in group exercise. “I just want to try various classes and see what’s for me and what isn’t.” This is something she suggests to everyone: find what works for you. Even if she can’t make it to a class, incorporating movement into her daily life has become a habit. Patricia laughs and says she and her daughters will pick up dumbbells and do curls while watching Netflix "because Amy says so!”
Realizing just how strong the connection is between every facet of life has made all the difference. “There is a significant tie to things like your mental well-being, eating habits, physical exercise, the stressors in your life, relationships, spirituality, etc. I had a sense of that, but I didn’t know that things were influencing each other nearly as much as they did. Any change, good or bad, can seep into the other areas of my life.” Patricia urges everyone that feels stuck in any way to “tap into this resource and the coaches will help you to appreciate the ripple effect of positive change into your life.”
Success Story: Deborah Bell
“I realized I was not healthy, I had to do something.That was my wake up call.”
Deborah Bell, Records Assistant at GVSU , has always tried to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle. At a health fair last year, Deborah took advantage of an opportunity to step on a scale and was devastated by her numbers. Deborah began by making small changes, like cutting back on sweets and giving herself time to get up and walk. However, to obtain the results she wanted she knew she needed accountability. Through the Health and Wellness weight loss resources web page, Deborah found Mercy Heart’s Health Management Resources program, which she says requires “participation, discipline, healthy eating, and exercise.” Thanks to her Health Educator and cheerleader, Caitlin Mitchell, Deborah has made significant progress towards a healthy life.
Since the start of Deborah’s health journey she has lost 50 pounds, improved her total cholesterol by 42 points, improved her triglycerides by 123 points, and reduced her risk of heart disease by 1 point. Deborah is grateful for the support and resources available to her, and says her quality of life has improved and she feels comfortable in her body now. It’s really about healthy eating,” Deborah says. “I remember when Thanksgiving came around, they helped us with portion size.” While Deborah is careful with what she eats, she also doesn’t deprive herself. She says “... they teach you not to deprive yourself because if you feel deprived, that's when you have the opportunity to indulge and overdo it.”
Deborah also started participating more in the Health and Wellness events on campus, such as the Hold It for the Holidays Challenge, to help keep her on track. Deborah’s biggest motivations have been her family, staying active with her children and grandchildren, even going to Planet Fitness with her husband to exercise. She continues to find time to go to the Fieldhouse to use the track, or even just using her break times to walk for 15 minutes. Her advice to others about starting their health journey is to “just start, you never know until you try
Success Story: Janet Mills
“Without yoga I probably would not have been as in tune with my body and would not have felt the lump.”
Last summer, Janet knew something wasn’t right. She fell ill after coming home from a vacation in March, but “could never quite shake it.” From then on, she had a variety of symptoms from feeling cold, with intermittent fevers, to periods of fatigue and respiratory issues.
Trying to figure it out, she had her house checked for black mold and had the ducts cleaned. “I was constantly searching for what was making me feel not right.” Janet had participated in the Healthy Choices Wellness Program and was advised to connect with a health coach about her results, who was helping her through this frustrating process. “She was a kind and thoughtful ear when, by chance, I really needed it.”
“To anyone questioning the health coaching process or having any misgivings about it, I would say to just relax and go for it! It’ll be great.”
Janet has also been a regular yogi, attending two classes a week since they were first offered 10 years ago. “When I do the cobra pose, I can feel something is swollen,” she told her doctor. He had been adamant that she had a virus and just needed time to get over it. Meanwhile she was getting chills in 80 degree weather, and was exhausted just walking from her car into her office at WGVU. He told her to “work yourself harder,” but she knew it just wasn’t like her to feel that kind of fatigue.
So after numerous doctor visits, she had colonoscopy, and the gastroenterologist verified the presence of a lump. Following the discovery, she was put through further testing, and was finally diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
A successful surgery and months of chemotherapy later, Janet is currently cancer-free, and continuing her recovery. “No one knows your body as well as you do. Advocate for yourself. Trust your instincts and take action when you need to. Face whatever it is and move forward.”
Success Story: Scott Grissom
Scott Grissom, Professor of Computer Science at Grand Valley since 1999, attributes much of his success in maintaining a healthy lifestyle to Grand Valley’s health coaching service which he has been participating in for five years. Though he has had a few different health coaches, his most recent health coach has been with him for the past three years. He and his health coach talk every three weeks on the phone, and she helps him to set goals and stay motivated.
“It keeps me accountable [and] active.”
Each May, Scott participates in the Fifth Third Riverbank Run. Although he participates in these runs each year, if it were not for the Couch to 5k Training he joined a few years ago, he would not have been training regularly. His activity in the training program encouraged him to do a few runs a year and stay active in between events.
“Activity reduces my stress and keeps me centered.”
About a month ago, when Scott suffered a back injury he discovered the less active he was, the more irritable he became. Knowing this, he strives to maintain his active lifestyle in order to feel content and reduce stress in his life. Scott is appreciative that Grand Valley offers and promotes so many programs that allow him to do just that!
Success Story: Priscilla Kimboko
“It’s not a matter of age, it’s a matter of choices you make along the way.”
Priscilla Kimboko seemed to have the health cards stacked against her. The stress from a demanding job along with genetic predispositions to things like heart problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure would be enough for many people to throw their hands up in defeat. However, the experience of caring for her late husband, her current job as a professor in health and aging, and her health coach, Betsy, made Priscilla aware of what really matters to live a healthy, fulfilling life.
Priscilla moved to West Michigan from Colorado in 2000 to help create the GVSU Office of Graduate Studies and Grants Administration. She was hired as a dean and was overwhelmingly busy. “At one point, I think I wore 10 hats,” she said. Then Priscilla would come home to her husband, Andre, who had diabetes, high blood pressure, and constant back and sciatic pain. He didn’t exercise much nor did much to care for his health. After he was diagnosed with dementia in 2009, Priscilla remembers, “It was such a wakeup call. I made the decision that I’m not going to end up like my husband.” At that point, she returned to a faculty position in the School of Public, Nonprofit & Health Administration (SPNHA) and cared for Andre until he passed away in October 2013.
Once the current wellness program was in place at GVSU, she took advantage of the Know Your Numbers program, and although her report told her what she already knew, Priscilla used it as a baseline to fight her risk factors as much as possible. “I did a lot of my own research, I tried a lot of different things,” she said.
However, it was difficult for her to stabilize her weight. Despite taking exercise programs like yoga and strength building, “the stabilizing did not happen.” That’s when she started talking to a Priority Health coach. Priscilla connected with Betsy, and they hit it off. “Beyond listening, she helps suggest strategies and asks for more details to help me make connections between diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. She asks, “What could you do differently?” Rather than telling Priscilla what to do and what not to do, Betsy instead asks her to reflect on her choices, think about the desired outcomes, and how they will impact her life in the short and long term. At each call, Betsy asks, “How did it go? What are your goals for next time? How would you rate your ability to accomplish those goals?”
“Believe that you can change. You have to want to, but you can change. I lost 60 lbs., and people who knew me before sometimes don’t recognize me anymore. There’s a lot more life in you than you expect, but you need to intentionally make those changes.”
Priscilla now teaches two classes a semester in the SPNHA master’s degree programs, assists the CCPS Dean’s office on special projects, and coordinates the annual Art and Science of Aging Conference. It’s a challenging but much more manageable workload.
“Every day is a valuable day,” Priscilla said. “I firmly believe that you’re never too old to make changes. And getting old is not a bad thing, it is inevitable. What’s the alternative? Changing your perspective and making better health choices can improve your aging experience.”