Wellness Programs at Roswell Park — What's Next? Who's Invited?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - 3:12pm

More than 100 people signed up recently when Roswell Park offered a program on mindfulness meditation. Programs on good nutrition and eating well have proved equally popular, according to Ashley Lanning, Roswell Park’s new Wellness Programs Coordinator.

“Patients want these kinds of programs,” she says. “Cancer affects your whole life, so you need to treat your whole life — treat your diet and your exercise, take care of your mind and spirit and your whole body. And because it impacts your family, we want to take care of them as well.”

She knows what she’s talking about. “In my personal life, I’ve had lots of experiences with cancer. I have been a patient; I have been a caregiver.” And after eight years at Oishei Children’s Hospital, where she worked with pediatric brain tumor patients and their families, “I have also been an employee working with those populations. I found that my passion was working with oncology patients.”

Yoga, chair massages, the Artists-in-Residence program — all brought together now under a single Wellness umbrella — are some of the ways Roswell Park “helps patients feel better as they’re going through treatment,” says Lanning. “There are many parts of cancer treatment that are out of your control. But some patients have told us, ‘I can control my diet, my exercise, how my mind is perceiving these things.’ Wellness programs help them feel stronger and more empowered during their treatment. They feel better as a whole.”

Some wellness programs were already in place when Lanning came to Roswell Park last month. It’s her job to tie those programs together, create new programs and get patients, survivors, caregivers and employees involved.

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Yes, employees are welcome, too, because their physical and mental well-being have a direct effect on the care they provide. “We have nurses and other clinicians and support staff who work with patients every day and who experience stress and a lot of emotional ups and downs,” Lanning explains. “We want employees to feel good, to be well not only physically but also in their mind and attitude, in how they interact with other people. We think some of these programs will help build the good feeling around campus.”

Lanning and her supervisor, Bryan Wittmeyer, Director of Rehabilitation Therapy and Wellness Services, are looking ahead to some exciting plans. For example, Wellness Wednesdays — currently on hold as Lanning reorganizes the program — are scheduled to start up again later this summer. Building on participants’ strong interest in the topic, Roswell Park hopes to partner with Erie Community College (ECC) to add a new dimension to future nutrition programs by offering them at ECC, which has a teaching kitchen on campus, “so patients and families can go there to see exactly how things are done.”

But that’s just the beginning. During a recent meeting of Roswell Park’s Patient Advisory Board, Lanning asked for ideas for new programs. “We want feedback from patients,” she says. “We’re open to any suggestions. I’m giving out my card to everyone — employees and families as well.

“Wellness is a broad and kind of vague term,” she adds, “but that’s exciting, because we can do anything we want for our patients, survivors, families and employees.”

Do you have an idea for a new wellness program at Roswell Park? Contact Ashley Lanning at 716-845-1664 or Ashley.Lanning@RoswellPark.org.