Highlighting high achievers of HSC’s Master of Science in Lifestyle Health Sciences and Coaching Program
The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s commencement ceremony happened to land in the middle of National Lifestyle Medicine Week. HSC’s School of Health Professions Department of Personalized Health and Well-Being celebrated these two events by conferring the degrees of 24 Master of Science in Lifestyle Health Sciences and Coaching graduates.
“Studies show that unhealthy lifestyle habits are directly linked to chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and certain cancers,” said Dr. Misti Zablosky, chair of the Department of Personalized Health and Well-Being. “In fact, 70-80% of these conditions are caused by lifestyle behaviors, leading to a significant portion of healthcare spending.”
“To address this issue, there is a growing need for health care providers who can effectively promote lifestyle changes for sustainable health and well-being. Our department is meeting this demand by training graduates in evidence-based lifestyle medicine and coaching competencies, empowering them to inspire true self-care reform.”
One graduate, Julie Davis, was highly commended for her academic success and burgeoning coaching skills while earning her degree. She was recognized by faculty and peers and was awarded the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence as well as the Master of Science and Lifestyle Health Coaching Leading the Way Award.
Davis earned her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 2003 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was drawn to the Master of Science in Lifestyle Health Sciences and Coaching program because of the prospect of combining coaching certification, theories of behavior change and lifestyle medicine.
“I would love to work with children and their families to pursue healthy behavior changes,” Davis said. “I am also interested in coaching people who need help transitioning to a plant-based diet.”
“My top takeaway from this program was that people don’t resist change, they resist being changed,” she continued. “Coaching is all about helping people find their own why.”
Another graduate, Kaylee Isom Levonius, EMT-B, CHWC, earned the Department Award for Academic Achievement.
While initially drawn to the program with a desire to improve her own health and wellness, Levonius also liked that the program was completely online, so she could continue working her full-time job as an EMT while taking classes.
“I’ve long had an interest in fitness and nutrition and loved the idea of being educated in evidence-based lifestyle medicine to be better equipped to sort through the misinformation and anecdotal ‘lessons’ that are so pervasive in the field,” Levoniussaid. “The more I sat on the idea of applying to the MSLS program, the more I realized that this degree would not only be an endeavor in self-improvement, but that I could apply what I would learn to help others become empowered in their capacity for change as well. This sparked an interest in preventative health care that I see shaping my future career.”
Following graduation, Levonius hopes to use her degree and coaching certification to work as a health and wellbeing coach or as an advocate for wellness initiatives and lifestyle medicine in a different capacity, while also pursuing her goal of becoming a physician assistant.
Long-term, she aims to take the education and skills she learned from this program and apply them in the field of preventative health care in a way that honors the tenets of lifestyle medicine while appreciating the strides made in the traditional health care approach.
“I really enjoyed the communication and health literacy skills that this program taught,” Levonius said. “I’ve noticed huge improvements in my patient interactions at work, and I know that these skills will be invaluable to me as I continue to work in health care.”
“I also enjoyed the different opportunities to work with my classmates that this program offered, like our mosaic meetings and capstone project. I’ve been able to grow and discover more about myself throughout these interactions in this program, including recognizing biases that would hold me back as a provider. I can’t wait to see how this program will continue to benefit me in the coming years.”