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Osher Center adds health coaching expert Wolever

Sep. 24, 2015, 10:23 AM

Ruth Wolever, Ph.D., has joined the staff of Vanderbilt’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, where she will share her expertise and knowledge in health coaching.

Ruth Wolever, Ph.D.

She comes to Vanderbilt after a 21-year stint with Duke University Medical System, where she was the founding director of research for Duke Integrative Medicine.

Now the director of health coaching at Vanderbilt, Wolever will supervise a new certification program launched last year.

Health coaching certification is available for licensed professionals ranging from social workers to physicians.

Her primary academic appointment at Vanderbilt is in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She has secondary appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

“She is a health psychologist and is really a national leader in the area of health coaching,” said Walter Frontera, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Wolever is on the executive board of the National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches.

“The Osher Center is very fortunate to have Ruth on our team,” said Roy Elam, M.D., the center’s medical director. “We have known her and the incredible work she does for the past five years. She is a leader, a well-respected researcher and a knowledgeable behaviorist. Ruth is very successful at skillfully blending both coaching and mindfulness.”

The health coaching certificate program is offered through the School of Nursing.

“We are looking forward to working closely with Dr. Wolever to not only provide leadership for the program but also to collaborate with nursing faculty to evaluate the effectiveness of health coaching,” said Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing and dean of the School of Nursing.

Wolever has been doing research on the effectiveness of health coaching for 12 years.

“While our medical establishment is fabulous at acute care, we have a long way to go in helping patients manage behavior factors that drive chronic care,” Wolever said. “This skill set in how to help people change behavior is what is taught through the health coaching training program.”

The challenge with managing behavior, including eating or controlling pain, is to routinely apply mindfulness in a way that allows people to learn the internal drivers of their actions, she said.

“It does become habit, and you have to continually practice in this culture because our culture is so externally focused,” Wolever said. “It is hard to cultivate an internal way of paying attention and doing it with kindness.”

A former high school Spanish teacher and cheerleading coach, Wolever was inspired to become a psychologist after advocating for students caught in abusive situations.

She specialized in health psychology because of “a fascination by the interaction of the mind and body and how they influence each other.”

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