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Meet Julie Anderson

Julie grew up with parents who were well acquainted with the health care field. At the hospital a mile from her home, her mom worked as a registered nurse and her dad was in hospital administration. Her older brother and sister and Julie all had part-time jobs at the hospital through their teens.

Julie knew she wanted to work in a health-related field, and as a young girl she had hopes of becoming a doctor. She went on many visits with her mom delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors, and as her mom transitioned out of the clinical setting into home health care, Julie accompanied her on those visits from time to time.

Growing up in a neighborhood in the heart of Chicago was ideal. She loved living in a neighborhood where everyone walked to work, church and school and all the kids played together up and down the street. While this may sound like small-town America, it was actually a very diverse neighborhood only blocks away from high-stress neighborhoods. There were over 50 languages spoken at her high school. It was this diversity and watching her parents tenderly care for patients as part of their vocation and for those around them that shaped her heart to care about people. She knew that she would one day pursue a career in public health.

From a young age, Julie was participating in or watching sports. (Go Cubs!). In high school, Julie found her niche running track and playing volleyball. She began to think that somehow health care could be combined with fitness.

She earned her BS from Springfield College in Massachusetts (health fitness) and then spent a year working at a hospital wellness center in Chicago. In 1991, she moved to the Bay Area and started working at Stanford for the Health Improvement Program — where she has been working ever since. In 2001, the seed that had started growing so many years earlier took root and Julie went back to school for her Masters in Public Health from San Jose State.

Julie currently is the manager of the BeWell Wellness Profile program. She does BeWell Advising along with HIP wellness coaching and has co-taught Weight Management classes. She enjoys doing fitness assessments and wellness coaching where she can really help people make a behavior change. Julie has also been part of Living Strong Living Well, a strength-training program for cancer patients and survivors at the local YMCAs, since the program began in 2002. The participants in the program are very inspiring and it is rewarding for Julie to see many lives transformed as a result of the program.

Julie knows that people often know what to do but just need support getting on track. She has developed deeper compassion for the experience of others because of her own life experience; as a mom in her early 50s, Julie juggles work, marriage and the raising of a spirited 7-year-old. She is not always successful, but wouldn’t trade her life for any other. She enjoys yoga, running, strength training, rock climbing with her husband, singing and dancing with her daughter, and reading a good book.

Meet Ashley Gephart

Ashley grew up in the Redwoods of California’s “Lost Coast.” She credits her unique childhood surroundings and an upbringing that emphasized healthy life balance for her love of wellness promotion.

Ashley was always interested in human biology, physical fitness, and the connection between the mind and body. She was formally introduced to the public health field as a sophomore at UC Berkeley and remembers the excitement she felt when she first realized that she would be able to make a career out of her greatest interest.

Having played volleyball in high school, Ashley missed being involved with sports and fitness in college, so she quickly seized the opportunity to teach group exercise classes at Cal. Once she put that microphone on, there was no going back! She continues to teach group exercise classes and has become a Certified Personal Trainer.

Ashley had her first experience with workplace health promotion at UC Berkeley. She was immediately drawn to the concept of employee health programming and was moved by the positive results of supporting and promoting wellness in the workplace.

Ashley worked for three years in the Berkeley Unified School District as an afterschool teacher and a physical education teacher. She adored her time teaching elementary school children about the importance of physical activity and health. Her focus was on fostering a love of movement among her students and supporting them to build a foundation of sustainable healthy behaviors.

Working with children furthered her desire to be a part of health promotion and prevention, which eventually landed her in the Big Apple, where she earned her M.A. in Health Advocacy with an emphasis in Community Health at Sarah Lawrence College.

Ashley is excited to be back in California and enthusiastic about having the opportunity to be a part of the BeWell team and Stanford community. She is a firm believer that small steps add up to big successes and understands that “all or nothing” thinking can sometimes get in the way of lasting change. She feels fortunate to support BeWell participants in meeting their wellness goals in ways that make sense for their busy and involved lives.

Meet Marlon John

Marlon John’s background, education and training combine to give him a distinct flair as a Wellness Advisor.

Marlon grew up in poverty; in fact, he did not have electricity until he was 10 years old. At the age of thirteen, he moved to the Bronx, New York to live with his father. Living in the Bronx was difficult because there were many temptations to behave badly. Walking to school every day was an adventure. He saw crack vials on the sidewalks, and many times he had to avoid neighborhood fights to attend his classes. In fact, his high school was one of the first in the nation to install metal detectors.

He knew that playing sports was his only way out. Aer graduating from high school, he enrolled at Liberty University in Virginia… but there was one small problem: he didn’t have the money to pay for tuition. Staying in college was important to him because he did not want to go back to the streets of the Bronx, where his friends were dying from gang fights. His only chance was to make it on the football team. He worked hard and earned a football scholarship at the end of the first semester, and eventually he became the first person in his family to graduate college.

Although he had earned a degree in Exercise Science, aer college Marlon found it difficult to find the motivation to share his knowledge. Something was missing. In the summer of 2000, his mother had a stroke, and Marlon felt powerless. Aer seeing his mother in such a fragile and unhappy state, he knew something had to change. In that moment, he realized that if he could not influence others to eat healthy and exercise, his potential as a human being would not be reached. He remembers his mother saying, “Marlon, your health is your wealth.” Those words have been permanently etched into his memory bank. He made a decision from that day to inspire others to prioritize their health, and he believes there is a piece of his mother in everyone who seeks his advice.

Marlon went on to become a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT) and a Nutrition Specialist, certified by the American Association of Sports Dietitians and Nutritionist (AASDN). In addition, Marlon is a motivational speaker who inspires people to get fit and live healthier lives.

His philosophy for better health is “Get Back to Basics” — which includes whole-body exercises, real food, fun, motivation, and highly effective fitness training. But beyond his knowledge base, his greatest strength is his ability to genuinely connect with people. Aer all, it’s an understanding of people that will help guide them to make positive changes.

Meet Sarah Meyer Tapia

Mind and body united

“I am a mother. I am an athlete. I am a counselor, a student, teacher, a coach, and a friend.” Like most of the participants with whom she works at Stanford, Sarah Meyer Tapia wears many hats. “Ultimately and very basically,” she asserts, “we are human. This is where we find our sameness, and where our diversity shines.”

As a BeWell Advisor and HIP Instructor of various mindfulness-related courses, Sarah’s work flows out of her own values of holistic well-being. Sarah grew up near the shores of Lake Tahoe, where she began running at the age of ten. “I was overwhelmed for one reason or another, so I ran to the beach a half-mile away and arrived breathless, happy, clean. I was keenly aware that something magical had just taken place. I’ve been running ever since.”

Sarah went on to compete in cross-country and track and field as an undergraduate at Azusa Pacific University, where she studied education. Following several years of teaching and counseling, Sarah resumed her academic career at Santa Clara University, graduating at the top of her class with an MA in Counseling and Health Psychology. At SCU, her professor, Dr. Shauna Shapiro (a widely published author and leading researcher in the field of mindfulness), offered Sarah opportunities to research and train in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Sarah has taught this program at Stanford and in the surrounding community since 2008.

“I am so honored and grateful to call this my ‘job.’ Nearly every morning I sit with folks who share their health stories with honesty and poignancy. I help people put a voice to their deepest desires and intentions for a healthy life, and I am continually inspired, surprised, and educated by these individuals. I see the diverse population of Stanford University expressed in the breadth and depth of peoples’ practices. From lowering blood pressure by listening to classical music, to curbing stress-eating by painting murals, to discovering the joy of exercise through Ultimate Frisbee with the kids, there truly are myriad ways to be well. I am delighted to hear of and brainstorm the unconventional and innovative means within our community.”

Sarah also looks beyond the academic environment for knowledge and inspiration, saying her son Luke (age 4) has been her greatest teacher and coach to date. “I’ve become a better runner since giving birth to Luke, no doubt helped by the progressive strength-training I’ve gotten from pushing a jogging stroller!” Indeed, Sarah has run her fastest times in the 5k, 6-mile, 10k, and half-marathon distances in the last four years and has won Felton’s Race Through The Redwoods the last two years in a row.

But Luke’s presence has guided Sarah to far more than mere physical accomplishments: “I’ve become a more balanced and compassionate human being since he joined me.” Daily, Sarah witnesses the mindfulness Luke embodies. “It’s all about paying attention to our lives, moment by moment, in a very graceful way. Kids know instinctively how to do this; they live unapologetically in the now. We know this instinctively, too; we’ve simply forgotten.”

Sarah also credits a regular Bikram Yoga practice for enhancing both athletic performance and a calmer way of life. “It’s the stumble that invites the balance. To pay attention to each moment as it arrives, and to do so with gentleness, is fundamentally curative. When we see where we are and lose the stories about where we’ve been or where we may end up, we oen see we are OK — or maybe even better than OK: a transformative experience. It’s simple, and yet not at all easy, and so we practice. My intention in my work, and in my life as a whole, is to practice and share such qualities of presence, vitality, and grace.”

Meet Amanda Miller

A passion for wellness

Amanda Miller, a Wellness Advisor for Stanford’s BeWell team, found her inspiration for a career in wellness very early in life. Growing up in the Bay Area, Amanda’s parents’ were dedicated to the health of the family, with both parents balancing full-time work with taking care of Amanda and her younger brother. As the main chef of the family, Amanda’s mom was adamant that vegetables be a part of every meal and she very rarely allowed fast food to cross the dinner table. Amanda’s dad adored sports and often led the neighborhood kids in rousing games of T-ball or soccer. At age five, Amanda proclaimed spinach as her favorite food. By age eight, she insisted upon joining a soccer team on top of the dance classes she took three times each week. In her teens, Amanda balanced field hockey, soccer, and track and toted carrots as her favorite snack.

Aside from exercise and nutrition, Amanda also carried a fierce enthusiasm for helping others. In high school, she became a peer counselor and conflict mediator, a rally commissioner and a team captain for both field hockey and soccer. She headed into college at UC Santa Barbara with the goal of becoming a social worker, thinking of health as a hobby rather than as a future career.

Once at UCSB, Amanda majored in sociology, focusing on behavior change and group influence on individuals, while simultaneously working with autistic children. Health continued to linger on the sidelines of her studies, in the form of vegetarianism and long runs along the beautiful Santa Barbara coastline, but it did not take center stage until an instructor approached her about her clear passion for exercise. She was encouraged to register for the 1.5-year-long exercise and sports science minor program, with coursework including exercise physiology, kinesiology, muscular anatomy, sports injury prevention, nutrition, and health psychology. Amanda started working as a physical therapy aide and group fitness instructor, and became certified in cycling and circuit training. Through her multiple jobs and her studies, she was thrilled to find that her passion for helping others could be combined with her love of health and fitness.

After graduating from college, Amanda earned her Personal Training Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and started working as a personal trainer for the Club One located in Los Gatos. Aer coaching a variety of clients, Amanda realized that although fitness is an important component to overall health, there are many other factors impacting the health of an individual. Eager to find a holistic approach to health and a way to influence wellness of both individuals and their communities, Amanda became a wellness coach at WellCall, a telephonic corporate wellness program, where she further developed her skills in stages of change and motivational interviewing, and also became certified as a smoking cessation facilitator.

Amanda took a hiatus to Southeast Asia for a few months before joining the Stanford BeWell team as a Health Advisor in June of 2011. She has loved her time here and finds herself constantly inspired by her participants — from the healthy behaviors in which they already engage, to the questions they ask, to the changes they make from one year to the next. She strives to have a moment of connection with each individual, a realization that health is attainable. In addition to health advising, Amanda also leads a Stretch and Flex class for WorkWell and presents for BeWell Connect, a program she helped design as an outreach from BeWell to the Stanford campus.

A self-described internet nerd and lifelong learner, Amanda is always the first to ask questions of her teammates and to improve upon her own knowledge of health. She is still passionate about exercise. You may see her next to you on the treadmill in Arrillaga or hanging o the straps of the TRX. In her free time, she enjoys frequenting hiking trails, cheering on the San Francisco Giants, planning her next big trip abroad, and experimenting with healthy recipes.

Meet Rosalyne Tu

Rosalyne Tu, MS, RD has traveled an educational and vocational path defining her skills and experience as a Biometrics Manager, Dietitian, and Wellness Advisor for the BeWell Program.

After earning her BS in Nutritional Science (UC Berkeley) and completing her dietetic internship (Penn State), Rosalyne began her career as a clinical dietitian working in hospitals and outpatient services. Having worked with a majority of patients with diabetes, heart, liver and kidney disease, she knew that the next step in her career should be in prevention because she believed in the value of keeping people healthy. During her experience in the clinical setting, Rosalyne quickly realized that telling people what they should do just wasn’t enough to help them change their behaviors. Knowing that she was destined to work in wellness and prevention, and recognizing the need to develop her skills in counseling and behavior change, Rosalyne went back to school and earned her MS in Nutrition and Applied Physiology from Columbia University.

Subsequently, Rosalyne worked for the Department of Health (DOH) and the Obesity Research Center in New York City. At the DOH, she focused on collecting and analyzing data monitoring the eectiveness of the Calorie Initiative (the law requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menu boards). At the Obesity Research Center, Rosalyne researched the eects of discounted fruits and vegetables on purchasing and consumption of supermarket shoppers. Data from this study was intended to influence nutrition policy relating to food subsidies provided by the government.

After experiencing a few years of humid, sticky summers and arctic cold winters, Rosalyne came back west to continue her passions in wellness, public health and policy. She began working for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD), specifically for The Childhood Feeding Collaborative, an obesity prevention program focused on educating families and pediatricians on best practices in feeding guidance for kids 0-6 years of age. During her time at the SCCPHD, Rosalyne was also on the reviewing committee for the recent Nutritional Standards, which passed in Santa Clara County. This policy, which went into eect in 2012, has been called “the most comprehensive healthy food and beverage policy in the state — and possibly the nation.”

Since starting at Stanford in 2011, Rosalyne has been able to combine her interests of health on a public health scale and her enjoyment of connecting with people on a one-on-one basis. In addition to advising BeWell participants, she teaches HIP cooking classes, and has recently become the Manager of Biometrics for BeWell’s Wellness Profile. Rosalyne feels blessed and honored to have the opportunity to engage with so many of Stanford’s employees through the BeWell program. “People are doing great things for their health despite the uphill journey; there is much to admire in this population,” she says.

In addition to being thankful for a job she loves, she is especially grateful for the new addiction in her life: her recently born daughter! Although life has changed drastically, Rosalyne is still working on maintaining her hobbies of gardening, cooking and physical activity while establishing her “new normal” as a working mother.

Meet Nicole Cooper

Nicole Cooper was raised in Southern California and was very active in a variety of sports, including gymnastics and soccer. As an athlete, she learned the value of exercise, hard work, and teamwork. However, many injuries sidelined Nicole, and she wanted to understand how to prevent and rehab these injuries. She was inspired to pursue a career in kinesiology, the study of how the body moves, at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

During her studies at Cal Poly, she started competing in triathlons and became interested in sports nutrition. Aer earning her BS, Nicole added the nutrition component and became a Registered Dietitian. As a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, coupled with her expertise in nutrition, Nicole helped clients pursue their personal goals — from weight loss to competing in half marathons. She loved inspiring clients to find a happy balance of exercise, healthy food choices, and injury prevention.

With a diverse educational background and life experience, Nicole feels that her patience and caring demeanor are perfect attributes for the BeWell program at Stanford University. She looks forward to guiding participants to success in reaching their health and well-being goals.

Meet Laura Becker-Lewke

Laura Becker-Lewke, BA, LLB, MBA, grew up in Chappaqua, NY and graduated from Wellesley College. She earned her law degree from McGill University and her MBA from New York University (now called Leonard Stern School of Business). For ten years of her adult life, Laura has lived in three foreign countries: Germany, Canada, and France. She is tri-lingual and brings a unique international perspective to BeWell.

Laura started her professional career as a litigator in New York City, and after three years she became the general counsel for an international shipping company, Navios, a former wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Steel. Navios was headquartered in Connecticut, with oices around the world.

After 10 years as counsel and manager/administration, and with the arrival of her third child and the opportunity to move to Germany, Laura changed focus and direction to raising a family and volunteering. She has worked with several churches, schools, and other volunteer organizations — all while raising four children and caring for an elderly mother who suffered a life-changing stroke.

In January, 2014, Laura was a member of the first cohort of Health 4 All at Stanford at the SPRC. Her community project involved work with InnVision Shelter Network to create a mentoring program for the un-housed. This program has now evolved into “Friends and Coaches,” and Laura continues to mentor her mentee.

Joining the Be Well coaching sta is a natural extension of Laura’s desire to ”make a difference,” and in her work she draws upon her life experience in addition to her Health 4 All training.

Laura is also active with an international not-for-profit, Hope Unlimited for Children, which rescues street kids in Brazil. Her interest in serving the marginalized and under-served has always been strong, especially since this work can lead to complete wholeness and well-being — physical, mental and spiritual.

Meet Laurie Ausserer

Laurie Ausserer is Health Education Manager at the Health Improvement Program and a BeWell coach and advisor.

Laurie grew up in a small university town in central Washington State. She spent summers, on her horse Gail, exploring country roads, pastures, and creeks; spending time with friends; and swimming at the community pool. She remembers how skating on the neighborhood ice rink her father made each year and skiing in the Cascades just an hour west of town brightened and expanded the winter days.

Laurie recognizes now how the times spent playing, exploring, and “being” outdoors in her youth informed her career choices and provided the wellspring for her enduring fascination with the human body. Laurie truly appreciates the self-correcting and restorative benefits that can come from spending time in nature.

After earning a degree in Parks and Recreation Management, with an emphasis in Gerontology, Laurie went on to the University of Washington for graduate studies in Exercise Physiology. In college, Laurie began teaching group fitness classes and specialized physical activity for cardiac rehabilitation programs. She taught these classes for several years in Washington, New York, and California, while her children were small. Laurie then became a certified personal trainer, and continues today to enjoy leading the occasional fitness class.

Laurie’s quest to learn about and impact the health of others went into hyper-drive when she came to the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC). For more than twelve years, she worked on a variety of research studies with leading investigators in health and disease prevention — including Marcia Stefanic, William Haskell, John Farqhuar, Michaela Kiernan, Kathy Berra, and Christopher Gardner. Laurie takes pride sharing the tested and practical health recommendations that have come from the groundbreaking research at SPRC. Laurie also applies two lessons ingrained from these years to her BeWell coaching and advising sessions. “My experience working with thousands of research participants taught me that, other than the assumption that most people value their health, all other presumptions about someone’s health must be le “at the door.” The second lesson, which became distinctly clear in her work at SPRC, is that our bodies, given the chance, are extraordinarily resilient. “Even small investments in our well-being can provide surprising results.”

In 2008, Laurie joined the amazing team of health professionals at HIP. “Spending time with the people that come into the BeWell program is truly a highlight of my job. I am humbled by the rich, deep, and varied lives of the people that come to into the program. If I can do anything to turn the spotlight on their particular strengths, to endorse what they are already doing for themselves, and then puzzle about how to find small lifestyle adjustments that ‘feel right’ and that excite them and enrich their lives, that’s pretty fun.”

Outside of her work, Laurie loves to hike, run trails, swim, garden, study and write poetry, and spend time with (and continue to learn from) three exceptional people in her life — her husband, and two daughters.

“Health, south wind, books, old trees, a boat, a friend.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Meet Debbie Balfanz

Debbie grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A sledding accident at age 9 left her with a broken femur and a long recovery that included three months in bed and another three months learning to walk again with crutches. Since that experience, Debbie has been interested in people’s beliefs and attitudes about health and their intentions to engage in health-promoting behaviors.

While a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, Debbie remained interested in health promotion, but knew she didn’t want to become a doctor. She volunteered at the University hospital as a “friendly visitor,” visiting patients who wouldn’t otherwise have had company. Aer receiving her BA, she worked for two years in the clinical psychology department at Temple University as coordinator of a large grant-funded research study that examined how women at risk for cervical cancer processed different messages around health. In this role, Debbie learned about research design and analysis, and also realized that she could have a career that combined her love of psychology with her desire to help people stay healthy.

After spending two years as research coordinator, Debbie went to Princeton University to pursue a PhD in social psychology, with a focus on health psychology. During her time there, Debbie was able to find an outlet for her passions — advising, mentoring, and teaching — through her roles as a peer health counselor, teaching assistant, statistical consultant, writing advisor, and adjunct faculty member at local community colleges. In addition, Debbie was able to pursue research questions that fascinated her, such as: “How can we frame messages to increase compliance among at-risk adolescent girls who need to come in for follow up?” and “What factors contribute to undergraduates’ feelings of depression?”

A regular exerciser since college, it was in graduate school that Debbie really began to appreciate all the benefits that came from regular physical activity, including mood and stress management. And a fabulous aerobics instructor turned Debbie into something she never thought she would be: someone who enjoyed working out in the morning! Relocating to California years later brought an unexpected benefit: for the first time in her life, Debbie saw the appeal of running outdoors and began to run consistently.

Debbie has worked for Stanford’s Health Improvement Program (HIP) for 13 years. She spends her time coordinating behavior change groups for university and hospital employees, their family members, as well as members of the general community. She also conducts trainings for other organizations who want to oer this program. In addition, she evaluates the programs offered by HIP and BeWell, teaches healthy living classes, and works one-on-one with participants who want to make a behavior change.

As a working mom of two young boys with Celiac disease, she understands firsthand the realities of trying to prioritize health while juggling all the other demands of life in Silicon Valley. While she knows she has room to improve when it comes to making time for healthy meals, she does prioritize physical activity, which helps her deal with life’s many curveballs. She makes time to get moving most days, and keeps sane by taking walking breaks during the day; running on the weekends; and attending HIP fitness classes when she can. It turns out that she really enjoys yoga, a type of exercise that she used to swear she would never do!

In addition to caring for her two sons, Debbie has had to cope with the loss of a parent since beginning work at HIP. Drawing on those personal experiences, as well as the knowledge she’s gained from working with hundreds of Stanford employees, Debbie has learned to identify and manage the barriers to a healthy lifestyle. She helps other busy people understand that by making small changes in their lifestyle, they can greatly improve their health and the health of those around them.

Meet Soowon Kim

Soowon Kim, PhD, has been with the Health Improvement Program (HIP) for over 9 years. Her primary role is to evaluate the health promotion efforts of HIP and BeWell.

Soowon’s professional training focused on nutrition epidemiology, an area of study involving the examination of the role of nutrition in health and disease, the monitoring of the nutritional status of populations, and the development and evaluation of interventions for achieving and maintaining healthy eating patterns. It is important to Soowon that we approach health and wellness from the multiple pathways through which biological, behavioral and contextual contributors affect individuals and the population. She is also committed to improving the health of every individual, including those who are disadvantaged.

Prior to working at HIP, Soowon was a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF through the W.K. Kellogg Scholars in Health Disparities Program, where she focused on issues of health disparities and social determinants of health. She was also a visiting scholar at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Soowon was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. Coming from a big family that likes to celebrate with great eating experiences, food has always held a special attraction for Soowon. With many responsibilities, it is a continuous struggle for her to fit exercise into her daily schedule while also finding ways to maintain a high energy level.

Soowon believes we are all unique individuals with the power to make meaningful life changes. In her role as a wellness coach, Soowon walks alongside her participants on their wellness journey, helping them hold their focus on their desired outcomes. She employs assumption-free, nonjudgmental, and open communication to help her participants achieve their wellness goals.

Soowon recommends that her participants at BeWell apply one of the most valuable lessons she has learned working at HIP: move away from the “all-or-nothing” mindset and appreciate any tiny steps you can take to improve health and the quality of life.

Meet Jerrie Thurman

Jerrie is a senior health program manager for Stanford Health Improvement Program (HIP). She coordinates 90 fitness professionals who instruct over 200 group fitness classes each week at Stanford University. She has collaborated on numerous Worksite Wellness and Department Programs, and instructs a variety of fitness and health education classes for HIP.

Jerrie has worked at Stanford for almost 25 years, and with HIP for 21 of those years. She is also a 30+ year veteran of the fitness industry.

Some of her professional accomplishments include: recent graduate of the Stanford School of Medicine’s Health 4 All Fellowship program, MA degree in instructional technology, and BS degree in human performance/exercise physiology.

Jerrie is sympathetic to the “sandwich generation” employee. She has three children ages 15-27, an elderly mother, and works full-time. She is intentional about doing regular activity, and encourages others to be as active as they can. In her spare time she enjoys dancing, singing, reading and fine arts activities.

Meet Jayna Rogers-Bunio

Jayna Rogers-Bunio is the Wellness Manager for the Health Improvement Program and the Workshop Manager for BeWell. She has been a health educator and researcher for the Stanford School of Medicine for the past 15 years in the areas of smoking cessation, weight management, women’s health and wellness coaching for long-term behavior change.

With a background in community health education and a master’s degree in public health, Jayna’s experience with behavior change and group facilitation adds depth to the wellness services she provides at Stanford.

The Stanford community is near and dear to Jayna. She advocates for a wide range of employees at Stanford, and employees are at the center of her decision-making and input on program design.

As a working mom and daughter of aging parents, Jayna understands how difficult it can be to fit physical activity into a busy and ever-changing schedule.

Meet Maia Tamanakis

Maia Tamanakis’s passion for health and wellness began at a very young age. Her father owned a small “health food” store near her rural hometown in Massachusetts — before Whole Foods and others were even on the map. Vitamins, supplements and natural foods were a part of her life growing up, although Twinkies were one of her favorite foods back then! Her mom and uncle were both physical education teachers who excelled at basketball, football and wrestling; thus, sports, exercise, and athletics were a part of the culture in which she was raised.

Having faced some health challenges as a young child, Maia became fascinated by the human body and medicine and continued a love for learning biology and physiology. She remembers during high school being riveted reading Bill Moyers’ book, Healing and the Mind, and she thought that the field of psychoneuroimmunology would be a cool thing to continue to study! In college, she continued to learn and explore human behavior and biology, and she thought maybe medical school was where her path would take her. However, she found that medicine wasn’t holistic enough, so she waited to see what else might prove her calling.

After graduating from college, she again faced some health setbacks, which fueled her passion for personal fitness training and life coaching. The combination of these two passions brought her back to life, physically and mentally, and she decided to pursue a certification in both areas — at a time when health and wellness coaching was just coming on to the scene.

Shortly after being certified as a wellness coach, Maia decided to leave her small home town for a position as a corporate wellness coach at a technology company in Santa Clara. Thrilled by fulfilling a long-time dream of moving to California, as well as working in a field she loved, she stayed in that position for eight years — coaching employees and providing health education and promotion as part of their onsite wellness program.

Through the years working with people and as part of her own life’s journey, she has validated the inseparable connection between mind, body and spirit that she knew always to be true — ever since she picked up that copy of Healing and the Mind. Since then, Maia has delved deeply into the spiritual practices of yoga, meditation and prayer, and she loves helping others experience mindfulness and stillness as part of their wellness journey.

Maia is so grateful that she can grow and connect with others on their wellness journeys by bringing her love and experience to the Stanford community as a BeWell coach.

Meet Joanne Ambras

Wellness Coach and Nutrition Educator, Joanne Ambras, believes that taking action to be as healthy as possible and cultivating a wellness state of mind can help us get through everything that happens in life.

Sometimes, getting there can be a challenge. In her case, what helped her was practical information and a helping hand:

In the beginning …

Joanne was born on Maui and her journey to wellness started with her parents’ decision to move to California when she was one year old. She grew up here in Silicon Valley, graduated from San Jose State University and went straight to work in the exciting and fast-paced world of high tech. She had a successful career at a San Francisco Bay Area Fortune 50 company and loved her work doing recruiting, management coaching and teaching for her client groups around the world. She loved, loved, loved her job! It was exciting, fun and fast-paced, oen with long hours and lots of travel. She was always on the go, not sleeping or eating very well.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but her body was in a constant state of stress. It was excited stress, productive stress — but as she learned later, without adequate down time and nutrition, her body had to work too hard to keep up. She felt fine for a long time, but eventually it all caught up with her. Her body was in as state of distress.

What happened next …

Joanne decided to take some time o from the high tech world, and aer a short while realized that she didn’t feel much better. She discovered through testing that her adrenals were overtaxed. She learned that adrenal function is related to all aspects of today’s typical jam-packed lifestyle. She got the help of a nutritionist and started to get her life back in balance. Key to all of it was changing her diet and becoming more mindful about her lifestyle and her ability to manage stress.

While working on her diet, Joanne realized how much she loves food and loves to eat! She thinks about food every minute of the day, and has figured out how to feed herself in ways that are both healthy and delicious. She really wanted to learn about all of this in more depth, and so went back to college to study nutrition.

And now …

As a Certified Nutrition Educator and Wellness Coach, she is honored to help others with their goals for health and vitality. The focus of her work is to make healthy eating simple and attainable for everyone.

The goal is lasting change.

Meet Natalie Lavorato

Natalie Lavorato spent the first 18 years of her life in beautiful Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Her dad had been a professional football player in the Canadian Football League for 10 years, allowing her to grow up in a very active and competitive home filled with many different sports. She participated in gymnastics early on, giving her a solid foundation for discipline and hard work. Once she decided to move on from gymnastics, she participated in every school sport through high school — including basketball, volleyball, and track. Her mother was also a dancer and had both Natalie and her brother choreographing routines at an early age. It is a passion she continues to have today!

Although exercise and physical activity were a major component in Natalie’s life, her family members were self-professed sugar addicts! To top it off, she also struggled with severe digestive issues, and was eventually diagnosed with gluten and lactose intolerance. It was this struggle with food, along with watching several of her family members develop diabetes, that started Natalie on her journey of learning more about nutrition and healthy eating.

Once she graduated from high school, Natalie and her family decided to move to beautiful Saratoga, California, where her mother grew up. Aer taking a general nutrition course, Natalie realized it aligned well with her love of science and her desire to know more about the human body. In fact, her professor recognized how much she loved nutrition and wrote on her final paper, “Dietitian?” This comment left a lasting impression and ultimately lead Natalie to major in nutritional science with an emphasis on sports nutrition at San Jose State University.

Once she had completed her degree, Natalie began working at a local non-profit along with becoming a part-time health educator for Kaiser Permanente in the Worksite Wellness program. Her work with the non-profit, RAFT (a resource for teachers), allowed her to develop program and project management skills, while her work at Kaiser Permanente expanded her skills in one-to-one nutrition and exercise counseling and seminars. After a couple of years, she was recruited to work in the Medical Weight Management program. Here, Natalie found her love of group facilitation and motivational interviewing. She also began to recognize the complex connection food and exercise have with stress, sleep, self-care and over-all behavior modification.

After two years as a lead facilitator, Natalie decided to try her hand in a different area: pediatrics. She took a job as a clinical health educator for the San Francisco Kaiser Permanente Pediatrics oice. In her time there, she worked with families and teens on subjects such as healthy eating, picky eating, toilet training, sleep training, birth control and teen pregnancy counseling.

After a year in the Pediatrics Department, Natalie decided that her passion truly lied in working with adults on behavior change related to wellness. Natalie is now a Wellness Coach at Stanford and is loving it!

Meet Mia Primeau

Mia Primeau grew up in a small town in Rhode Island. Her Italian grandparents lived downstairs in the basement of their small home, which her father and grandfather built together. Her upbringing is best described as simple — and Mia still values the simple things above all.

Mia grew up with a front-yard garden, and always loved the fresh produce it produced and the amazing foods her grandma would make with it, like fried zucchini-flowers and string-bean salad. However, as was the case for many families in their community, fast and processed foods were common in her family’s diet.

As a young adult, Mia’s mother and grandmother were both diagnosed with cancer. Through diet and lifestyle changes alone, Mia’s mother persevered through stage 4 breast cancer. Mia became interested in the connection between diet and disease, and the concept of nutrition as medicine. As a result, Mia began changing her own habits and studying nutrition. After graduating with a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Rhode Island, Mia went on to pursue an MA in Somatic Psychology. Mia’s grandmother passed during this time, which drove Mia to focus on end-of-life care and death-acceptance issues for her masters work.

On her professional path, Mia founded the Yoga Program at URI, taught yoga and mindfulness on a personal and group level, facilitated group and individual grief and acceptance therapy at Pathways Hospice, and taught wellness at a public middle school.

Mia’s approach to health is simple: to provide holistic, high-quality support to individuals at any stage of life. She continues to value the simple things above all — especially human connection, which she believes is often nature’s best medicine.

Meet Ray Scott

Ray Scott grew up in Los Altos Hills at Hidden Villa, which is home to an environmental education program and organic farm. Ray’s father managed the farm and made the produce available to the general public through a CSA and a farm stand. From a young age, Ray learned the importance of growing and preparing healthy food through sustainable methods. He was also able to explore the trails and woods on the property, experiencing the benefits and joy that being in nature can offer.

Ray developed an appreciation for music and physical activity, and spent his time playing guitar, backpacking, biking and running. He went on to run cross country and track in high school, and found that he craved activities that allowed him to increase his mind-body awareness. His desire for the sensation of being fully present in and aware of the body evolved as he grew older, and he found his passion for movement and body awareness was best fulfilled in weightlifting and yoga. He became certified in personal training and emergency medicine while attending Foothill College and decided that he wanted a career that would allow him to help others while working in a physically demanding and active job.

During his young adulthood, Ray spent much of his time with his father — who was undergoing cancer treatment at Stanford Hospital. There, Ray was introduced to the benefits of exercise utilized from a medical perspective, as his father took part in Living Strong Living Well — a partnership between Stanford and the YMCA that provides strength training for cancer patients. This experience helped his father recover from the physical and emotional stress of chemotherapy and radiation; and it reinforced for Ray the importance of an exercise practice for both patients and family members throughout the process of treatment and recovery. After the death of his father, Ray later experienced the usefulness of exercise and a regular yoga practice in the process of grieving and healing, and he is a proponent of finding a consistent activity routine for everyone.

As Ray pieced his interests together, he became focused on firefighting and decided to apply to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. The central coast, with easy access to the ocean, offered many amazing opportunities for exploring the outdoors. Cal Poly offered a Forestry and Natural Resource Management program with a concentration in Wildland Firefighting, a unique opportunity to fit his passion with reality.

Ray began working for the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter while still attending Cal Poly. He loved the physical and mental challenges of the job and enjoyed being part of a 20-person crew that hiked into the backcountry to fight fires and manage fuels using only chain saws and hand tools. The physical fitness that the job demanded gave Ray the opportunity to increase his knowledge of exercise and sports nutrition. After a couple of seasons of fighting fires, Ray looked for ways to work one-on-one with others to affect a positive change in their health.

Ray’s interest in anatomy and the workings of the human body pointed him toward medicine. He spent the next two years working in a physical therapy clinic while responding to 911 calls as an EMT. Between working with patients in Physical Therapy and providing care to patients on the ambulance, Ray began to appreciate the importance of preventive care and education. Ray felt that there was a need for the promotion of well-being and self-care and that physical movement provided a multitude of benefits, both physically and mentally. It was through this realization that Ray began to search for a career that would allow him to teach fitness, nutrition, and health to help others thrive.

After getting married to his high school sweetheart in 2015, Ray and his wife continued to live and work in San Luis Obispo, enjoying the small-town feel and easy access to hiking and beaches. During this time, Ray and his wife – who has Celiac disease – strove to perfect their gluten free cooking, a culinary territory that has traditionally been full of foods with dry, less than palatable textures. In early 2016, they decided to move back to the Bay Area to pursue opportunities in the medical and wellness fields. Ray became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in order to better incorporate wellness coaching with teaching fun methods of physical activity. He plans on going back to school for a Master’s in Public Health but is happy to be a part of the BeWell team and is practicing living in the moment.


Meet Cecille Tabernero, MS

Born and raised in the East Bay by a single mother who was a nurse, Cecille Tabernero heard about the sick patients her mom took care of, and she learned how to take blood pressure using a stethoscope and cuff at an early age.

Her journey toward a career in health and wellness began when she started working at 24 Hour Fitness in high school. She moved through the ranks and eventually managed the San Leandro, Oakland, Berkeley and Castro Valley gyms. While working full time and becoming a mother, she went to back to college and studied kinesiology at San Jose State University, graduating with a B.S. in kinesiology with an emphasis on sports management. She has since earned her MS in Health Science.

Cecille joined BeWell in 2012 as a health screener, and she is now the Health Screening Manager. She appreciates that BeWell is at the forefront of making important changes in people’s lives. No matter how small the change may be, the hope is that they take what they learn and share it with their family and friends. She loves the fact that she is a surrounded by so much knowledge and is constantly learning about the ever-changing science of wellness.

Cecille, who has a deep respect for and is involved with the Hawaiian culture, dances hula. As a hula student and helper, she enjoys passing on information about health and wellness to the families in the school, especially the younger students. She knows it is important to give kids good information at a young age. Even if they cannot put this knowledge into action right away, she hopes she has planted the seed in the back of their minds and therefore given them a solid start to healthy living.

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