Wellness Initiative Introduces Dietician to Health Staff

Audrey Melick

This February, someone is coming to Colgate who may change the way students think about dieting. Working together with Sodexho Food Services and the Counseling Center, the Student Health Center is bringing a registered dietician to campus. Her name is Pam Podenak, and she will be making herself available to any sports team, student group or individual who is interested in pursuing a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. Previously, Podenak worked in hospitals and clinics and directed other wellness programs. Not only will Podenak provide the community with general nutritional information, but she will focus on specific health problems, sports nutrition and body image issues as well.

Although having a dietician on campus will benefit the entire Colgate community, having her around full-time is, as of now, not an option. According to Adjunct Professor of the Health Sciences and Director of Student Health Services Dr. Merrill Miller, central New York has a limited number of available dieticians and an even fewer number with the skills required of a college campus, the same skills that Podenak possesses.

“Her position will be very part-time,” Dr. Miller said. “She has a full-time job and a family just over an hour away from Hamilton.” In addition to working with Colgate, Podenak will be serving as a part-time dietician on Hamilton College’s campus.

“She’ll be able to meet with each group or individual for one evening, once a month,” Miller said. “It’s not much, but, say, eight or nine hours per month compared to no hours per month? Well, it’s definitely a start.”

This project, along with multiple other collaborations from student groups and organizations on campus, falls under what Miller calls the “umbrella” that is the Wellness Initiative. Started a year and a half ago with the help of an alumni couple, this blend of activities and programs serves to improve the overall well being of the Colgate community by addressing physical, emotional, intellectual and social concerns.

“The idea is that habits are formed early on in life, especially during adolescence and young adulthood,” said Dr. Miller. “The whole purpose of the Wellness Initiative is to make an impact on the future.”

The Wellness Initiative has helped to sponsor resources and activities including AlcoholEdu, the weekly radio show “What’s Up Doc?,” the “Friends” exhibition that was featured in the Case Library last semester and BACCHUS game night.

Approaching a professional about proper diet and nutrition can help students make clear the choices that often become cloudy under the pressure of college life. Miller believes that the biggest problem on college campuses today is not a lack of knowing how to lead a healthy life, but the impact that stress combined with inadequate time-management skills can have on students. This can quickly lead to emotional issues, especially eating disorders. Obviously, Podenak’s presence will help solve these concerns.