Nancy Baden, the outreach nurse educator at Wellesley’s Health Service, is both a registered nurse and a mentor for student health organizations. She teaches students how to balance their lifestyles, especially in the area of nutrition, and encourages them to continue those habits after graduation.
After her mother received bypass heart surgery when Baden was 12 years old, Baden became interested in providing compassionate medical care to others. In fact, she was so motivated that she aced her middle school science exam on the cardiovascular system that year.
Since that year, Baden’s interest in the field of health and medicine grew continuously. She graduated from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital School of Nursing in Boston and began Community Health Nursing while working at a hospital in Huntington Beach, California. She has now been working at Wellesley for five and a half years.
Baden has focused her career in part on nutrition education. This focus has extended to many classes, clubs and events at Wellesley. For example, Baden teaches nutrition basics in the First Year Physical Education Wellness Class series.
“If I can empower students to make good nutrition choices during their first year of college, I truly hope this will lead to a lifestyle that will serve them well, long after they’ve left Wellesley,” she said.
Baden explained that she wants students to study their health status not only for now but also for the future, as many chronic diseases can be prevented if people are aware of the risks earlier. She hopes that lifestyles taught in this class will extend even after the students graduate.
In addition to teaching in the classroom, Baden is the advisor to the BHEs (Balance Health Educators), a student organization that emphasizes the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Following the framework WellN.E.S.St. (Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Stress resiliency), Baden has worked to create self-care events on campus, including massages, therapy dogs and dark chocolate fondue. The Second annual WellN.E.S.St. festival will be held in February. These events allow students to freely explore the resources that are available on campus and learn healthy lifestyles.
At the health center, Baden’s work varies from day to day. The list of her responsibilities is endless: orientation training, flu clinics, athletic wellness sessions, BHE and Peer Health Educator training and meetings, First Year P.E. Nutrition classes, travel health education sessions, Take A Break Calendar, monthly Wellness Outreach Collaborative and Division of Student Life meetings, health education outreach via Facebook, Google Group and plasma screens, individual student health consults and Parent Newsletter updates. While taking care of each duty, she also supports the Health Services staff to satisfy the needs of the students.
Baden said that one of the initiatives she is most excited by is the Wellness Outreach Collaborative (WOC). Created three years ago, WOC is a joint effort between Health, Counseling, PERA (Physical Education, Recreation, Athletics), the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, AVI Fresh, Student Life, Sustainability and College Government. The goal is to develop a Wellesley-specific Wellness Model that aims to benefit the entire Wellesley community.
Baden said she feels blessed to be working with the Health Service staff and learning from her co-workers over the years. Baden said that Claudia Trevor-Wright, the assistant director of Health Education, has played a special role in mentoring her. Medical Director Dr. Vanessa Britto and the Associate Director Tanya Sullivan have also influenced Baden.
Through her work at Health Service as well as the mentorship she offers student organizations, she hopes that students will maintain healthy habits—particularly in the area of nutrition—as these can greatly impact their future.
“In my career, one of the elements I’ve always focused on was the importance of nutrition, and how what we choose to feed our bodies is essential in determining not only what your health status is now, but especially what your future will look like,” said Baden.