What does it mean to truly address someone’s well-being?

For UCSF Wellness, it’s a holistic approach involving everything from emotional and physical to financial and spiritual well-being – all part of the University’s seven pillars of wellness. 

With that, and growing support for well-being across UCSF, it’s no surprise the American Heart Association recently recognized UCSF Wellness with a Silver level award among a number of other organizations across the U.S. “for their commitment to building a culture of health and well-being.” The designation is the third straight for the team now reporting to Stephanie Collins. UCSF Wellness first applied to be part of the American Heart Association’s “Workforce Well-being Scorecard” program in 2019, receiving a Bronze award that year.

We have a significant opportunity to build synergies and enhance integration within well-being.

Stephanie Collins, UCSF vice president and assistant vice chancellor

“I am honored to work for an organization that recently created a chief wellness officer role and I am enthusiastic about the direction well-being is headed at UCSF,” said Collins, who joined UCSF as vice president and assistant vice chancellor, People Wellness in October 2021. Wellness has reported to Collins since February 2023 – part of an effort to align wellness initiatives and accessibility.

Before that, the UCSF Wellness team was part of Campus Life Services.

“UCSF leadership is supportive of well-being for all UCSF teammates,” Collins said.

That’s where Kathleen Yumul comes in as the coordinator of colleagues and efforts across UCSF.

Yumul, UCSF wellness program manager, is in her fifth year captaining the University’s wellness effort, something she views as building “a culture of wellness” at UCSF. “That means guiding people to resources for them as an individual, but also being able to advocate for systems and changes to systems that support well-being,” she said.

wellness leader lead a meeting

Kathleen Yumul, wellness program manager, and Sebastiani Romagnolo, projects coordinator, welcome wellness champions and lead them through activity instructions at the first wellness champions in-person soiree in March 2023.

large white sheet of paper with notes from meeting

Wellness champions work together to brainstorm ideas for staying connected within their team and with other fellow champions.

Myriad of Resources Available at UCSF

Yumul’s Wellness team oversees a wide range of programs and tools available to students, faculty and staff, including – but not limited to – Wellness Bingo, Diabetes Prevention Program, Healthy Beverage Initiative, Step It Up and UC Moves. They’ve even brought llamas to UCSF, an event now continued by UCSF Arts and Events.

That’s just a small glimpse into the work that goes on to foster wellness at UCSF.

For Yumul, the UCSF Wellness Champions Program is critical to her team’s success. The program brings together UCSF community members passionate about wellness and spreading well-being across the University. Those chosen as champions serve as departmental leaders in advocating for wellness within their units, develop and promote engagement, brainstorm wellness ideas and attend quarterly meetings.

group of happy hikers
The Graduate and Professional Immigrant Association (GAPIA) organized an overnight camping trip to Mt. Diablo in March to foster community among the undocumented students and allies at UCSF.

Another important group is the UCSF Well-being Committee, comprised of a cross-section of campus and UCSF Health leaders that prioritize wellness.

Coming together in 2021, the committee materialized at a precarious time as the need for well-being resources was on the uptick during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Individuals are much more in tune and aware of their well-being and holistic mental health, not just from a nutrition and exercise perspective,” Collins said. UCSF continues to offer several COVID-19 resources like virtual self-care and access to local food pantries.

“If there was one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was that mental health and well-being came to the forefront,” Yumul added. That was due in no small part to Elissa Epel, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and Well-being Committee member, who along with Maga Jackson-Triche, MD, MSHS and Christina Mangurian, MD, MAS, championed the UCSF Employee Coping and Resiliency Program, a partnership with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Human Resources and the Center for Digital Health Innovation. The UCSF Employee Coping and Resiliency Program was created during the COVID-19 crisis to provide emotional support for all UCSF faculty, trainees and staff. Collins recently received funding to reimplement COPE 2.0 in an effort to prioritize and promote well-being, resilience and mental health resources for the UCSF population.

Apply Now for Wellness Grants

As they have in the past, UCSF Wellness will again be welcoming applications for Community Well-being Grants for projects that promote health and well-being among one or more of their pillars of wellness – emotional, physical, social, financial, professional, environmental and spiritual. They’re available to UCSF faculty, staff and students with ideas on how to make an impact. 

“The first year we actually had 310 applications come through, which was huge,” Yumul said. “We had no idea what we would get. We were able to fund nine of those projects (splitting $60,000 total).” The next year, Wellness funded 20 total projects from a bigger $100,000 budget. They will do the same again in 2023.

Among the Wellness projects funded in last year’s group: COACHing for Coaches, A Fun Day At Stow Lake, Dying to Talk: UCSF Heart Sounds and Microaggressions Awareness Campaign

The UCSF Well-being Committee will review the proposals and will base decisions on the proposed impact of projects. Applications will be evaluated based on the UCSF wellness pillars, creating a culture of well-being at UCSF, whether the projects promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in a substantial and meaningful way, the implementation plan and feasible use of funding.

“The grants are an opportunity for people to be creative…to tap into the things that are significant and important to them,” Collins said. “You would be surprised how many of our UCSF teammates would be interested in your idea.”

Questions about the grants should be emailed here. The window for applying for a Community Well-being Grant is open from September 18 to October 6.

As for the future, Yumul is excited about where UCSF Wellness is headed.

“We’re excited to grow wellness across the University and have wellness be at the forefront of things that people are thinking about.”