Baker wants to unify, expand employee wellness initiatives

Meg Baker sizedThere are a few words Meg Baker, the new director of Employee Wellness, repeats in her conversations — building blocks for the future of the program — and they include communication, intervention, prevention and collaboration.

Baker, who earned an undergraduate degree in health and physical education at UAB, has spent the past seven years as a wellness-enhancement analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, developing and implementing corporate wellness services and internal wellness program initiatives for companies.

On her parents’ advice — mom is a nurse, dad is a doctor — Baker initially went into nursing, but found she wasn’t cut out for the job after her first year of clinical rotations.

“You’re either a nurse or you’re not,” Baker said.

So, she transitioned into the health sciences and nutrition and subsequently earned her master’s degree in public health from Kaplan University.

Her first impression of UAB’s Employee Wellness program has been positive, and she says the foundation is strong.

“Lauren [Whitt] left a legacy when it comes to wellness, and now we want to focus on intervention and prevention,” Baker said. “Not just on the medical or campus side, but we want to integrate the two.”

She’s focused on integration. Baker said if there is an event such as Green Screens at the hospital, she wants to make sure there is an equivalent for the university. The efforts, she said, have to be equal to ensure all employees know about Employee Wellness.

“When we say Employee Wellness, we’re not just talking about UAB Medicine but also the campus,” Baker said. “There needs to be more collaboration. I know we can perfect that.”

The first step, Baker said, is to meet the key players on both sides of campus. Baker has been busy doing just that in her first few weeks on the job. Her goal is to form a go-to group of people who will be wellness advocates within their departments and schools.

“What I want to do now is connect the dots,” Baker said. “We’ve got to have champions for wellness to be successful. One person can’t do it; we have to have the champions.”

Baker also is working to expand the wellness program and is drawing on her previous experience to do that. She’s assessing UAB’s needs and working to move new ideas through the pipeline.

“At UAB we’ve got to figure out our total population — what works and what doesn’t,” Baker said. “Communication is key. This is a big campus, so it’s going to be a great challenge to come up with a comprehensive wellness plan.”

The best part, she said, is that the support of UAB President Ray Watts, M.D., and the administration will make her job easier.

“In my former job, I learned if you have the buy-in from the top down, then the program would be contagious,” Baker said.

Learn more about the UAB Employee Wellness program online