With a focus on practicing wellness, the Mind Body Wellness Summit, hosted by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Mind Body Wellness Center in partnership with the Office of Human Resources, gathered more than 150 attendees, including faculty, staff, students, and community members, to learn about and collectively embrace mindfulness and resilience.
The half-day event featured speakers, a panel discussion, and breakout sessions on guided meditation, healing yoga, understanding the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and self-awareness.
“This is just the beginning of our wellness efforts as a campus,” said Kennard Brown, JD, PhD, MPA, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer at UTHSC, during the welcome of the summit. “You will continue to see these things unfold over the course of the next year and several years, to try to get everybody to be more mindful and see if you within yourself can find some respite, calm, and peace.”
Keynote speaker Juliet Hwang, MD, a faculty member at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena, California, and community pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Long Beach, California, presented on transforming adversity to resiliency, Polyvagal theory the role of the ventral and dorsal vagal in the nervous system and emotional regulation, and the power of listening to the wisdom of our bodies.
Dr. Hwang’s presentation also instructed attendees in multiple embodiment practices to recognize shifts in the body and help regulate the nervous system.
“I really believe that as health care providers, if we understand our nervous systems and know how to regulate, then we could really be anchors for our patients and our families,” Dr. Hwang said. “I believe that’s how healthiness and wellness begins.”
She said it was an honor to share her perspective with people who are interested in trying something new. “We’re all on the path and we’re all finding each other.” she said.
Miranda Kennedy, AxiUm and MiPACS software administrator in the UTHSC College of Dentistry and yoga instructor at the Mind Body Wellness Center, noted her excitement to attend the summit. “I want to dive deeper into the science behind what I teach,” she said.
The summit’s breakout session, Mind: Guided Mediation, was led by Sister Peace, an ordained nun in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, teaching a guided meditation in the Plum Village tradition that focused on finding calm and practicing inner stillness.
Kayla Brooks, a 200-hour registered yoga teacher, held a brief yoga class for all levels in the Body: Healing Yoga breakout session.
The Wellness: ACEs breakout session by the Center for Youth Advocacy and Well-being explored Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), traumatic experiences that happen to children and can affect them in later life, through a presentation and a reflective questionnaire exercise to increase awareness of the community’s struggle with childhood trauma and the role of resilience.
The summit closed with a performance by Playback Memphis, an original form of improvisational theater in which audience members tell stories from their lives. The session reflected practicing resilience through storytelling.
“The event exceeded our every expectation in terms of its turnout and depth of participation by our faculty, staff, and especially our wonderful students,” Dr. Brown said. “There is a clear message that this is something that is needed and welcomed by our campus population. My sincere appreciation to our team, Dr. Alston, Felencia Christian, Kathy Gibbs and Phuong Nguyen for an outstanding job.”