When Doug Schmidt had a heart attack eight years ago, he had no idea how drastically his life would change and how this single event would affect so many other people. At the time, Doug worked as an elementary school teacher at Victor Schools in Rochester, New York, and lived a normal, quiet life. After his heart attack, Doug gradually transitioned to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, finishing his journey by eliminating added oil two years ago. As a result of these changes, Doug lost 50 lbs. and regained his health.
Fast-forward to the present, and the impact Doug has made within his community is nothing short of amazing. As a result of seeing the positive changes in his own health by transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet, Doug began to spread his own story. In 2015, Doug watched the PlantPure Nation movie and started his own group, Plant Strong Victor.
This year he was also named the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Victor School District. During his first year in this position, Doug has tried to help educate everyone on the connection between stress, good health habits, and overall work performance. He came up with the concept of using the school district’s insurance plan’s (Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield) Health Initiative Wellness Fund to partially fund a Jumpstart for interested staff members. He recognized that it would be critical for participants to pay for a portion of the Jumpstart. Studies have shown that people funding at least a portion of any wellness initiative increases participation significantly.
Doug contacted his insurance representative and laid out four different options. The representative chose the one he thought was viable and they then formulated a plan. They would provide partial funding and biometric testing for 30 interested participants (they were even able to offer the program to spouses). The response was really encouraging, and Doug had people on a waiting list to participate. He wanted to make sure that the biometric data was collected so everyone could see for themselves the effectiveness of the Jumpstart, particularly the insurance company assisting with funding.
The biometric data was amazing! At the start of the program, the average group cholesterol was 173 mg/dL. After the Jumpstart, the average total cholesterol dropped to 124 mg/dL. During the Jumpstart, Doug would send out daily motivational emails to all of the participants. Even though many of them were spread out within different schools, he wanted everyone to feel connected. The response to the emails was impressive—comments from participants showed that his efforts to create support for everyone really paid off. Many of the schools have started small support groups of their own to share recipes and ideas.
Word is now starting to spread, and people who have never considered a plant-based diet before are noticing how good the participants look and want to know more. Even people outside the school staff are contacting Doug to find out more information.
In June, Doug presented the results of the Jumpstart to 38 other school districts in his region, with hopes of motivating others to follow his lead. He is also planning on using the data to motivate and justify another Jumpstart this year. The ripple effect that Doug has created in spreading this important message is powerful.
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