How to improve wellness at work and in life

On Monday morning, I took a break from my clinic schedule to attend Dakota Medical Foundation's P5 Worksite Wellness Training. It was time well spent, and the future looks bright for new healthy opportunities in our region.Led by Dr David Hunnicu...

Dr. Susan Mathison, Catalyst Medical Center
Dr. Susan Mathison, Catalyst Medical Center

On Monday morning, I took a break from my clinic schedule to attend Dakota Medical Foundation's P5 Worksite Wellness Training. It was time well spent, and the future looks bright for new healthy opportunities in our region.

Led by Dr David Hunnicutt, PhD, former CEO of WELCOA, the largest global worksite health company, the DMF staff has spent the past year transforming cutting-edge research and best practices into an actionable process called P5.

A program meant to stick starts out with a well-crafted name, and the P5 program is designed to help us remember key ideas so that companies, communities and individuals can "Thrive In Five."

I like P5 because it focuses on a holistic approach to wellness, and it creates a common and sustainable language so that we can are not dealing with flavor-of-the month definitions that create confusion and do nothing for making real changes.

The ultimate goal is to create an ongoing culture of well-being that supports employees in their health, happiness and performance goals. This in turn, creates happy, healthy and successful companies that create lasting impact. A good culture is described as a benevolent invisible hand that guides individuals to make the right choices for themselves and the greater good.


The Ps stand for Purpose, People, Places, Practices and Performance. While standing desks, taking the stairs and choosing apple slices instead of fries are important, P5 starts with mindset, meaning and relationships. Here are brief definitions of each pillar:

  • Purpose: Purpose helps you get out of bed every morning with that good feeling that you will help create meaningful products, services and experiences. My purpose as a physician at Catalyst is to ease suffering and to help patients AND my employees lead happier, healthier, more beautiful lives. My receptionists are the Voice of Catalyst as they answer the phone, schedule appointments and greet patients with a smile. How can you dig a little deeper to see the greater purpose in your role?
  • People: Good relationships are vital for good health. Even introverts need people. Focus on getting to know your work family. There will always be moments of conflict, but learning how to move through disagreements with grace is not just a work skill, but a life skill. Have good conversations that are not just about work. Involve real family and work families in events. Have fun! I believe we all deserve to enjoy life, and if we look around with a sense of wonder and gratitude, you can always find something to enjoy, even in your cubicle!
  • Places: From the physical layout to the color on the wall, it's possible to create environments that enhance healthy and productive workplaces that are good for the employee and the client or patient. I've been around long enough to have witnessed the construction of Essentia Hospital and the new Sanford Medical Center. Both are masterpieces of intentional design for employee and patient care. On a much smaller scale, I designed Catalyst to be cozy, welcoming and full of natural light.
  • Practices: Practices such as "Know Your Numbers," health education, walking meetings, water and step challenges, and healthy meeting food are examples of encouraging small changes that can have a big impact over a lifetime.
  • Performance: "You cannot manage what you cannot measure ... and what gets measured gets done," said Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard Corporation. This goes not only for company production, but also employee satisfaction and engagement. Most companies find productivity soars with happy, engaged employees.

Kudos to the DMF team for working with Dr. Hunnicutt to bring this powerful program to our region.
If you are an employer, get involved, and if you are an employee, get involved too. Reach out to DMF at (701) 271-0263.

Author note: And I want to thank you for reading my column today, and so many others that I have written almost weekly since 2011. All good things must come to an end, so this article will be my last for The Forum. I will always be so grateful the Forum for giving me the privilege of connecting with you. I've received some kind notes of appreciation, many comments and questions in the grocery store and at parties. I even had one column read at a memorial service in Vancouver, British Columbia, connected with the son of my late childhood dentist, and even a few "Thank you. Your article saved my life" notes.

The word doctor means teacher, and I hope my writing has helped you learn something new and made your life happier, healthier and more beautiful in some way. I am honored by the trust of my readers and my patients. I'll keep writing, and if you'd like to receive my articles, please email me at

Related Topics: HEALTH
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