MICHELLE BOUCHARD, PRESIDENT OF HEALTHCORPS
By Pamela Peeters
Michelle Bouchard co-founded two not-for-profit theaters in New York and was the CFO of the Governor's Island Preservation and Education Corporation. She is currently president of HealthCorps, co-founded by Dr. Oz, a leading cardiac surgeon and two-time Emmy Award–winning host of The Dr. Oz Show. Sustainable Styles interviewed her on how her programs help in attaining personal well-being through environmentally and ethically friendly living.
PP: What are you most proud of?
MB: My two children, a 21-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.
PP: As the president of HealthCorps, you are responsible for education, advocacy and outreach. Tell me more about this organization.
BB: HealthCorps is a living research laboratory, where we are finding out through peer mentoring how to get through to teenagers with wellness messaging. We learn new and successful tactics every year and then incorporate them into our curriculum. The “HealthCorps” is actually our students – led by an amazing group of young college graduates who do service in high schools prior to going on to medical school or nursing school or getting a masters in public health. We’re at the grass-roots but also at the highest level, reaching beyond the schoolyard into the community. We have an awesome gal in DC who is informing legislators of the crisis on the ground and solutions.
PP: Tell me more about your Health Mentors program, through which you train young adults and place them in high schools to help students incorporate healthy habits in their lives.
MB: We call our health mentors “coordinators,” because we did not want them to be perceived as teachers. They are in a school not to replace teachers, but to fire up the kids about mental resilience, nutrition, physical activity, and the relationship between all three. They help bring together all the health resources and services in a school and community, so these resources are working together. Our coordinators are trained in an intensive month-long session each July, where they “drink from a firehose” sprayed by our advisory board, alumni, teachers, students, and incredible education team. Last summer our training was underwritten by the California Department of Public Health and took place in Sacramento.
PP: Poor food habits can lead to obesity: 17% (or 12,5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2–19 years are obese. In the last 30 years obesity has nearly tripled. How harmful is being overweight to a child's development?
MB: It is harmful on three levels: mind, body, and spirit. Some interesting case studies are coming out about the relationship between body weight and academic performance, making the case that if you are morbidly overweight you do not do as well in school. The deleterious effects on the body of being overweight are well documented, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. And so, of course, is the effect on the spirit, including low self-esteem, depression, and increased risk of suicide in young people. The childhood obesity crisis is literally killing our children.
PP: Through your work, you are inspiring and guiding many people. Did you have a mentor yourself?
MB: I was fortunate to have many in my life. My aunt Charlotte and an old man named Bill Fling taught me the importance of politics, in the most generic sense of the word, for navigating through life. My acting coach, Sam Schacht, taught me to believe in my talent, and Elizabeth DeMarse, the former CEO of Bankrate, taught me everything I know about the corporate, business, and technological world. Finally, Mehmet Oz taught me the importance of objectivity, not emotion, when looking for solutions – not focusing on problems and always looking for a win-win resolution to a conflict.
PP: How does it feel to contribute to changing a person’s quality of life?
MB: It feels purposeful. Without purpose we have no compass in life.
PP: Describe a day in the life of Michelle Bouchard.
MB: It’s not for the faint of heart. Now that I am on the west coast (with offices on the east coast), emails start coming in around 6 am (when I am still asleep). I have to get my daughter to school by 8 am, so I am up by 7, responding to calls and emails while making her breakfast and getting her ready to go. I feed the cat, water my yard and my plants, and pack my suitcase for an overnight. We walk to her school less than a mile away, and I come back home before biking to my new office in midtown Sacramento.
On an average day I get 500 emails and 30 calls. If I did not segregate them by priority as they come in, using Outlook, I would lose my mind. I average at least three conference calls a day, with corporations or philanthropists who are interested in HealthCorps. I rewrite a sponsorship contract draft for the eighth time, with deep regrets at not having gone to law school as I intended. I meet a strategic partner like Gina Garcia of Yoga Across America for lunch. I talk to my chief of operations, Juan Brea, about operations and to my national education director, Shawn Hayes, about the California research study methodology. I read the coordinator and student quotes sent to me by my communications director, Amy Barone. I call the babysitter, who has picked up my daughter, and ask how things are going.
I try to get up every 30 minutes and walk around, as I know that being glued to my computer for all those hours at a time will shorten my life. I bike home at 6, kiss my daughter goodbye, go to the airport, and fly to LA for a meeting the next day with a million-dollar donor. (Well, actually, the million-dollar donor doesn’t happen in a typical day!) After dinner with the donor’s rep, I go to my hotel room and check emails until 12 pm. I sleep until 3:00 am and can’t fall back asleep until 5 because of all the things I have forgotten to do. Then I wake up at 7 and start all over again! But I shake it all up on weekends, when I commune with nature.
PP: What are some things you still wish to accomplish?
MB: I would like to finish my novel, perform as Mimi in La Boheme, produce a production of John Whiting’s The Devils, and become an organic farmer.
PP: Can you share some tips for the personal development of our readers?
MB: For physical activity, buy a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps every day. It doesn’t have to be all at once, just over the course of the day. For nutrition, make sure that most of your food you eat is real food, not processed. For mental resilience, as Scarlett said “After all tomorrow is another day.” Always remember that no matter how bleak things seem, the sun will come out if not tomorrow, then one day soon. And everyone should have a vital connection to nature. At HealthCorps we also aim to help restore the critical relationship between youth and nature.
PP: What is your wish for the future of our planet?
MB: That we live in harmony and respect with Mother Nature and embrace our feminine spirit.
More information: www.healthcorps.net