EmWELL Update April 2022

The Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) Office of Well-Being was established on January 1, 2022, and we want to provide an update on its current work along with its future plans. In the spirit of well-being, this message is provided in three different forms to match the style and needs of the individual reader.

NOTE: Throughout this report, please know that Emory Healthcare is a major unit within the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

SUBMITTED BY: Co-Chief Well-Being Officers Tim Cunningham, RN, DrPH, and Chad Ritenour, MD.


In the first 90 days since its inception, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) Office of Well-Being (EmWELL) has focused on the initial goals of assessment, infrastructure and measurement (AIM).


The mission of the Office of Well-Being (EmWELL) is to support and develop well-being strategies in partnership with staff and leaders across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC). As the first Co-Chief Well-Being Officers, we want to begin by listening to our community to ensure we create relevant meaning. In the first 90 days, we have met with multiple groups, including staff members, faculty and leaders throughout the WHSC to discuss their thoughts. We have worked with Rollins School of Public Health students to conduct listening sessions across Emory Healthcare. Information received from these meetings is part of our initial assessment, which will also include identifying ongoing local well-being initiatives across WHSC as well as policies that can potentially affect well-being.

We are currently working on establishing a sustainable infrastructure for the Office of Well-Being. The recruitment of a Director of Special Projects, who will support day-to-day efforts, is almost complete. Additionally, we are also finalizing an advisory governance structure to encompass the various entities and key individuals involved in well-being work across WHSC. EmBRACE, the peer support program established by EHC Systems Nursing, will be brought under the EmWELL structure to support expansion and scope of this important peer-support work.

Defining measurement of well-being is another objective of EmWELL over the first year. In addition to reviewing established metrics, we are working with groups to develop a simple “pulse check” to provide real-time information that could lead to meaningful and timely interventions.


The Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) Office of Well-Being (EmWELL) starts its work at a crucial time for our country’s health care and affiliated programs in academic health systems. Emory has the ability and commitment to be a national leader in well-being, and, more importantly, we want to be relevant for all individuals within WHSC. With that objective, we have started foundational work in the first 90 days that will continue to develop based on input from our teams. We also want to connect the work of EmWell to other broader initiatives like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), professional development, interprofessional education and collaborative practice (IPECP), innovation, and operational excellence.

Listening is necessary as we continue our initial work. Voices from all levels of WHSC are critical for gaining perspective and creating an accurate assessment of well-being at Emory. We are thankful for all the groups and individuals that have reached out with either offers to discuss or willingness to participate in well-being conversations, and we have met with many staff, faculty members, and leaders. Several Rollins School of Public Health students are working with us on listening sessions across Emory Healthcare, and other groups are also supporting these efforts. Most importantly, we continue to learn from all of you as to what well-being means from your perspective.

As part of determining the current state of well-being, we have committed to categorizing ongoing interventions, programs and research across WHSC. We will be contacting many of you to help us understand your objectives and what you have learned in your work. Likewise, we will be examining policies that may intentionally or unintentionally affect well-being.

We recognize the importance of creating adequate infrastructure to support the well-being needs of WHSC and its teams. We want to spread widely across the various WHSC entities and yet still be able to deeply address certain issues. To do this, we have developed an advisory governance structure that will engage individuals to create plans around well-being in clinical care, education, innovation and advocacy. In addition to local connections, we have engaged with national leaders like the HealthcareProfessional Well-being Academic Consortium (PWAC) and the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation.

While EmWELL seeks to drive systemic review and change, we also recognize the importance of personal well-being and the critical need for both psychological safety to voice concerns and psychological first aid when challenging situations occur. Therefore, we are moving EmBRACE (Emory's Building Resilience and Compassion Enculturation), a peer support program led by Dr. Trina Geyer and based in EHC Systems Nursing, under the Office of Well-Being.

We have also established a Director of Special Projects staff position to help build a continual presence for EmWELL, and we are in final stages of filling that position. That individual will be able to provide support that will allow us to move faster with our work, including plans for an updated website and regular communications.

Measurement of the level of well-being in our individuals, teams and community as well as ongoing measurement of the progress of EmWELL's work are both essential for the success of the Office of Well-Being. We are looking to pilot a relatively brief “pulse check” to measure real-time well-being at any point. We are also reviewing existing validated methods of measuring well-being within and outside health care settings. We feel strongly that we should respond to any data collected, as indicated. If the data suggest need for action, we want to act. We will also continue to share our learnings, as appropriate. The first publication associated with EmWELL will be printed in May in the American Journal of Nursing with a commentary co-authored by Tim Cunningham and Sharon Pappas.

We are extremely honored and excited to lead the Office of Well-Being. We will continue to learn from you and with you, as we embark on this important work with our interdisciplinary perspectives. Thank you for your partnership, encouragement and commitment.

Tim and Chad