By Michelle Kennedy, Mountaineer staff writerAugust 26, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The desks are in place, the electricity is turned on and new equipment has been arriving every week. The Army Wellness Center Fort Drum is almost ready to open its doors, and Chris Ramie is eager to begin educating the community about preventative care and improving health. Ramie, director of the Army Wellness Center on post, has been planning and preparing to open the facility.
The AWC at Fort Drum is a combined initiative of U.S. Army Public Health Command, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum, and Fort Drum's U.S. Army Medical Department Activity.
"We're seeing a focus shift in treating patients from treating sick patients to more preventative medicine," Ramie said. "We're trying to prevent diabetes, coronary heart disease and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in our country, and a lot of primary risk factors are preventable."
One great feature of the new facility is that it is open to the entire Fort Drum community -- Soldiers, Family Members, Civilians and retirees, Ramie said. "A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. We want people to be as healthy as possible, and we're hoping the wellness center is going to do that," he explained.
Before taking on the responsibility of directing the newest facility on post, Ramie led the Climb to Fitness program, which provided remedial physical fitness training for Soldiers, and later the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics program, providing cognitive pre- and post-deployment assessments. Although the AWC's grand opening ceremony will take place today, Ramie does not expect to begin seeing clients until September to allow staff members to complete their training requirements. The facility, which has been repurposed from an old dining facility, is located in Bldg. 10550, 5th Armored Division Drive.
The AWC will offer assessments ranging from initial health reviews and stress management, to fitness and metabolic testing and body-fat percentage analysis.
While the facility will provide information on fitness, it is not a fitness center, Ramie said. "There's a misconception -- it's not a fitness facility, it's a clinic," he said. "(AWC staff will offer) services to help give (community members) the tools to be healthy."
While AWC staff members -- three health educators, a nurse educator and two health technicians -- can't provide diagnosis to ailments, they will work closely with medical providers on post like the nutritionist, Army Public Health Nursing and primary care managers.
One of the services Ramie is especially eager to provide is the stress management / biofeedback sessions. "It's a really great initiative. In the class, you learn a lot of different techniques on how to cope and combat stress in your daily life," he said. "Then, they can schedule up to five biofeedback sessions (where) you focus on a different stress relief technique during each session."
Many people do not deal with stress in effective ways. While some choose the comfort of food, others use tobacco or alcohol to relieve stress. However, using healthy stress relief techniques like deep breathing, relaxing and exercise can benefit a person's behavioral health and emotional wellness, Ramie added.
"You can give people the tools, but it's up to them to use them. You just hope you give them enough information about health," he said. "We're trying to replace bad habits with healthier lifestyle choices."
The facility also will offer state-of-the-art technology to determine clients' metabolic rate, target heart rate and body-fat percentage.
From the submax VO2 test, which determines a person's target heart rate, to the "Bod Pod," an egg-shaped machine to test a client's body-fat percentage, some of the equipment in the new facility looks like it came straight out of a science-fiction movie.
"The Bod Pod measures the volume of space inside while it's empty, and then a person sits in it and it measures the difference in density, mass and volume," Ramie said. "It's considered the 'gold standard' for accuracy. I think there will be a lot people who are surprised with the Bod Pod's results versus a tape test."
These high-tech machines are similar to those used by professional athletes and in high-end civilian facilities. The Fort Drum community has an opportunity to access these state-of-the-art tests free of charge, Ramie noted. "It's really a great opportunity for them to come in, because the goal is to have a healthier population," he explained. "The nice thing about the AWC is a lot of people can benefit from it. Typically, the tests (offered at the AWC) cost about $3,000 per session (on the civilian side), and they are free services for DOD ID card holders."
Ramie added that he's excited to start offering wellness services to the Fort Drum community.
Fort Drum is just one of several installations that hosts an Army Wellness Center, and Ramie recently returned from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he attended a director-specific training.
"I learned the whole operations side of running an Army Wellness Center," he said. "It was good to see it up and running.
"Right now, ours isn't (operational), so it was good to get down there and participate in the day-to-day operations and see what they're doing down there and the kind of testing that they're conducting," Ramie added.
While training at the Army's "model" AWC at Fort Bragg and talking to AWC staff there, he learned that from June 1 to mid-July, Fort Bragg's AWC provided services to more than 1,000 people.
"Going down there and seeing it and knowing that that is what we're going to be doing up here really got me more excited," he said. "I'm definitely ready to be open after seeing (the facility) operating and how many people they're helping every day.
"They're doing a lot of great things down there and are actually opening a second location on Fort Bragg because the need is there," Ramie added. "I'm really looking forward to offering the same kind of services here at Fort Drum."