Encouraging Student Health and Wellness

Author name
Dean Sue Wasiolek, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students and

Dear Duke Parents,

Although most of you aren’t as old as I am, my hope is that you might remember or be familiar with John Denver, a songwriter and performer who tragically died in a plane crash in 1997. I used to listen to John Denver’s songs all the time and I recently came across a video of him reciting a poem entitled, “Ambulance Down in the Valley.” My attention went to one particular verse:

            Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
            For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
            To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
            To prevent other people from falling….                                 

            Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
            Than an ambulance down in the valley.

Many of us put a very high value on our health and try, as best we can, to engage in “clean living.” We do this for a number of reasons: we believe it allows us to enjoy a higher quality of life, to feel more energized and perform better in our work. So, we do what we can to prevent illness and reduce stress. In other words, we put up a “strong fence,” trying to avoid relying on “an ambulance down in the valley.” This is what we hope to encourage our students to do as well.

As we prepare to open the new Student Health and Wellness Building at Duke in January 2017, our hope is that we can begin in a more integrative and holistic way to help our students understand that they must learn how to be healthy because they need to be healthy to learn; they, too, need to think about their health and wellness with prevention in mind. 

For the first time in Duke’s history, all the agencies on campus that support the health and wellness of our students will be co-located in the same building in the heart of West Campus. These include: Student Health (including nutrition), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), DukeReach (provides student outreach and support when concerning behavior is identified), and Student Wellness.  It is so very exciting to imagine that our students will soon have the opportunity to truly take care of themselves in a preventative as well as a responsive way.   Grounded in choices, values and identity and reinforced by the notion of self-care, our framework for delivering services and programs is designed around six dimensions of wellness.  For more information, please see: https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/duwell/what-wellness.

More information about the new Student Health and Wellness Center will be made available to your students as we approach the Spring semester.

One last, but very important note.  On September 1, we were thrilled to welcome Dr. Danielle Oakley to Duke as our new Director of Counseling and Psychological Services.  In just a short six weeks, Dr. Oakley has brought her expertise in college mental health and her enormous energy in support of Duke students.  I hope you enjoy learning more about her in this newsletter.

Wishing your students good health and wellness.  Go Duke! 

Sue Wasiolek
Dean of Students
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs