Class of 2014
When she was selected to be part of the Class of 2014, Dawn Moen was program specialist for Better Living: Exercise and Nutrition Daily (BLEND) at CentraCare Health Foundation.
What are you doing now?
I am now the government grants coordinator for the CentraCare Health System. As part of the CentraCare Health Foundation, I work on funding crucial medical, public health and research initiatives that exist throughout Central Minnesota. I have an office in St. Cloud and oversee grants implemented at all CentraCare facilities.
How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?
I was humbled by the number of people that reached out and shared their stories of a NICU experience or of how epilepsy had affected their lives since that has been such a large part of my personal and professional journey. Winning also gave me confidence that I was doing OK balancing it all.
Other big changes since you received the award?
During one crazy week this summer my husband broke his ankle and subsequently had surgery from a freak hockey accident, my daughter began an epilepsy medication wean after being seizure-free for two years, and we unexpectedly learned we are expecting a baby early in 2016! With a 9-year-old and 11-year-old, life is never boring!
What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?
The continued recognition by area leaders that a majority of a patient's health happens outside of clinic walls. Addressing population health disparities will be paramount to the wellness of all Central Minnesota residents. Organizations and businesses that change policies, systems and environments to proactively create a culture of health will continue to rise to the top.
Originally ran: January 18, 2015
Dawn Moen was a swimmer growing up in suburban Milwaukee and rowed for the crew team while pursuing a business degree at the University of Minnesota. A runner and cyclist, she also became a certified personal trainer in college and continues that as a part-time pursuit almost 15 years later.
So, while she previously worked in marketing for several for-profit companies, it's perhaps no surprise she wound up in a career where fitness is foremost. As a program specialist with BLEND (Better Living: Exercise and Nutrition Daily), she's part of a staff of four people working to curb childhood obesity for the CentraCare Health Foundation.
"I tell everybody this is my dream job, usually with this ridiculous smile on my face, and they're usually wondering ‘Where's the but?'" Moen said. "There isn't one. It's not easy work but it's so rewarding."
Moen practices what she preaches as an organizer of programs including Safe Routes to School, Helmet Smart, Fit Kids Club race series and nutrition in schools. For example, her 10-year-old daughter bikes to school when the weather is nice and is dropped off a few blocks from school to get a brisk walk during the winter.
What led you into a health-related career, and why have you found it rewarding?
I didn't know positions like this existed or I would've gone more in this direction when I came out of college. This is what I want to do in terms of making a difference. My children have had some pretty major health issues in their lives and they've been patients at St. Cloud Hospital at different points in their lives. I took a step back and worked part time when we moved to the area about six years ago. I put their needs first. When I decided to come back full-time, I saw with CentraCare Health the people who work here are very passionate about what they do and they make a difference — everyone from the providers to the leadership.
You've made strides with the Safe Routes to School, Fit Kids Club and Helmet Smart programs, but what remains to be done in your battle against childhood obesity?
I think we've had a large impact here in the St. Cloud area however, as CentraCare continues to expand and grow, we are responsible for a much larger demographic area. With a (BLEND) staff that lives in the St. Cloud area it can be easy to just embrace the successes we've had around here. But because of the Statewide Health Improvement Plan and our expanding CentraCare service area, we're now charged with going out into communities like Sauk Centre, Melrose, Avon, Albany and some more regional markets to try to make a difference. That's tough because sometimes it's a culture we don't understand as well as we understand St. Cloud, but it's important because that's where some pockets of really large childhood obesity exist. We have to get out there and go into the schools and work at the city level to further these policies. I get a call every week from someone who has found us, even from all over the United States, who has questions about everything from grant opportunities to program implementation.
Why is childhood obesity an economic predicament for Central Minnesota?
This is something where there is no profit. It's not going to be a profitable sector for the CentraCare Health Foundation, however there's such a tremendous cost out there that's associated with childhood obesity. The generation under 16 is the first that's expected to live shorter lives than all of the generations that have preceded it. There's also the cost to the health care industry in general, as well as insurance, which is why the physicians who've seen this first-hand — especially pediatricians — want us to take this on. They see the effects, not only the emotional effects of having an obese child or being an obese child but also the health ramifications of having Type II diabetes. In 2050, one out of three Americans will have Type II diabetes and more than 95 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese if the current trends continue. The way to attack that is start (healthy) behaviors young.
... The same is true for some of the nutritional policies at the school level, like birthday treats and snacks and why they're not such a great idea. A lot of times, we get pushback, like ‘It's just a cupcake.' But when you multiply that cupcake by the 30 kids in the class and 10-15 holidays that are celebrated and the leftovers, it's more than just one cupcake. That doesn't make us the most popular people.
Both of your children faced large medical challenges, and that has effected your professional and philanthropic views. How?
My son had a lot of respiratory distress when he was born. He was pretty sick, in terms of having an infection and had a long stay in the (neonatal intensive care unit). And, what goes along with a NICU graduate is a lot of additional risk for respiratory issues, such as RSV, which he was re-hospitalized for. He also got severely sick, more than most people who could fight something off. He was re-admitted to the hospital quite a bit up until age 5. Along with that, ... it was determined he had a mild hearing loss in one ear. He's just generally had what they classified as a developmental delay ... That's why I've been involved with the NICU Community, a nonprofit that supports NICU families, and we've always been generous with the March of Dimes.
My daughter started having seizures about three years ago. Until that point, her entire medical history was one ear infection when she was 3. Subsequently, she's been diagnosed with epilepsy. When you look at the causes of seizures, it's actually a blessing that epilepsy is the diagnosis. It requires a lot of medication and monitoring ...
There are wonderful people out there doing great things in the for-profit sector that support Central Minnesota, but in order for me to get excited when coming to work I have to know I'm making a difference. Even though my children's issues haven't been related to childhood obesity, I've seen a lot of what that can do. And it's preventable.
How do you see Central Minnesota business changing in the next three years?
I think a business culture that will be successful really supports employee efforts to be healthy as well as to have that work-life balance which ultimately will result in the health of employees. The Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. is trying to tackle some of those employee wellness initiatives. But the businesses that will be the most successful will be the ones who allow flexibility and those innovative ways of thinking that aren't necessarily profitable for the business on the spot. But in terms of long-term retention and health, those will be the ones that sustain themselves.
Family: Husband Patrick Moen; daughter Mallory 10, son Anders, 8.
Education: Business degree from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.
FYI: President of the Sartell Sapphire Gymnastics board of directors, a nonprofit affiliate of the Minnesota Amateur Gymnastics Association.
Previously served on the board of directors for the NICU Community, which helps Central Minnesota families that have had an experience with the neonatal intensive care unit.
Teaches classes at Fitness Evolution, Sartell Fitness and the College of St. Benedict. To learn more, visit www.blendcentralmn.org.