On March 2 at the sixth annual Lake Nona Impact Forum, Tavistock announced a state-of-the-art performance, wellness and medically integrated fitness facility. This innovative creation is in partnership with Signet, LLC and Integrated Wellness Partners (IWP). The center will be located across from Lake Nona Medical City in the Lake Nona Town Center’s second phase of development. Jim Ellis is the Executive Vice President and the Managing Director of IWP. Nonahood News had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Ellis to get more details about the staple facility coming to Lake Nona.
NHN: You mention that the only way to overcome the national healthcare crisis is through prevention. How do you and IWP (Integrated Wellness Partners) plan to encompass that mission in the Lake Nona wellness center?
Jim Ellis: It really represents a new resource for the community that brings together the latest in understanding concepts around health promotion with traditional medical services to create a comprehensive approach to being well. So, in a facility like this, you’re going to be able to work on the lifestyle issues that are underlying most of the disease and comorbidities in the country, so things like helping to reduce obesity, and diabetes and orthopedic problems. This idea of creating a connected community through wellness activities will all be addressed in this new center, and the ultimate outcome is decreased problems with health issues for people in the community.
NHN: You speak about preventing diabetes and other health issues. Are there going to be programs geared toward specific diseases that people might have?
JE: Yeah, so absolutely and typically they will be focused on the lifestyle-related diseases to be able to assist in preventing them, but also for people we will have programs that help people recover from the results of these lifestyle-related diseases. So, whether you’re somebody who has diabetes but needs to be on a diabetes management program, we’ll have programs specifically available in the wellness center for people to avail themselves of all the integrated resources that are there … so appropriate activity, registered dietitians to help with your diet, behavioral specialists to help you inculcate the behaviors, the healthy behaviors that you need ultimately to be healthy over the long run. So, there will be programs like that for a whole myriad of different diseases that people are afflicted with.
NHN: How many programs do you hope to see available to the public?
JE: Ultimately, there will be dozens of programs that range from these very preventive types of programs – where you’re trying to prevent people from getting overweight or you’re trying to prevent people from developing orthopedic problems or you’re trying to prevent people even from developing certain kinds of cancers that are related to lifestyle – all the way to these programs that are involved in actual recovery, so there will be dozens of them over time and through the collaboration with our partners in the Lake Nona community, in the Medical City, out at the Sports Innovations District, and really around the entire community, the business community. We’ll create all new programs based on needs that emerge in the community once we start operating the center.
NHN: The center is all about welcoming every individual, from the amateur to the elite athlete. The center will also be family friendly. How will children be incorporated into the center? Will there be youth specific programs?
JE: Yeah, absolutely! You know, being well is a generational issue, it’s a family issue, and we don’t want to close out any segment of the community. So, we will absolutely have programs for children both at the center, but we want to be able to bring our resources out into the community and work in the school systems alongside the educators to teach young people how to, at very early ages, start to take control of their well being because the sooner they learn that they’re in control of how they feel and learn behaviors and get access to resources, will set them up for a lifetime of being well. So, we don’t have to wait until they’re in high school or they’re in college or beyond to start to address these lifestyle-related issues that can have a negative impact on their long-term wellbeing.
NHN: How will the wellness center transform the Lake Nona community? The area’s already known for the established beginnings of its Sports & Performance district. How will this elevate it even more and how will the wellness center stand out?
JE: So, we see the wellness center as really augmenting everything that’s already in the community, providing additional resources to organizations like the USTA. They have well over 100,000 people a year will be coming to their site and are already coming to their site, and we’re able to supply additional services to those people who are coming to the community, whether it’s wellness services, if they’re here visiting the USTA and they want to get a wellness assessment done and a personal wellness program developed for them that they can then take back with them to wherever they live, we’ll be able to supply that. If they have athletes who want additional sports performance training, we’re going to have a fully outfitted state-of-the-art sports performance facility within this wellness center, and we’ll work closely, hand in glove, with the USTA to help provide sports performance training for their tennis athletes, specifically for their tennis athletes. So, it’s not intended to replace anything that’s in the community or compete with anything that’s already in the community, but rather to augment and provide additional resources to what’s already available.
NHN: In your opinion, how do healthy living and wellness initiatives reshape a community?
JE: Well, really, at the end of the day, we’re all about in some way, shape or form being happier. And a big part of being happy is being healthy. And these health and wellness initiatives, as you know, science has revealed to us, are really what underlies the opportunity to be healthy over the long run because so much of disease is related to unhealthy lifestyles. If we can intervene and we can educate people before they start suffering from these lifestyle diseases, now we’re creating a community that has less disease, is more prosperous and ultimately is happier, and that’s really, at the end of the day, what we’re about. I always tell people we’re in the happiness business.
NHN: You oversee and are responsible for corporate strategy, including staff. How many jobs do you foresee being created for the Lake Nona and greater Orlando area through the development and establishment of the wellness center?
JE: So, ultimately in this facility, there will be around 100 jobs that will be associated with this facility between full and part time. And it’ll range all the way from people who are involved on the hospitality end of what we do all the way to people who have very specific degrees in exercise physiology and dietetics and behavior change. There’ll be, obviously with the clinical and medical integration in the facility, there’ll be physicians and all the support staff that goes along with physician practices and medical services.
NHN: What type of physicians can we expect to see at the center?
JE: The different kinds of physicians and medical services you’ll see in this building will range everything from primary care docs to sports medicine docs to orthopedists to endocrinologists to bariatricians – all the kinds of medical services and medical specialties that are related to preventing lifestyle diseases. We’re creating really a hub or an epicenter of wellness where you can go and get and see your physician or…and on your way out you might stop and take a yoga class.
NHN: You’ve already developed 18 health and wellness centers across the U.S. What’s going to separate the Lake Nona facility?
JE: So, really it’s the environment that it’s going into. And this is where our partners in the community, prime of which is Tavistock, have this vision for the community that they’ve built around health and wellbeing. And what we’re doing is, in my perception, is we’re kind of literally and figuratively putting the beating heart of this idea of a community of wellbeing right in the middle, literally in the middle of the community, and that’s this medically integrated health and wellness center that will serve as the resource for the entire community to not just serve the people who happen to come into the building, but really to serve as a platform to call us the resources and the expertise to then launch programs out in the community and in various places, whether it’s in the schools or business to truly create this ecosystem of wellbeing in the community. That’s a rarity. This is what makes Lake Nona so unique. It’s taking all of the concepts that all of the thought leaders at the impact forum talk about and actually putting them into practice on a scale, on a community-wide scale. That’s what’s different about this project.
NHN: Where does your passion for medically-based fitness and wellness come from?
JE: Yeah, yup, almost 30 years, I hate to admit it. You know, like, I feel very fortunate because I’m one of the few people who is able to make their avocation their vocation. As a kid, I was, I always loved sports, and I always loved working out, it just – it was one of those things I was drawn to from a very early age. Back in the ’80s, when they started offering graduate degrees in exercise physiology, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to pursue, and I was fortunate to get into clinical exercise physiology, which is utilizing exercise, prescribed exercise, to help prevent and treat diseases. And that led me into developing, getting the opportunity to develop these medically-integrated wellness centers.
NHN: 30 years in this field means lots of personal experiences and lessons. How have those lessons helped to shape your plans for the Lake Nona wellness center?
JE: Yeah, so, one of the things I’ve learned over my career, probably the biggest takeaway, is that everybody wants to be well. It doesn’t matter your age, it doesn’t matter your socioeconomic condition, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve suffered from chronic disease or you’re an elite athlete – everybody wants to be well. And really the magic or the key is to provide people with education, how to take control of their own wellbeing, resources like this wellness center represents, and support over the long-term to help guide them along their individual wellness journey. That’s really what I’ve learned over a whole career – everybody wants to be well. Everybody just needs access to understanding and resources and help, and that’s really what’s at the core of the concept of this wellness center and I believe the entire community of Lake Nona.
NHN: With TechnoGym, as a member who can’t make their weekly class, is there some way members can access the class from home?
JE: Yeah, so that’s a big, that’s a big emphasis in technology now is to be able to stream content to people. So that if you can’t make it to the wellness center that day or that week, there’s content available for you where you can actually even participate in a live, ongoing class, whether it’s yoga or it’s a wellness education class or it’s a lecture by a physician – you’ll be able to get that content right through the technology and through the app. It’s another way to keep people connected right, with the resources that the wellness center represents.
NHN: Do you have any tentative groundbreaking dates?
JE: So, um, the facility…we expect the facility to be open in late fall of 2019. And typically, there’s from groundbreaking to opening of the facility, there’s about 14 months, 14 to 15 months, so I would suspect you will see a groundbreaking here in the next couple of months that will allow us to stay on that schedule, so that we can open, again, late fall of 2019. We’re excited about it, and time will fly! We’re going to be in the community really from this point on, really working to educate the community about just what kind of resource is going to be made available to them and how it fits into the overall vision for the community and that it’s – it’s really being provided for them, for their wellbeing, and we want to invite them in at a very early stage to start to get familiar with the concept, so we’ll be in the community working for all of this time before the actual physical facility opens helping to educate the community, working with our partners, to bring services and help promote ideas before the center actually opens.