A year ago, Barry-Wehmiller deepened its commitment to improving the lives of our team members by inspiring them to adopt healthier lifestyles. In response to our initiatives, two team members came forward to share their stories about the consequences of taking responsibility for their health. In their situations, the results were more than life-changing—they may have been life-saving!
“No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them. Plus if I were sick, I would feel sick. At least, that’s what I thought,” said Steph Prudhomme, a member of the Aftermarket Sourcing Team at Barry-Wehmiller’s Thiele Technologies division (now BW Integrated Systems and BW Flexible Systems) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “When my doctor delivered the news that my thyroid was cancerous, I was very, very shocked.”
For years Steph’s thyroid had been enlarged. From time to time, she had it checked by her doctor and even had an MRI at one point. Every visit the results showed nothing abnormal about it other than its size. Until this spring, when she made an appointment with her doctor because of Barry-Wehmiller’s Better You Incentive, which requires an annual physical.
“I believe the Better You Incentive may have saved my life,” shared Steph recently, six weeks after having half of her cancerous thyroid removed. “If the checkup hadn’t been one of the required action items to earn it, I wouldn’t have done it. And if I had waited another year or more to get my enlarged thyroid checked again, the cancer might have spread to my lymph nodes. Or worse.”
Sincere concern for the health and wellbeing of our team members has always been part of Barry-Wehmiller’s people-centric culture. For years, we’ve offered a wellness program as well as a myriad of free or low-cost resources to support wellbeing. In spite of this, we’ve continued to see significant numbers of team members suffering from health issues, potentially caused or made worse by not making their health a priority. So we stepped back and challenged ourselves “What more could we do to help our team members embrace healthier lifestyles? How could we inspire them to become their best selves?”
Our solution? Establish an incentive program–the Better You Incentive–to nudge team members in the direction of making healthy choices a natural part of their daily lives. The Incentive offers our US associates up to a $100 per month reduction in their health care premiums if they fulfill a set of requirements that show a commitment to making their health (and their spouse’s health if applicable) a priority. Among the requirements are an annual checkup and any appropriate age- and gender-related health screenings.
Steph remembers being irritated when she first learned of the annual checkup requirement. “It was just one more thing I HAD to do, one additional thing to fit into my busy schedule.” But, motivated by the health insurance premium reduction, Steph made the now fateful appointment that led to the early detection of her cancer. “To think that I wasn’t planning to get a checkup because it was going to take an hour or two of my time. That initial hour I spent at the screening may well have saved my life. What an eye opener this has been for me, my husband and kids, my parents!”
Tom Cox, a member of the Assembly Team for Machine Solutions, a portfolio company of Barry-Wehmiller’s Forsyth Capital Investors (now BW Forsyth Partners), is an avid mountain biker and hiker around Flagstaff, Arizona. He values being healthy and knowing what’s going on with his body so he never misses an annual checkup. He is especially thankful for that now. Last October, after turning 50, his doctor ordered a PSA test during a routine physical that ultimately revealed he had prostate cancer. Tom underwent surgery and today the level of cancer in his body is undetectable. “I had no symptoms,” said Tom “so I’m glad I didn’t skip my checkup. Had I waited a year, the cancer would likely have spread to other parts of my body.”
Tom is no stranger to cancer. Four years ago, they discovered a tumor on his optic nerve. It was removed and fortunately he suffers no residual problems. Tom became a vehement proponent of annual screenings and checkups 17 years ago after he lost his mother to colon cancer. “She didn’t get regular checkups and, when she was diagnosed, it was so advanced they gave her a year to live. She died almost exactly a year later.” Tom also watched a friend pass away from an aggressive cancer that might have been treated successfully had he seen a doctor rather than ignoring the unusual pain in his hip.
“I know how big the consequences can be if you put things off,” explained Tom. “People make all kinds of excuses as to why they don’t get checkups. I don’t understand that. Why wouldn’t I take preventative measures, especially when they don’t cost me anything?”
Fortunately, Steph and Tom caught their cancers early, thanks to making their health a priority. They share their personal stories in hopes of motivating others to do the same. My hope is that business leaders who read this will also see that being good stewards of the lives they lead means more than just providing wellness programs and resources. As truly human leaders, we need to inspire them toward becoming their best selves. You never know, their lives may depend on it.