Nobody has ever done what we are doing at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. And I have to say, I think that’s sad.
In the entire country, there is no other example of a center that’s focused on living to maximize your health in a building, the Anschutz Health & Wellness Building, where every space can be used for research, education, optimizing human performance, connective wellness and community programs.
I don’t know if it was delusion or stubbornness that kept me going for the 12 years it took to create this Center.
I do know, with certainty, that preventing disease rather than just treating it is absolutely the right thing to do. And it’s going to take a place like this to change things in America.
How did it start?
I came here in 1992 to help the university get a National Institutes of Health (NIH) nutrition center. We succeeded, but as we added more researchers studying obesity, it was clear that we needed a new name. NIH agreed and we became the Nutrition Obesity Research Center.
But that name also didn’t capture what we do, because we go beyond nutrition and obesity. Obesity is a marker for a lifestyle that has led to many unintended consequences leading to chronic disease. You can’t talk about obesity in isolation because it’s connected to nutrition, physical activity, stress, sleep patterns, even our relationships. We use the term “connective wellness” to help people understand this.
Where are we headed?
Today, the Anschutz Health & Wellness Building speaks health and wellness, energy, fun and light. I have seen it transform people. If I have some free time at work, I can change clothes, work out, go to the in-house bistro and get some food that is both healthful and delicious. I can watch a healthy cooking demonstration and I can de-stress on our green roof.
I feel incredibly lucky because every person who has come through here says “Oh, my gosh look at this!” And I get to work here every day. I hope everyone on this campus will take advantage of this fabulous place.
Who made it possible?
Although everyone congratulates me about this Center, the building is a combination of many people’s vision.
It simply wouldn’t exist without the generosity of Phil Anschutz and the Anschutz Foundation. Executive Vice Chancellor Lilly Marks totally gets it. She knows that hospitals and caring for the sick may be the present in a medical center, but we’re the future—well care.
Drs. John Peters, Holly Wyatt, Bob Eckel and Dan Bessesen, along with Jim Ellis, have worked with me every step of the way.
Bruce and Marcy Benson have been fabulous supporters. The administration took a chance on us. Former Chancellor Jerry Wartgow and Interim Chancellor Don Elliman stood behind us. Vice Chancellors Teresa Berryman and Jeff Parker helped translate our business plan into a financial reality.
The architects, OWP/P and H&L, and the builder, Saunders Construction, were fabulous and helped translate the vision into a wonderful building.
At the end of the day, the university leadership knew this was the right thing to do.
Now we’re ready for people to come to this building and when they leave, walk out saying, “This has been one of the best experiences of my life.”
James Hill, PhD
Executive Director, Colorado Center for Health and Wellness
Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine
University of Colorado School of Medicine