The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University is a public research university that is home to more than 66,000 students and more than 45,000 faculty and staff. For nearly a decade, Ohio State has fostered intentional and persistent initiatives to support the well-being of its medical, nursing, and health sciences students, trainees, and practicing clinicians. This case study specifically outlines initiatives and programs that support the well-being of students, trainees, and clinicians at Ohio State.


Central to the coordination and alignment of initiatives that span across the university are the Office of the Chief Wellness Officer and the One University Health and Wellness Council. Scroll below to learn more.


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About This Series

The case study below provides an overview of well-being initiatives for medical, nursing, and health sciences students, residents, and practicing clinicians at The Ohio State University. The intent of this case study is to provide readers with tangible information to understand well-being successes at Ohio State, including the adoption of programs and policies. This case study is not a prescriptive road map. Rather, the National Academy of Medicine hopes that this case study and others in the series will serve as an idea-generating resource for leaders across the country working to improve the well-being of our nation’s clinicians, trainees, and students.


The Ohio State University (Ohio State) is a public research university located in Columbus, Ohio, and is home to more than 66,000 students and more than 45,000 faculty and staff. The university boasts the largest health sciences campus in the country, including the Wexner Medical Center, which includes seven hospitals and seven health sciences colleges. For nearly a decade, the university and its health sciences elements have strongly prioritized building and nurturing a culture rooted in individual and community well-being.

In particular, Ohio State has fostered intentional and persistent initiatives to address and support the well-being of its medical, nursing, and health sciences students, trainees, and practicing clinicians. Together, these initiatives provide individual resources to students, faculty, and staff and structurally create an environment in which health and well-being are a meaningful part of everyday life.

This case study specifically outlines initiatives and programs at Ohio State that support the well-being of students, trainees, and clinicians. Central to the coordination and alignment of these initiatives are the One University Health and Wellness Council and the Buckeye Wellness Program, led by the Ohio State Chief Wellness Officer.

Strategic Visioning

The pursuit of well-being is a core organizational strategy at Ohio State. The One University Health and Wellness Council (the Council) provides strategic leadership for health and well-being initiatives at Ohio State. The Council comprises key leaders from across the university and representatives from faculty, staff, students, the university health plan, human resources, the medical center, facilities, and communications. The Council is co-chaired by the Ohio State Chief Wellness Officer; the Senior Vice President for Talent, Culture, and Human Resources; and the Senior Vice President for Student Life.

The Council has five sub-councils: Student Wellness, University Faculty and Staff Wellness, Research and Outcomes, Medical Center, and Wellness Alignment. The Wellness Alignment sub-council ensures the alignment of strategic wellness initiatives across the university and health system. The Council’s social-ecological framework guides the development and implementation of evidence-based interventions directed at the individual, the social and family network, workplace culture and environment, and policy makers. In 2016, the Council released a four-year, university-wide strategic wellness plan. The strategic plan includes a health and wellness scorecard that measures outcomes in three categories:

  • Culture and Environment of Health and Wellness, measured using the validated Ohio State Wellness Culture Survey, the Personal Health and Well-Being Assessment, and additional data (see the strategic plan for more information).
  • Population Health Outcomes, including data on burden of illness, healthy lifestyle behaviors, mental health, and physical health.
  • Fiscal Health and Value of Investment, including per-member, per-year costs of health insurance for faculty, staff, and students; incentive and programmatic spending; annual costs of absenteeism, presenteeism (working while sick), engagement, and disability; and excess costs associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, pre-diabetes, depression, and smoking.

The strategic plan calculates a cumulative productivity net savings of over $15 million from Ohio State’s wellness programming. For every dollar invested in wellness, the University has a $3.65 return on investment and is in a negative trend for health care spend for the third year in a row, whereas other institutions have been experiencing upward trends of 4% to 6% annually in health care spend.

More information can be found by visiting A new five-year wellness strategic plan will be released in late 2019.

University Leadership

Support from the highest levels of Ohio State leadership is central to building a strong culture rooted in well-being. Like the Chief Wellness Officer, Ohio State President Dr. Michael Drake lists university well-being as one of his three overarching presidential priorities. Investing in well-being was an “obvious decision” for Dr. Drake, because such activities result in substantial return on investment and strengthen the university at large by increasing efficiencies and improving faculty, staff, and student satisfaction.

Buckeye Wellness

Buckeye Wellness, an initiative with a team of experts in population health promotion, public health, and exercise science—led by Chief Wellness Officer and Vice President for Health Promotion Dr. Bernadette Melnyk—leads several university-wide programs aimed at creating and sustaining a culture that values, prioritizes, and structurally supports individual and community well-being. Working closely with multiple constituents from across the university, including within its medical and nursing colleges and the medical center, the Buckeye Wellness team ensures that all well-being offerings are rooted in evidence and that results are measured using data.

Office of the Chief Wellness Officer

On behalf of the university, the Chief Wellness Officer advocates for and advances the professional and academic fulfillment and well-being of the entire Ohio State community. The Chief Wellness Officer provides a unifying voice in support of well-being initiatives and activities and consistently links the importance of well-being to the vitality of the university at large. The Chief Wellness Officer works as a dedicated and vocal advocate and role model for students, staff, and faculty and makes it a point to spearhead and actively participate in university wellness events and activities.

The Chief Wellness Officer also consistently speaks across the university on the importance of systematically prioritizing well-being and offers motivation and evidence to managers and leadership that investing in well-being is financially responsible and crucial to the long-term success of the community. The Chief Wellness Officer interacts frequently with top leadership of the university and is a member of the university’s Senior Management Council and Council of Deans.

“It is critical to create an exciting vision and strategic plan for wellness that includes evidence-based interventions and diligent monitoring of outcomes over time. Remember that culture eats strategy, yet it takes time to build a culture that promotes optimal well-being and makes healthy behaviors the norm. Leaders, faculty, and managers must ‘walk the talk’ and provide needed wellness resources as well as support for ‘grassroots’ initiatives. Lastly, persist through the ‘character-builders’; the return [on] and value of investment—including faculty, staff, and students who are happy, healthy, and engaged—will be well worth it.” (Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, University Chief Wellness Officer)

“Health Athlete” Initiative

The Office of the Chief Wellness Officer funds the “Health Athlete” initiative, a one- or expanded two-day program aimed at helping middle managers, executive leadership, faculty, staff, and clinicians from all health disciplines refocus and re-energize their personal and professional lives. Lessons learned throughout this immersive workshop, taught by the Buckeye Wellness team, focus on optimizing personal well-being and energy, as well as creating a culture of wellness in which all can benefit.

In addition to a focus on energy management, the workshop includes individual activities that support participants in finding purpose and meaning in their own lives. Findings from research suggest that clinicians who participate in the program have a decrease in body mass index and depressive symptoms over time. An expanded study on the outcomes of individuals who attend this program is currently underway. A one-credit online version of this program is available to all Ohio State students, including nursing and medical students.

Grassroots Initiatives: Buckeye Wellness Innovators  

The Buckeye Wellness team also leads a grassroots initiative, Buckeye Wellness Innovators, which supports faculty and staff in developing wellness activities within their own units or departments. With the help of Buckeye Wellness staff, Innovators construct a wellness plan for their individual unit and serve as visible champions for health and well-being. Innovators help to strengthen culture by diversifying program offerings, developing local interventions, and motivating staff, faculty, and students.

The Buckeye Wellness team is integral to equipping Innovators with available resources and evidence to share with their colleagues. Buckeye Wellness intentionally connects Innovators with one another and is central to breaking down siloes and coordinating well-being initiatives throughout the entire university—a very necessary task at an institution as large and diverse as Ohio State. This approach ensures that employees from all levels have their voices heard and that bottom-up efforts are recognized and nurtured. This diverse array of local projects is a hallmark of well-being at Ohio State. Currently, there are nearly 600 faculty and staff Innovators at the university.


Suggested Citation

Cappelucci, K., M. Zindel, H.C. Knight, N. Busis, and C.M. Alexander, eds. 2019. Improving clinician well-being at The Ohio State University: A case study. NAM Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC.