Health heroes shape a career and a book

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Decatur physician Carmen Patrick Mohan first considered the connection between health and relationships as a high school student in Kentucky. A self-described “Army brat” born at Georgia’s Fort Benning, Mohan said she learned to love long-distance running from her biology teacher, who doubled as her cross-country coach.

“Coach Lange ran every mile with the team I captained. He taught me to forage wild persimmons and blackberries in the hills of the old Kentucky cavalry country where I visited historical graves from the 1700s… On these long runs, the team and coach grew very close. …It is absolutely why I continue to promote running and walking.”

Mohan said she had another high school inspiration—but not someone she knew personally. “Olympic track and field athlete Wilma Rudolph was my hero. To me, she was the best example of resilience I had heard of until I got to know my coach.”

As she started her medical career, Mohan found others who helped shape her life philosophy. “As a Jane Addams Andrew Carnegie fellow at the Indiana University Purdue University Center on Philanthropy, I interned for a maternal and child health program called Friendly Access. I worked on behalf of pregnant women seeking care at a public hospital in Indianapolis. My mentors there showed me how powerful physicians can be when engaged in their communities. Their spirit …goes to the heart of why I look for problems I can help solve in my own community,” she said. 

A community problem Mohan has identified and is seeking to address is the need for women to have the tools to stay healthy and keep their families healthy. “One study by the Center for Talent Innovation showed that out of more than 9,000 mothers, 94 percent of working mothers with children under 18 say they set the health and wellness agenda for themselves and their families. These women wanted to have the most current knowledge so they can make the best decisions for their families. Sadly, 58 percent felt they were without the time, information, or trusted relationships that inform good decision making. I mean to correct that problem by providing community-specific tools that inspire healthy living,” she said. The book she wrote with fellow physician Ruth Parker and first winner of the Peachtree Road Race Jeff Galloway, The Women’s Guide to Health, is one such tool, according to Mohan.

“I count myself blessed to have been able to write with not one but two of my personal heroes,” Mohan continued. “Jeff is an Olympian and beloved coach of the RunWalkRun® method. His coaching helped me qualify for the Boston Marathon and his good advice also helped me recover from an overuse injury. Jeff understands the minds of both run-walk veterans and beginners. More, he knows how to keep motivation going. His approach is so accessible, no one gets left behind. 

“Until I stumbled upon Jeff’s compendium, I, like so many others before me, believed in high-intensity discipline and work. Jeff taught me to enjoy every run and that walking maintains the desired muscle adaptions. Now, I’m looking to run for enjoyment and to inspire healthy living through deep bonding and connection,” she said.

“Ruth is a world renowned health literacy expert, primary care physician and professor at Emory University. She is my professional mentor and good friend who took up long-distance running at the age of 50. Ruth is the reason our book’s tone is super friendly. 

She made sure we broke down the recommended action steps so our readers are absolutely clear on what to do. She and Jeff have been friends since their children attended the Galloway school. Ruth has also acted as a medical reviewer for Jeff’s prior works. I round out the partnership with my own 25-year running history, background in internal medicine, community health advocacy, and experience prescribing food and exercise as medicine.”  

Mohan recommends forming relationships that promote health goals. “The single most important thing a woman can do to achieve and maintain good health is to find a walking partner she loves and regularly schedule outdoor walks lasting about 30 to 60 minutes with that accountability partner,” she said. “If we want to end the pandemic of disease caused by sedentary American life, millions upon millions of women must take to the sidewalks. Running or walking with someone will bond you together in unexpected yet meaningful ways. And it’s that hard-to-pin-down stuff that makes friendships soul-sustaining.”

Editor’s Note:
For more details about the book The Women’s Guide to Health, read the article “Women’s health key to community health” in the March 15-22 issue of The Champion.

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