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Like an exuberant teen with their favorite band, I aimed to be in the first row for all of Dr. Dee Edington's conferences. As he was a true pioneer and the godfather of health-risk assessment (HRA), I fervently absorbed all of his research. I first met Dee in 2006 for the debut of the University of Michigan Wellness in the Workplace Conference that would continue annually for more than 25 years. After his remarks, he was rearranging chairs to put the conference room back order. As I began helping, we talked. He later invited me to join a very small group of wellness professionals that would meet as colleagues and friends for more than a decade.
Through ongoing research after founding the Health Management Research Center within the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, their groundbreaking HRA involved over 2.5 million individuals and their medical claims. This pioneering evidence firmly cemented the business case for employee health management as a key business and economic strategy. Finally, professionals could confidently walk into the C-Suite to prove and grow employee health initiatives.
However, once top execs are satisfied with the worth of your strategy, Dee gently cautioned that your work is just beginning. Best practices evolve into next practices. Everyone wins when values, results, and contributions are shared throughout the entire organization. Dee said, "Don't do it because of the ROI, do it because it's the right thing to do."
Dee regularly expressed his love and dedication to his wife of 60 years, Marilyn, and their grand children. Despite the demands for his time, he always prioritized time to teach, mentor, encourage, and he never seemed to be in a hurry. It was important for Dee to let anyone near him to know that all people matter. You can learn more by reading his obituary here.
Dr. Dee Edington's legacy of integrity towards data and people alike will continue to impact and inspire for generations, including in my own family. Micah, my oldest son, is currently attending the very same University of Michigan School of Kinesiology as a pre-med student.
Below is a past interview that I had the privilege to facilitate with Dee. I hope that it further helps portray him as an inspiration - as a scientist and as a good man.
Dee, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much. I promise to try my hardest to do the right thing, to let all people in my reach know that they matter, and to rearrange chairs with the next generation. May you rest in peace.
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Scott Foster is CEO of Wellco. Scott is a frequently-invited expert and speaker regarding well-being, engagement, & leadership. Wellco provides award-winning solutions to measurably improve health experiences & outcomes. For more information, contact Wellco.
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