By Sister Lois Anne Palkert
There are few events held in the Bryan/College Station area of Texas where the name of Sister Gretchen Kunz does not come up. Her legacy and that of the Sisters of St. Francis is deeply imbedded here. Sister Gretchen knew the leaders in the community and the leaders in the community knew and respected Sister Gretchen.
As a visionary leader she was always about meeting the healthcare and related needs of the community, a vision she constantly shared with leaders in the community and members of the Hospital Board. Conversations about meeting the healthcare needs of the adult population, especially the baby boomers who are approaching retirement, have been going on for some time.
On April 29 an announcement of a partnership with long-term implications for health and wellness in the Bryan/College Station, Texas area was made. St. Joseph Health System in Bryan is partnering with Texas A&M Health Science Center to develop a health and wellness center in Bryan devoted to seniors. The two-story, 23,000-square-foot center will be a “one stop shop” for seniors who want to manage chronic conditions, stay well and lead an active lifestyle. An array of retail and business entities will complement the center.
The complex will offer a single destination for both healthy seniors to achieve their wellness goals as well as those who need to manage chronic conditions. The center will contain a swimming pool, gym, exercise area, as well as a pharmacy and labs to do testing. Staff includes three geriatricians, six nurse practitioners and a part-time geriatrician serving as a medical director.
Bryan and College Station are prime destinations for retirement, especially if you went to Texas A&M. As more seniors move to Bryan/College Station to retire, and baby boomers continue to age, this new center puts St. Joseph at the fore front of changing the way these individuals can achieve their wellness and life style goals, along with managing chronic conditions that come with aging.
Dr. Kia Parsi, a family medicine physician, acknowledges that “we want to manage chronic diseases differently. Doing so can be complex, especially as we age and often face multiple conditions – such as arthritis, diabetes and hypertension. Consumers are more educated than ever and, unlike days gone by, they want to be active participants and decision makers in their care. At the Mature Well Lifestyle Center, physicians and clinicians from St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Center will help them manage their health and achieve their wellness goals.”
This exciting project on the part of St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Science Center furthers a common mission of the two institutions of supporting the overall health and wellness of the community. The introduction of the Mature Well Lifestyle Center will change the way seniors can achieve their health wellness and lifestyle objectives in Bryan/College Station.
Brett Giroir, M.D., CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center, recognizes that “as we continue to develop Texas A&M bio corridor as a national center for innovation and health transformation we remain committed to advancing programs that benefit our patients and the health of our community.” Dr. Giroir acknowledges that the partnership with St. Joseph enables the highest quality inter-professional resources from Texas A&M to significantly improve the longevity and quality of life for the growing senior population. The effort represents the first of many new initiatives for faculty and students that will develop and implement novel clinical care delivery initiatives.
The legacy of the Sisters of St. Francis in healthcare continues. Our participation in the healing ministry of Jesus expands as we partner with those who share our vision of meeting the health and wellness needs in new and creative ways. Who would have envisioned this collaborative effort when five Sisters traveled an hour east of Sylvania to care for 98 victims of influenza in 1918?