NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Take-a-Hike Day Helps Staff Define Wellness Individually

Group of people standing and one person in a wheelchair outside Bldg. 1
Take-a-Hike participants start their journey.

Photo:  Leslie Kossoff

About 1,100 attendees gathered across multiple locations for NIH’s 16th annual Take-a-Hike Day on June 6. On the Bethesda campus, runners, walkers and rollers lined up outside of Bldg. 1 to take on the 3.2-mile perimeter trail.

“You, our staff, are our most important asset,” said kickoff speaker NIH Deputy Director for Management Dr. Alfred Johnson, noting that maintaining employee wellness is a priority for NIH. “We want to do all we can to have you in the best shape to do the jobs that you do.”

Hikes also took place at other NIH locations, including Rockledge and Shady Grove (see sidebar, p. 7). Take-a-Hike Day organizer Leslie Pont, NIH Wellness Program manager, said planning the event required plenty of time, effort and collaboration with volunteers, exhibitors, agency leadership and the NIH Police Department.

A group of people congregate to walk, colorful clothes
NIH Human Resources Director Julie Broussard Berko (c) and Kha Nguyen (r), director of the Division of Senior & Scientific Executive Management in the Office of Human Resources, head out for the stroll.

Photo:  Leslie Kossoff

All the labor is worth it, she emphasized, to encourage staff to step away from their desks and move their bodies. Pont said the annual event proves that NIH stands behind its mission of prioritizing health.

“We continue these traditions because we want to continue to walk the talk,” she explained.

Participants this year ranged from first-timers to seasoned Take-a-Hikers. Gloria Osei, technical laboratory manager at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, has worked at NIH for about six years, though this marked her first Take-a-Hike Day.

What prompted her to go on the walk?

“Prioritizing my well-being, both physically and mentally,” Osei said. “With busy work schedules, I am striving to cultivate a healthy work-life balance, by allowing myself time to recharge and connect with colleagues situated in various buildings or are remote.”

Group of people hold big, bright signs: you did it! Great job! Finish!
Super-enthusiastic cheerleaders set an upbeat tone for the event.

Photo:  Credit Leslie Kossoff

Fogarty International Center Health and Wellness Co-Coordinator Stefonie Kelly said the event signified how being active in nature can “change the mindset, the work environment, your experiences, the body and the soul.”

Hike Day also gave staff the opportunity to connect with and get to know colleagues outside of meetings or other work-related activities. Safohene Amoa-Awua, a desktop support technician at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and first-time Take-a-Hiker, said it was important to him that he had the chance to venture outside of his usual workplace in Bldg. 40 and interact with fresh faces.

Take-a-Hike Day is regarded by many attendees as a staple of NIH’s dedication to promoting wellness and health of its staff. Kelly detailed just how important she considers both aspects: “Health and wellness to me is self-love. It’s discipline. It’s going for something greater than yourself and not wanting instant gratification but the bigger goal at the end. It’s survival, it’s life, it’s freeing.”

NCI Shady Grove Takes a Hike Too 

Huge group gathers seated around NCI director.
NCI's Satellite Steppers

Photo:  Marleen Van Den Neste

More than 125 NIH staffers gathered June 6 at NCI Shady Grove for NIH’s annual Take-a-Hike Day. 

NCI Acting Executive Officer Amber Lowery welcomed staff and NCI Director Dr. Kimryn Rathmell kicked off the event with inspiring words and a reminder that “physical activity is good for your body but also good for our overall mission…good for our mental well-being and health… and for making connections. Everything that we do here is about the people, and how we work together as a team.” 

Group of smiling walkers in colorful clothes on the route
Staff at NCI Shady Grove get in on the hike.

Photo:  Marleen Van Den Neste

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)