The UC Davis School of Medicine is making a unique commitment to the well-being of patients and the community by opening the Office of Wellness Education. The new office opened July 1 and is part of a first-of-its-kind initiative funded by a $5 million gift from Sacramento businessman Jim Anderson.
“Thanks to the incredible generosity of Jim Anderson, we’re embarking on a transformative journey toward wellness at the UC Davis School of Medicine,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health and vice chancellor for human health sciences. “The gift will enable us to be absolute game changers in this field, and positively impact society.”
Jim Anderson is funding the initiative in honor of his late wife, Jacquelyn “Jackie” Anderson, who passed away from cancer in March 2021. Jackie Anderson was an artist and photographer who was passionate about health and wellness, and whose legacy continues to inspire others.
“Jackie had a way of making people feel better and everyone who met her walked away touched by her kindness,” Jim Anderson said. “We’re establishing this initiative for the good of humanity. It’s needed now more than ever.”
The Office of Wellness Education offers resources to the UC Davis Health community and the people of Sacramento to help prevent illness and help people lead longer, healthier lives. Additionally, the gift will establish the Jacquelyn S. Anderson Endowed Chair in Wellness.
“This is an unprecedented step for our health system in fulfilling its promise to our patients and community to support the full dimension of their health, before they get sick,” said Scott Fishman, professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine and director of the Center for Advancing Pain Relief. Fishman is leading the office and is slated to serve as the inaugural chairholder.
Wellness for all
The new office addresses wellness on both sides of health care, integrating a curriculum for medical students and faculty, and providing accessible resources for patients and the community. It will not be limited to physical health, as comprehensive wellness includes emotional, societal, environmental and global concerns.
“We’re addressing the urgent need that people have for reliable, science and consensus-based information to make decisions about their health and lifestyle,” Fishman said.
Lubarsky added that advances are happening “daily in exciting and revolutionary ways” at UC Davis Health—such as in artificial intelligence—that benefit long-term health, wellness and fulfillment.
“This heightened focus in wellness research, teaching and outreach will strengthen our efforts to enhance lives before health issues arise, increasing a person’s health-span as well as their lifespan,” he said.
A. Elise Bryant, manager of the School of Medicine Dean’s office, has been named the office’s program director.
“We're going to focus on the things within the control of the average person,” said Bryant. “It's about what you put in your body, what you put in your mind, what you do with your body and what you do with your mind.”
Resources will include live and virtual programs, lectures, podcasts and more. Community education will also integrate wellness experts, from scientists and doctors, to chefs, coaches and experts in exercise performance and mindfulness.
“I envision UC Davis as the most prepared university in the country to lead in this area,” Fishman said. “In addition to our medical school, we have numerous eminent schools and colleges with a large stake in wellness, like our world-leading College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as well as top-tier engineering, vet med, education, biological sciences and food scientists. We are also located at the foot of Napa Valley, in the farm-to-fork capital of the country.”
The vision for the initiative began with Fishman and Jackie Anderson’s shared interest in health and wellness.
“Jackie was an inspirational person, not just around art, but also around health,” he said. “It’s humbling to have the resources and receive the trust to deliver something that we're so passionate about and uniquely positioned to do.”
This is an unprecedented step for our health system in fulfilling its promise to our patients and community to support the full dimension of their health, before they get sick.”
An artist’s legacy
Jackie Anderson inspired all she met with her art and photography, her passion for fitness and nutrition, and most of all, her compassion and strength.
“I never met another person who was like her,” Jim Anderson said. “She came from a poor background and managed to pull herself up to create a beautiful life.”
Jim Anderson is an owner and manager of WHAL, GP, LLC, the general partner of WHAL Properties, LP. He is also an active and longtime board member of Pacific Coast Building Products, Inc., founded by his father, Fred, in 1953.
He first became involved with UC Davis Health in 2003 as a liver transplant patient.
“UC Davis saved my life. I’m grateful and I’ve got a special place in my heart for them,” Jim Anderson said.
When he decided to make a gift in his wife’s honor, he knew that UC Davis was the place to do it: “I can’t think of a better place that brings so many different strengths together,” he said.
The gift supports UC Davis’ $2 billion fundraising campaign, Expect Greater: From UC Davis, For the World, the largest philanthropic endeavor in university history.
Jim Anderson is also creating The Jacquelyn Project, an art gallery opening spring 2023 in downtown Sacramento showcasing Jackie Anderson’s artwork and photography. The gallery will be free for all to access in the hopes of inspiring young artists and all who visit.
“I want nothing back except for her name to live on forever,” said Jim Anderson.