The Power of Partnerships

May 1, 2024

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UEC News

Taking Community Health Outside

TRIUMPH. What a word! And in this case, what a program name! TRIUMPH stands for Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health - a program developed by the University of Wisconsin in response to health inequities and chronic physician shortages in Wisconsin’s urban areas.

But, how does a medical program relate to the Urban Ecology Center? Many ways, actually! We’ve become a preferred wellness day location, health resource and ongoing research partner for the TRIUMPH staff and students.

The staff at TRIUMPH incorporate wellness into everything they do. Many of their wellness activities have taken place at the UEC - staff retreats, wellness workshops, milestone celebrations, guided hikes and more.

Kjersti, TRIUMPH’s director, shared how the "UEC is a uniquely special place that creates connection, sense of wellness, and health for our students, as it does for the surrounding community.  In fact, as a TRIUMPH student in 2010, my husband and I celebrated our wedding at the UEC Riverside Park location!  We are grateful that our kids now get to make frequent visits through the school program at Escuela Fratney."

While our Facility Rentals & Events team has nurtured a wonderful relationship with TRIUMPH, the relationship began and continues to flourish under the Research & Community Science team.  Through TRIUMPH, students are matched with an appropriate Milwaukee-based partner to conduct a community health improvement project. Tim Vargo and his team have been introducing medical students to air quality, water science, and outdoor education projects for 8 years.

Melissa, TRIUMPH’s program manager, described what an asset a place like the UEC can be for communities and the medical field:  You can’t really serve the community without knowing the community. If you’re a physician and you’re recommending that someone should walk more. Where is that even possible to do? What if a neighborhood doesn’t have adequate sidewalks or is dangerous to walk in? If you know about a resource like the Urban Ecology Center, you can recommend safe hiking trails.”

The connection between access to nature and community health is what attracted medical student Kristianna to the UEC - choosing to work with us on her 2 ½ year program at TRIUMPH. Her selected project, “Rest and Breathe Easy”, is a collaborative effort between the UEC, WisCorps, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers and the Medical College of Wisconsin researching air quality and time spent in green spaces on participant’s health.

While the data gathered was compelling, Kristianna’s key takeaway from the research was “the less quantifiable things that have an impact - community organizations working together towards overall community health”.

Kristianna explained that Sixteenth Street Community Health Center encouraged their patients to participate in the study.  This led to more people using and benefiting from the green spaces - people who wouldn’t have done so without prompting from a trusted resource, even though they lived quite close.

Melissa stated that the power of these partnerships “shows students what you can do when you take health outside of the walls of the clinic.”

The interest in this type of healthcare model is vast, too! During Kristianna’s residency interviews, the interviewers always asked about her “Relax and Breathe Easy” project with the Urban Ecology Center. 

How are you prioritizing your own wellness?  Where do you see community health being implemented? Find answers to these questions by taking a walk in any of our managed parks!

Past Employee
Guest Author
Development Communications Manager

Michelle is UEC's Development Communications Manager. With a degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies, she began her career as a zookeeper. An American badger remains her favorite animal - having raised one from a cub. After making some difficult professional decisions, Michelle ended up in the nonprofit sector where she’s happily stayed for 8+ years.  Having started in January 2022, she still feels incredibly lucky to be part of the UEC team - a team who, like her, cares deeply about the environment and those, both human and not, that depend on it. When she’s not at the UEC, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband, two young children and their deaf English setter.

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