Walk with a Doc- Columbia S.C.
We are almost 9 months into our journey with the Columbia, SC chapter of Walk with a Doc (WWAD). I thought I would write down a few reflections.
When I asked my co-founder, fellow family doctor, Dr. Victoria Leventis-Shew, if she wanted to start this chapter with me, I did it on a whim. We had separately heard about Walk with a Doc on a podcast we were both listening to, and one day, the light bulb went on and I realized we should do this in Columbia! I was intrigued by the idea of bringing the doctor’s office outside in a casual way and by being able to participate in my recommendation to patients to exercise instead of just talking about it. I had no idea what was involved in starting a chapter (it turns out that it was not very much!), and we were off to the races!
I have to say that through WWAD, I have felt the healing power of nature. The Saluda Riverwalk is beautiful, and spending second Saturdays of the month walking with our group has been energizing. We’ve had a good number of University of South Carolina students both help with and participate in our walks, and many of them have said that they had no idea the Saluda Riverwalk existed. They universally loved it and many said they would be back on their own time. With 1 in 3 college students experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms, I hope that this experience will help them see the virtue of getting out into nature.
We have had a few guest docs come, share their knowledge and spend their Saturday morning with us. Even I, as a doctor, have learned a few things during their pre-walk talks on a variety of topics including allergies, heart health, how to talk about uncomfortable things with your doctor, and more! All of the guest docs have then joined us for our walk and I’ve heard that they very much enjoyed talking to our walkers about medical topics or life in general!
I also have a new appreciation for businesses who have tents at the Soda City Market and other farmer’s market-type events 😊We underestimated the work involved in getting setup at every walk, but we are gaining experience and zeroing in on the most efficient way to go about this! You never stop learning, no matter how old you are! We also appreciate the time our families have spent helping us!
I think my biggest impression though has come from our walkers. I take heart in the fact that we have had many repeat walkers, which makes us feel like we’re onto something! We’ve had walkers of all ages, from 6 to 74, and walkers who are friends, patients and family. I was impressed that one of our largest crowds came in January, when it was 34 degrees outside. None of us were cold though by the end of our walk! We’ve also loved how we have had some unexpected guests at our walks like the cousin of the national WWAD executive director, who just happened to be at the Saluda Riverwalk at the same time as our walk last month, or a deer that decided to cross our path to cool off in the river! Regardless of how often they came, I believe our walkers have found the walks to be fun, dog-friendly (!), and a good social activity.
As for the future, we are looking forward to continuing to spread the word about WWAD in the Columbia community. We just received some help in that area. Dr. Andrea Pezzella, owner of Southern Urogynecology, has become a co-sponsor with Noreta Family Medicine and Victory Family Medicine. With her larger practice, we look to let even more folks know about our walks on the 2nd Saturday of every month at 9am. Our next walk is July 8. It’s free and you can walk at your own pace. I hope to see you there!
Melissa Boylan MD, FAAFP
Family Physician and Owner of Noreta Family Medicine