Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Professor Celebrates Retirement with Fundraising Run

We are overwhelmed with gratitude!  Thanks to your generous donations, the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K and 5K generated $33,115 to support our local healthcare heroes.  The donation to the UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund supports continued efforts to provide medical equipment and needed supplies.

A portion of each of the 1,272 participant registrations was donated to the fund, and many individuals made additional donations or bypassed their shirt and medal swag to double their donation.  In addition, many participants rallied fundraising efforts from their friends and family.

The single largest fundraiser, who raised nearly $3,000, took the opportunity to mark his retirement from the University of Connecticut by participating in the UConn Health Half Marathon to support the cause.  Meet Professor Hedley Freake.

Meet Professor Hedley Freake
For 32 years, Professor Hedley Freake has been a valued member of the University of Connecticut Department of Nutritional Sciences. The scientist and Fulbright Scholar recently spoke by video at the commencement ceremony for the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources after a long career of student-focused teaching.  Professor Freake has also worked toward improving general education programs and served multiple terms on the University Senate.

I have enjoyed thinking about the big picture and how we make a better institution.  I thought about diversity, equity and inclusion and was spending time to advance programs in those areas. 

As his retirement approached and the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that the end of his tenure could be celebrated, Professor Freake saw information on the UConn Health Half Marathon that piqued his interest.

People want to do things in conjunction with the pandemic and Black Lives Matter.  We're all thinking about the important issues and what kind of society we want to be living in and there are events (like the race) that can bring people together for the common good.

The marathoner waited 30 years between his first 26.2 at the London Marathon at the age of 30 (which he ran i
n an impressive 3 hours and 9 minutes) and his next at the Hartford Marathon.  Professor Freake met his wife, Elizabeth Huebner, in London. In 1983, they moved to her hometown of Minneapolis before settling in Connecticut five years later when Hedley joined the faculty of the University of Connecticut. 

As a child I wasn’t an athlete of any kind. I grew up in London, liked to play football and cricket, but wasn’t really an athlete at all.  As I was approaching my 30th birthday in 1981, there was an article in the Sunday Times of London about how to train for a marathon in 26 weeks, couch potato to marathon runner. 

Coming up on his 60th birthday, Professor Freake's family thought it was time for him to do another marathon, which he obliged on the agreement that his sons would run the race in Hartford too.  With a little help and coaching, he learned about smart ways to approach running a marathon at 60 years old.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation's signature event spurred a renewed interest in marathons and he also began running with his three sons, Duncan, Matthew and Jacob. His Hartford Marathon in 2011 qualified Professor Freake for the Boston Marathon, which he ran in 2013.  He finished shortly before the bombings that rocked the running world and the city of Boston. He decided to run it again in 2016 after qualifying when running the Philadelphia Marathon with his son, Matthew.

He's trained for other races and encountered some common injuries that have hindered marathon pla
ns. At age 69, he feels running a half marathon is straightforward and enjoyable.

Running is for pleasure, I never worried too much about racing.  When doing races of that distance the achievement is to go out there and get a process going, get into a rhythm and pace where your body feels good.

Professor Freake had never run the UConn Health Half Marathon but felt it was a good way to mark the end of this era and raise a little money for the pandemic response. 

We couldn’t agree more.  Thank you, Hedley, for your selfless efforts and congrats on a great race! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Graduating to new goals this season

With UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K, 5K race week underway, our series on healthcare heroes wraps up introducing you to Dr. Rebecca Andrews as she takes on her first half marathon.  Thank you for following these journeys and supporting UConn Health in their mission at this critical time for our communities.

Meet Dr. Rebecca Andrews
Graduation season bubbles up many emotions for students and their families.   As a teacher, researcher and mom of two boys, Dr. Rebecca Andrews is feeling this season very differently this year.  A self-proclaimed short distance runner, Dr. Andrews is training for the UConn Health Half Marathon and finding the mental challenge of long distance running a great outlet.

Dr. Andrews, who see patients in Primary Care, also serves as Associate Program Director of Internal Medicine Residency and in a typical year, celebrates between 30-40 residents completing the residency program in the spring. This year, she is trying to arrange a drive-in graduation for residents to be recognized by name and hear their faculty cheer them on as they end their special training.

It's such a huge achievement, the residents put off their "real life" for so long to go through this special training preparing them to provide such an important social service to the general population.   It's one of my favorite times of the year - we know where they’re going to start the next phase of their life and we’re extremely proud.

The season is especially bittersweet with COVID-19 impacts for her family as her son celebrates his senior year and graduation from high school.

It's surreal to see patients struggling at work, and then come home and feel so distraught about my son not having prom, graduation or any of the iconic senior experiences like senior prank or senior skip day.  I've watched him and his friends wallow; they deserved that time.  There have been times in history when kids had to grow up a little faster, we know it will be ok in the end, but it’s so hard for them to miss what they earned.

Dr. Andrews ran track in high school and felt comfortable with short distance running.  She feels long distance was and still is mentally challenging but comes with a great secondary benefit for stress relief.

I love my job, but it can be difficult to share bad news with patients.  I don’t want to take that bad news to the next room and the next patient or take it home to my family.  People process that in a lot of different ways. I can go on a run, think about things from the day I need to work through. But once I get to a certain distance, running also helps me put those thoughts to the side and just focus on the challenge of the run.
Dr. Andrews teaches as part of the residency program for internal medicine, sees patients in Primacy Care and also does research in chronic pain care.  The last couple months have changed her day-to-day work experiences, which she anticipates will have long term impact.

One great thing about UConn Health is that the doctors who see patients have a role in administration and in making decisions. It makes my job special and a little different than in many other places I could work; it means I can affect healthcare for the betterment of all patients, not just my own.

The public immediately thinks of medical needs of patients who have COVID-19, but many roles for medical professionals are now behind the scenes.  Some of Dr. Andrews' leadership duties were re-assigned and her skills were needed in outpatient primary care to make sure the most vulnerable patients weren't getting lost in the situation of the pandemic.

Dr. Andrews and her running partners at the hospital started training in February for the UConn Health Half Marathon, her first 13.1 mile race.  Like many runners taking on distance goals, she adjusted to run in cold and rain when she needed to put in the miles, and she forced herself to make the time in her schedule.

I do a lot of counseling with patients on what they should be doing in their life.  I’ve made bets with my patients, like I’ll learn to golf if they quit smoking.  But I realized I didn’t have a set exercise plan that was intense enough for true health reasons and just for me. I was active, walking the dog or coaching soccer, but running helps me follow my own advice for patients.  Being a mom and being busy wasn’t a reason not to take care of myself.

What used to be 5 miles for de-tress is becoming 15 miles a week, the more stress she feels, the faster she runs.  And the competitive nature of running to accomplish personal goals works well for many doctors.

As doctors, we learn to be competitive to be the best we can for our patients.  In running, I set goals for myself; it’s about me being better one day to the next.

More information/registration for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K virtual events, running June 4-7, 2020, is available at https://www.hartfordmarathon.com/uconn-health-half-marathon-10k-5k-on-iron-horse-virtual/.