Local Fallon Medical Complex Foundation Employee Helps Facilitate a Healthy Community

Submitted by Alta Dunning, RDLN 

Karol Zachmann, an employee of Fallon Medical Complex of 31 years, has spent over a decade serving on the Foundation of the Baker critical access hospital and clinic.  She has spent numerous hours serving on community boards to support the well-being of the people in Fallon County.  One program she has taken a very personal interest in is the Diabetes Prevention Program offered by Holy Rosary’s Healthy Lifestyles year-long class via distance learning.  When asked by myself, a dietitian at Holy Rosary, why she feels this program is beneficial to participants, she responded in the following narrative.:

“I first started out as a participant in the Holy Rosary Healthy Lifestyles program in about 2008 or 2009, when the program was first introduced to the Baker community. I was surprised to find out that the purpose of the program was not about the newest diet, but about making lifestyle changes. I realized it’s about making gradual changes and better choices throughout the day to improve my health. There are some habits to this day I no longer have because I took the program. I used to drink 4 bottles of Dr. Pepper a day and I haven’t touched it in all these years after taking the program. I used to hate breakfast and now I make a point to have a small meal before work so I’m not famished by lunch time. I read labels now, and I can’t believe what I find in them sometimes.”

Karol feels the program has something for everyone to learn. She feels the lifestyle coaches are supportive and that she never “got in trouble” by the coaches when she felt she was struggling from time to time.  When I asked about how she advises someone who is on the fence about joining the program, she gave me a wink and said: “I tell them; Try it, you have a lot to lose!”  

While the Holy Rosary Healthy Lifestyles program’s main purpose is to help delay the onset of diabetes and improve cardiovascular health, weight loss is often a common side effect for participants.

Liane Vadheim is one of the Healthy Lifestyle coaches who has worked with Karol over the past 12 years. She reports, “Karol is an inspiration as the site coordinator.  She is always upbeat and beautifully organized. Together we have mastered the various technology challenges so we can present things in Miles City to the group she has gathered together in the Fallon Medical Complex conference room.  She ensures that the group there has fun while learning from each other.”  

The collaborative effort between Fallon Medical Complex, Holy Rosary Healthcare and the Montana Department of Health and Human Services has been the subject of several scientific publications and is currently being used as a reference for the CDC and Medicare as they consider delivery models. 

The Healthy Lifestyles program is offered via distance learning from Miles City.  The next session program will be offered in January, and provides classes and coach support for 12 months.  Healthy Lifestyles also offers 2 lab draws at 6 months and 12 months at no cost to participants, as well as access to local exercise facilities in the area.  It does require a lab draw within 12 months prior to the start date of the January Session.  

Karol says they have several providers in the clinic that can assist with meeting the initial requirements.  “We have some great providers; Brian Sullivan, MD; Carrie Haar, FNP; Katie Ernest PA; and our newest addition Caleb Bettenhausen, PA originally from Baker, MT.”  Also of note, if there are patients who have providers outside of Baker, as long as the referral form and labs are sent to Karol Zachmann they, too, can enroll. 

As I thanked Karol for the interview, I asked how she spends her leisure time. “Oh, I love spending time with my grandkids, gardening and camping!” That seemed like a pretty fun lifestyle to me.  For those interested in learning more about Karol and Healthy Lifestyles, contact 406-778-5448.  

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