On Your Mark, Get Set — Make Friends!

Paulette Schwartz and Jennifer Ferrand are Hartford HealthCare colleagues who discovered they both really like to run

Stories by Elissa Bass

Hartford Pride in Their Stride — Dr. Jennifer Ferrand, left, and Paulette Schwartz are joined at the hip ever since finding out they share a love for running.

“We’re joined at the hip,” says Schwartz, LCSW, MPH, director of human-centered care for the Community Network.

They run together, they race together and, after the 2022 Hartford Marathon, they found-ed the Hartford HealthCare Running and Walking Group.

The club and its Facebook group boast around 500 members.

“A colleague asked after the race about how to get connected to other runners in Hartford HealthCare,” says Ferrand, PsyD, HHC’s well-being director.

“That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten requests like that. So, we thought let’s create a community for colleagues for connection, support and to share information.”

The group took off thanks to word of mouth. These days, Dr. Ferrand and Schwartz hand out fliers at new colleague orientation that extol the physical and mental health benefits of running and walking but also invite people to join.

“We want people to be well, to be healthy, to move and to create unity around the idea of wellbeing,” Schwartz explains.

That, and running together is fun.

“We did 10 races together last year,” Schwartz says.

Running and walking benefit you by…

  • Improving cardiovascular fitness, build strong bones and strengthen muscles
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Boosting brain power by building new brain cells
  • Reducing stress, improving mood and sleep
  • Improving self-esteem —especially if you’re working toward a goal
  • Exposing you to others with shared interests

“We ran more than 100 miles together,” Dr. Ferrand adds. “I wouldn’t have raced one mile last year if it wasn’t for Paulette. She’s my accountability partner.”

“Jennifer is faster than me,” Schwartz throws in.

Last summer, a group ran the 95-mile RiMaConn relay, wearing team hats the women procured and an HHC magnet on their van. Other runners saw the magnet and told them they also worked at HHC.

“Our colleagues were excited to identify and support one another at this amazing community event, and we were proud to represent Hartford Health-Care,” Dr. Ferrand notes.

Their hope is to build on the energy they’ve created and create regional groups that leverage members’ interest and expertise with coaching/training sessions and organized workouts. They would also like to grow a Hartford HealthCare presence at local running events, giving colleagues more ways to support each other and their well-being.

“When you find out someone else runs, it’s exciting to know you have that in common,” says Schwartz.

Join us!
HHC Colleague Running & Walking Group

Not a Facebook user? Email Jennifer.Ferrand@hhchealth.org or Paulette.Schwartz@hhchealth.org for more information.


Losing it in the Long Run

Jacqueline Cameron didn’t run her first marathon until she was 44 but, now 61, she has 24 under her belt, including six in Boston.

A medical weight loss specialist with Hartford HealthCare’s Digestive Health Institute, Dr. Jacqueline Cameron sees parallels between her quest to cross a finish line after 26.2 miles and patients’ decision to lose weight and live healthier lives.

“There are many lessons I’ve learned training for marathons that relate to weight loss,” she says, adding that, in general, weight loss journeys are not straight lines. “When things don’t go as planned, you forgive yourself and recalibrate.

“The important thing is to not focus on failure. Instead, focus on what you’ve already accomplished. And, sometimes, it might feel like failure but it might be a temporary setback with no guilt required.”

There was an epiphany when she started training for her first marathon. The coaches, Dr. Cameron says, “immediately called us endurance athletes and I thought, ‘No I’m not. Not yet.’ I felt like an imposter. I thought I had to have success first. But the coaches said, ‘The fact that you made the commitment, that you’re working toward your goal, means you are already an endurance athlete.’”

Many of her patients, she adds, “have these negative tapes playing in their heads – ‘I’m a failure, I’m bad, I’m ugly.’ What they should be hearing is, ‘I’m strong, I’m capable, I’m healthy.’ Often they feel they have failed and they need to focus on their strengths. When you see yourself in that light, you are empowered.”

When Dr. Cameron decided to run a marathon, she got a coach and found support.

You need someone to tell you, ‘Yes, you can.’ It’s a long journey and there’ll be ups and downs. I couldn’t have done it without a team. When I met the others at our first practice, they were all scared too! We encouraged each other,” she says.

Marathoning has also taught her that setbacks are normal and shouldn’t be discouraging.

“I never meet my training goals,” Dr. Cameron admits.

“Some weeks go well and some just don’t. Some days you just can’t drag yourself out the door or you get sick or injured or the weather is terrible or work gets crazy. There isn’t a single time when I’ve stood at a start line and hadn’t wished I’d trained harder.”