CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024 Hosts First Strides for Wellness Event

May 17, 2024

On Thursday, May 16, 2024, the California Health Sciences University (CHSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine inaugural class of 2024 students hosted its first Strides for Wellness event in collaboration with Shinzen Friendship Garden. Attendees enjoyed the free event with an afternoon of informative talks, health education and activities while taking a stroll through the beautiful, scenic Shinzen Friendship Garden located within Woodward Park in Fresno. Approximately 200 guests were able to embrace holistic well-being through a series of mindful activities designed to nourish their mind, body, and soul.

Varsha Swamy, DO, Class President, and Saumya Shah, DO, Class Vice President for the CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024 served as the event organizers and saw this event as a unique opportunity to begin traditions that they hope will last for many years. Classmates Laura Gutierrez-Rivera, DO, Dina Shakran, DO, Bibi Patel, DO, and William Kim, DO also served on the Strides for Wellness planning committee.

“Our class is very passionate about service and wanted to give back to this beautiful community that we have been lucky enough to call home for the last 4 years. So, we decided to begin a graduation week tradition of including a graduating class community project. This event in collaboration with Shinzen Friendship Garden, named Strides for Wellness, was organized by our class as our graduating class community project.”

Varsha Swamy, DO, Class President, CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024

Several health education, wellness, and mindfulness activities were offered at this first Strides for Wellness Event, that included:

  • Guided Yoga
  • Guided Meditation
  • Pinwheel Breathing
  • Succulents Planting
  • Letter Writing
  • Write & Rip
  • Gratitude Tree
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Depression/Anxiety Education
  • Diabetes/Hypertension Education
  • Nutrition/Exercise Education

The event received significant support and participation from the CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024 graduates. Thank you to our event day volunteers: Emaan Baqai, DO, Veronica Dang, DO, Laura Gutierrez-Rivera, DO, Sarah Holzmann, DO, Rahil Khasgiwale, DO, William Kim, DO, Christine King, DO, Rosie Kumar, DO, Ronald Llenado, DO, Briana Martinez, DO, Bibi Patel, DO, Saumya Shah, DO, Dina Shakran, DO, Varsha Swamy, DO, Sushil Talreja, DO, John Tawfik, DO. Special thank you to members of CHSU who also volunteered: Richele Kleiser, Vice President of Marketing and Communication; Lisa James, LMFT, Behavioral Health Specialist; and the nutrition team. Casey Lamonski-Short, Executive Director of the Shinzen Friendship Garden and the Shinzen team of volunteers also provided significant support and assistance during the event.

“Shinzen Friendship Garden is the perfect location for teaching community members about health and wellness. The garden is not only a wonderful location to walk at and increase cardiovascular health, but also has the calming presence of the surrounding nature which helps with activities like meditation and yoga. Shinzen Friendship Garden had already been wanting to host a wellness-focused event for this reason, and we are proud to have organized this event alongside them.,”

Saumya Shah, DO, Vice President, CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024

    Participants were encouraged to stroll around the Shinzen Friendship Garden twice and visit each station, which would be one-mile of walking. A wellness treasure hunt activity encourages attendees to get a stamp at each station and submit for the chance to win raffle prizes at the end.

    The Strides for Wellness event helped educate members of the Fresno-Clovis community about ways to improve both their mental health and physical health, with the intention of helping them prevent future hospital admissions and severe disease. This was especially the purpose of the diabetes/hypertension and nutrition/exercise stations. Participants were taught how to maintain healthy lifestyle habits including eating healthy and personalized exercise recommendations. Other stations were targeted towards improving mental wellness by giving participants ideas about how to do easy mindfulness exercises, including breathing exercises, yoga, origami, and practicing gratitude, to name a few. The goal of the event was for participants to leave with a better understanding of their mental and physical wellness, and a newfound sense of motivation towards improving those, using methods taught at the stations.

    “As we learn during our osteopathic medical education, mental and physical wellness go hand in hand. Maintaining a lifestyle with adequate exercise and healthy nutrition greatly lowers the risk of diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart conditions. Managing stress and having good mental health can help prevent anxiety and depression, as well as increase energy levels. Improving mental and physical wellness should be a focus of everyone when reflecting on how to improve their quality of life, which is what we hoped to inspire with this event,”

    Varsha Swamy, DO, Class President, CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024

    The CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024 hopes that this initial Strides for Wellness event will serve as the foundation for the Shinzen Friendship Garden to help keep community members involved in their new wellness initiative. Now that all of these health education, wellness, and mindfulness stations have been created, they can be replicated in future years. The gratitude tree that participants contributed to can be a long-standing display at the garden to remind visitors to practice gratitude in their lives.

    “Our Inaugural Class of 2024 alumni hope to stay involved with the Shinzen Friendship Garden’s wellness programming by regularly providing easy, at-home wellness tips, to be sent to community members via Shinzen’s mailing list,”

    Saumya Shah, DO, Vice President, CHSU-COM Inaugural Class of 2024