Health coaching a success with Miami employees: Meet Donna and Tyler

Donna Boen

Donna Boen crosses the finish of the Red Brick Run this spring wearing her winter coat several sizes too big. "I was trying to make it through the winter season with my old coat," she said.

by Taylor McInturf  (Miami ’15), intern for Miami employee benefits and wellness

This time last year, walking up a single flight of stairs would force Donna Boen to stop and catch her breath. Finally sick of being tired, she emailed Miami’s employee benefits and wellness department to ask about its free health coach program.

She made sure to wait until the Monday after Alumni Weekend’s barbecue.

“I kind of hoped the department was on summer break,” said Boen, editor of Miamian alumni magazine and a staff member in university communications and marketing. “Wasn’t sure I was ready to give up the junk food, and I knew I didn’t want to work out.”

Within 24 hours, she received a response to her query. Within the week, she was meeting with Melanie Lipps, dietitian, health coach, and program coordinator.

Lipps provides nutrition information and individualized coaching on such topics as weight loss, stress, diabetes and exercise. Certified through the American Lung Association, she also teaches tobacco cessation classes.

With support from Lipps and department colleagues Cassie Wilson and Shawn Britton, Boen started with “baby steps.”

“Melanie is all about positive reinforcement and continues to cheer me on and motivate me toward my goal weight,” Boen said.

Tyler Gau

Tyler Gau stopped yo-yo dieting with the help of his health coach.

Tyler Gau is another who has completely changed his way of eating and working out since starting with health coaching in April 2014.

“”The first two months were really hard,” said the course materials manager for the Miami University bookstore. “I’d yo-yo while I kept trying to figure it out. Plus, I have a hard time fitting stuff in. I could have never done it without Melanie.”

“Done it” he has. Gau ran a 5K in September, a 10K on Thanksgiving, a 15K at the Mini Heart in March and a half marathon at the Flying Pig in May.

In addition to meeting weekly with Lipps, he’s discovered benefits and wellness’ spinning class, which he loves. He’s also taken the mindfulness class, yoga and the cooking classes that Lipps and her student interns offer every semester.

Boen has participated in some of the same classes and continues to meet with a fitness trainer in Phillips gym, also free through the program. When she joined Team Miami in Miami’s 5K Red Brick Run this April, she knew she’d come a long way since last June when she limped around Cook Field.

Both Gau and Boen appreciate how health coaching is personalized.

“It’s truly based around me,” Gau said.

Boen agreed, “I don’t want to make it sound easy. Working out will never be my favorite pastime, and the sight of doughnuts will always get my heart racing, but Melanie provides the moral support and knowledge to keep you going.”

These are just two of health coaching’s many success stories. If you are interested in one-on-one health coaching and want to learn more about the program, contact Melanie Lipps at

Health coaching is one of many programs offered by the benefits and wellness Healthy Miami campaign. To learn more about its wide variety of classes and services, visit: