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Healthy Face: Dr P

Each week, Healthy Bridgeport features a "Healthy Face." Today, we take a different twist as we shine the spotlight on Dr. Mark Povroznik. Meet the doctor and see what insight he has to offer: Tell me a little about yourself, your family, your profession & why it is important to you …

First, Dr. P’s answers may be a little unconventional; however, I was asked to share and will do so with humbleness.

When I relayed this invitation about participating in a health story with my daughter Sarah...She blurted out giggles! Always praise your children for being honest! There is no need to lie to ourselves, that is one journey step in being healthy. While I am “a Health Face," I am by no means the “Face of Health”. LOL! Who am I? I am an ordinary guy who occasionally sees ways to be extra-ordinary. I’m not simple, I’m at times complex. A “care bear” of sorts. I like to be creative, solve problems, break monotony with humor and above all, bring about meaningful and sustained improvements! The word neighbor means more to me than the person next door. I haven’t found too much that I wanted to do that I couldn’t do, just at times requiring more courage than most would realize. I would love to be able to echo my voice like MercyMe, but I can’t. So realizing who I am not is healthy. Still fun to dream!

Presently, I’m closing in on three decades proudly serving United Hospital Center. I currently serve as the Vice President and Chief Quality Officer, as well as the chairman for Infection Control and chairman of the WVU Medicine Infection Control Affinity Council. My work in healthcare has been progressive and at times visionary. It is where I was lead to be; therefore, I take it seriously. My immediate family consists of my wife Lisa, Hannah (18) a freshman at West Virginia Wesleyan and Sarah (15) a freshman at BHS, along with our two dogs (Gracie and Sophie) and two cats (Callie and Leo).

What is your best advice for averting COVID, the flu or other contagious illness? Since the beginning of time, only two discoveries have prevented disease: Hygiene and Vaccines. Many discoveries have aided in “treatment," which is not the same as “prevention." The knowledge we have acquired over the centuries should guide us strongly! A pandemic such as COVID is like an old-time dose of castor oil…difficult to swallow yet effective. Good hand hygiene is the healthy habit for prevention. Keeping unclean hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth (“The T Zone”) is not just a saying; they are the basic portals for viruses to enter. Additional healthy goals that support a healthy immune system include getting restful sleep, staying adequately hydrated, exercise, and a diet that includes nutrient-rich foods. Here are just a few: Broccoli, garlic, ginger, yogurt, red bell peppers, spinach, kale, citrus fruits, green tea, and almonds. What about overall wellbeing? What lifestyle components are important? While associated with a healthy lifestyle, wellness goes beyond the confines of general health (physical well-being). It encompasses a positive outlook on your mind, body, and soul and is something we often have more control over than health. Wellness is not a simple word; a multi-dimensional encompassing all that is interconnected and impactful to our overall health. It is inclusive of all that we naturally consider, nutrition, exercise, sleep, positive decision making, and more. Well-being is inclusive of simply liking what you do every day (career well-being), having strong positive relationships in your life (social well-being), and attempting to manage the economic side of life (financial well-being). Lastly, it is inclusive of your sense of engagement in the area you live (community well-being). As previously stated, the word neighbor means more to me than the person next door. Being neighborly is an aspect of my well-being that hopefully positively affects other’s well-being. At the core of each and every aspect is “behaviors” or opportunities for “behavior change”. With the right support, tools, motivation, support structure, people can change behaviors. What is your favorite self-help book? One is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. I was originally interested in the book because the first habit is “be proactive” which was an attribute instilled in me as a very young man. Recognizing that if I was going to go to college and have a chance, I had to do just that. The book is a relaxing read and is a holistic, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. If you are looking for a better understanding of living with fairness, integrity, service, and dignity…this is a book to help embark change, instill wisdom and lessons in taking advantage of the opportunities that change itself creates. But clearly, there are many excellent self-help books, including the Bible. Simply hold the one that you are interested in reading. The help comes from not owning it but reading the pages.

What do you have to share with regard to healthy foods and physical activity? Favorite meal is best relayed as favorite meals. For me, those start by preparing healthy options for the family and having them sit together at the table. That is a “healthy” aspect to meal times, in addition to the home cook approach of balancing fats, limiting red meats, incorporating a variety of vegetables and keeping desserts infrequent so they are more of a treat rather than a third course. Dr. P loves to cook and you may find me delivering food to neighbors, just because it’s healthy to share. Before I had to be “gluten-free”, I was a label reader. Meals can be made healthier when you start reading the labels. This simple skill is not just for newly diagnosed Diabetics or those suffering with Congestive Heart Failure. It is good for all of us. Teach a healthy lesson to your children, read the labels. You will find sodium, fat, and sugar can be reduced by choosing a different brand. The one aspect of our healthy meals that is a bit unhealthy is the hour of the evening that it often comes together. That’s just the nature of my work and an aspect the family has adapted to. All-in-all, it has been very healthy for us to keep this family tradition! I consider myself very active in that I walk miles of hallways in a day’s time, take the steps, park further away, and eat healthy choices. Summers bring about longer days and the chance to be outdoors where I enjoy being with nature. Having grown up with a form of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis, my ability to perform more aggressive forms of exercise are challenging. However, wellness includes other aspects like emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. Up until COVID, each of these were well balanced helping to keep the mind, body and spirit in reasonable unity. As we engage around physical health, all other aspects deserve equal attention. Building biceps while maintaining a broken heart or spirit is misaligned. Favorite motivational quote? At times, I will sit and ponder quotes as a form of wellness and mental relaxation and mind exploration. I grew up believing the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be”. I’ve often liked that one to teach the power of being responsible for your actions, your life’s direction, your successes and self-awareness of your missed opportunities. Always healthy to look in a mirror before casting a stone! As I prepared my first curriculum vitae upon graduating from college, I pondered the words that would frame my journey, “To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream; the second is persistence ~ a faith in the dream”. I printed these words on the cover where they remain nearly 30 years later. How did your health journey start? Very atypical! Scared, worried, walking with a cane at times, periodically spending weeks in a Pittsburgh rehab hospital to gain mobility all while wanting to be like all the others my age. My journey started with awareness of my body and listening to what it was telling me. That journey created courage and a mindset to be purposefully passionate about my life as I grew. There are aspects today that I struggle with. Adequate restful sleep and proper mental downtime. So despite contributing to this article, a health journey is just that…a journey. Realizing what you can do better and trying to make small meaningful and sustaining gains toward improvement. What are some easy tiny habits that you recommend people start with on their journey? Seek not what others do, but what you can do for yourself. Take small meaningful bites of healthy adaptations, they will tend to grow into life-long enjoyments. Recognize that wellness is inclusive of exercise; however, not all about exercise. It is the balance of the mind, body and spiritual soul. Substitute a bottle of water for just one of your next sugar-filled drinks...let the small step lead to mindful contemplation. That too is healthy! Dr. P., you are a funny guy, so I just have to ask: Why is humor and laughter important to overall health and happiness? The health benefits of laughter as medicine was beautifully show cased in the movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.The benefits of laughter on your health are measurable in many ways. One is simply the favorable impact on the doctor-patient relationship. Laughter is a tool to help establish comfort and a sense of connection, one that embodies the opportunity for trust, conversation and a journey towards compliance. Having the ability to laugh have been linked to overall better health, and self-assessments of quality of life. Laughter and humor are excellent stress relievers, help lower anxiety by increasing dopamine and serotonin (happy brain chemicals). Likewise, cortisol and epinephrine (stress hormones) decrease with laughter. More so, laughter is a fundamental way of connecting socially and building relationships. Hey, that’s healthy too! It goes even deeper into our mental health, reducing pain, depression, and even boosting our immune systems. Don’t laugh your way out of a future health challenge…but certainly incorporate it into your health routine!

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