Nancy Fernandez Mills

Nancy Fernandez Mills is a many-faceted VIM volunteer. As you read an outline of her life story, you begin to understand what a depth of experience and knowledge she brings to her volunteer work.

Nutrition counseling is one of Nancy’s volunteer roles at VIM. She is also an integral part of the Shared Medical Appointments project, and she chairs the Communications Committee on the Board of Trustees. The latter involves writing copy for press releases, checking what needs updating on the web page and assisting in making videos and slide presentations for use in recruiting clinical volunteers.

Nancy’s pathway towards her involvement with VIM is educationally and experientially very rich. She grew up in the Connecticut Valley just outside Springfield – in the small town of East Longmeadow, which at that time was quite rural. After graduation, she was accepted to the School of Foreign Languages at Georgetown University, hoping one day to land a job at the UN! Instead, she graduated with a Social Work degree, and worked in Child Welfare for the State of Connecticut. She married soon after graduation, moved to England for a year with one young child, and had another child while in the UK. She had always been interested in writing – journalism of all kinds – and had begun to write for “Alert”, a women’s political rights newspaper in CT. While in England, Nancy continued to post articles for “Alert”. At that time, Margaret Thatcher was becoming a very powerful political figure, so it was an interesting time to be writing about women in politics.

From newspaper journalism, Nancy moved on to TV – originally in Springfield for the local NBC station, and then for the NBC affiliate in Boston. She moved to the Boston Bureau of NBC News, serving first as a producer, and eventually as a network correspondent, filing stories for The Nightly News and The Today Show. There had been a lot of hard work and experience gained along the way – “Starting out in the smaller Springfield market, where one had to do a little of everything, was great training,” says Nancy. By the time she had her third child, she was finding it increasingly difficult to be “on the beeper 24 hours a day”. She wanted to be more available to her growing family.

Nancy turned to healthcare. “I had always been interested in healthcare – perhaps because my mother was a Physical Education teacher. Nutrition, wellness, exercise – the whole thing.” After hearing a presentation on post partum health by Nurse Jeanne Watson Driscoll, RN,MS. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Nancy approached Jeanne about converting that lecture into a video…and that was the beginning of a successful ten-year business association. Together they formed Lifecycle Productions, with Nancy as President, producing educational healthcare videos that were sold to individual nurses, to hospitals, to libraries, and as closed circuit TV for patients in hospitals.

“I was then involved in several different things – I worked for the Radcliff Public Policy Institute; I worked for a woman from Harvard Business School who was starting an online weight-loss program; I became a yoga teacher; and my husband and I and a WGBH cameraman developed a program called “Boomers: Redefining life after 50.” This program examined how the boomer generation was going to have to deal with increased longevity, longer years of health and vitality – what would they do with their time? This 13 part series ran on public television for two years.

Moving from Boston to New York City, Nancy became a student once again, attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. At this holistic health education institute she was exposed to some of the very best people in the field. Her teachers were all top rated – “amazing people”.  The Institute also taught counseling and business skills so that, once graduated, students would be able to set themselves up as independent providers.

“Now I feel very lucky, because at VIM not only do I practice nutrition counseling, but I’m involved in the exciting Shared Medical Appointments (SMA) program, which offers education around healthy eating, mindfulness, stress management, yoga and meditation.” Everything Nancy has learned and believes in, comes together in this one program.

The multi-disciplined SMA approach to wellness is a model built on the power of the group to persuade. The first program consisted of 8 men with high blood pressure. Program details are highlighted online in VIM’s spring 2015 newsletter. Over a 6 week period the group cooked and discussed eating habits, took yoga classes together, meditated together and watched their blood pressure diminish as time went on. “We have amazing anecdotal information from working with the men,” says Nancy, “and we also have good clinical data: they did lower their blood pressure; they did change the way they ate, they were able to lower their medications, and there were some dramatic changes made in the way people were living.”  Group support, combined with having been given simple coping mechanisms, helped these men on their way to achieving many of their healthcare goals.

The second group enrolled in the Shared Medical program, now underway, is a gathering of 8 Latino women who are working on weight loss, stress reduction and other health issues related to those problems.

“I think VIM is unique in offering not only quality free medical and dental care, but also preventive care, patient education and alternative treatments. I feel lucky to be on this team,” says Nancy.  And VIM is lucky to have Nancy’s rich background contributing to the health and welfare of so many of our patients, and the effectiveness of our programs.