Stressed Out? Who You Gonna Call?
Allegra Hamman (seated), Carol
Yang and Abby Burch at Thursday's training session. The
students give their first official back rubs as
Stressbusters on Friday.
PHOTO BY HPS/WILL KIRK
By Amy Cowles
Frazzled faculty, staff and students on the Homewood
campus, take heart. There's a new tension-fighter in
Stressbusters, a group of 140 undergraduates trained
in the basics of massage, will be offering its first free,
five-minute back rubs Friday during Fall Festival. The
inaugural event is a perfect venue for the group to make
its debut, according to Allegra Hamman, a nurse
practitioner in the
and Wellness Center.
"One of the ideas behind the Fall Festival is build a
bridge between staff and students," Hamman said. "There
couldn't have been a better fit for our kick-off."
The Stressbusters are the first spinoff of a
successful program under the same name created by Jordan
Friedman when he was director of health education at
Columbia University and who came to Baltimore to help Johns
Hopkins get started. At Homewood, the group will add to the
arsenal of healthy stress-fighters already to be had for
students and staff on campus, such as working out at the
O'Connor Center, student-to-student counseling offered by A
Place to Talk and wellness programs for staff provided by
Occupational Health Services. Hamman set out to bring the
service to campus with the blessing of Student Health
Services Director Alain Joffe and Susan Boswell, dean of
"A lot of health problems and lifestyle issues are
related to how much stress people have in their lives,"
Hamman said. "If we can get people to see that there are
tools in place to manage stressful times, they will be
Stressbusters back rubs aren't meant to take the place
of the existing fee-based massage therapy services offered
on campus by credentialed massage therapists. But the
students are trained by licensed practitioners and will
learn touch techniques by giving each other back rubs to
get the feel for their new craft before being given
clearance to officially bust stress, Hamman said.
At least two Stressbusters will be sent on each site
visit. Stressbustees will be seated in low-backed chairs
during the back rubs, which will be conducted away from the
hustle and bustle of the rest of the office. Students will
be following a strict set of rules about uniform — a
white Stressbuster-logo T-shirt — hygiene and
etiquette as well as how to be receptive to their subjects'
comfort level during the massage.
The Stressbusters are offering their services only on
the Homewood campus at the moment, though Hamman and the
students are hoping to extend their reach to other Hopkins
campuses or to help groups beyond Homewood start their own
branches of Stressbusters. (They've already had one call
along those lines from a student at Peabody.) To book a
session, call 410-516-8396 or e-mail
Hamman and student co-coordinators Abby Burch and
Carol Yang were pleasantly surprised by the turnout for two
training sessions for interested students. Seventy students
attended the first two-hour session Sept. 10. The second
session, on Sept. 23, brought in another 70.
"There has been big interest from the students,"
Hamman said. "Now we just have to mobilize that
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