Guardrails interns track patients’ health progress

A hot and muggy July did not stop people from streaming through the University Center breezeway for free wellness assessments, or guardrails, in graduate student Craig Flanagan’s words.

“The literal definition of a guardrail is a system of prevention to protect people,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing. We put up guardrails instead of having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.”

The Guardrails Prevention Initiative is an internship program that the School of Education runs and is looking to expand its reach. In collaboration with UHealth, undergraduate and graduate students in the program conduct 10-minute health screenings for adults, said Wesley Smith, a kinesiology professor at the School of Education.

At the end of the patient’s visit, he or she is given a 10-page report on his or her cardiovascular health, muscle health and metabolic health in comparison to their age, Smith said.

“We basically give them a snapshot of the results of their assessment,” said graduate student Emily White, who works with Smith and Flanagan. “The assessment asks patients to perform several simple movements while we test their heart rate.”

This report also includes a list of healthy foods, when they can be consumed and an explanation of the nutritional value of certain foods, according to Smith.

“We give you an eight-week program specific to you with a daily checklist and an aerobic exercise video,” he said. “We tell patients what to change based on their behaviors and provide them with a target weight.”

The program began by assessing nurses. In July, it tackled a bigger group of employees and students by holding screenings on the University of Miami’s three main campuses. Smith, White and Flanagan hope to expand the program’s reach to medical offices and clinics throughout Miami.

The Guardrails want to track a specific group of people five times a year in order to measure their progress and prove to insurance companies that this program works, according to Chelsea Verduin, a kinesiology student.

“Our biggest belief is if we educate people, we can redirect their behavior,” Flanagan said. “That’s what this whole thing is about and that’s what we’re trying to prove.”

Guardrails ultimately has a goal beyond helping adults to be more healthy.

“By making patients healthier, we could potentially save money for health care providers and their patients,” Smith said.

Any student can participate in this internship as long as he or she has an interest in health. For more information, visit or email Wesley Smith at