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For the Health of It! honors Dr. Matthew HarrisonJune 19, 2014

At this year’s For the Health of It! event we honoredDr. Matthew Harrison, our Physiatrist who recently passed away from cancer. Many of his friends and family, as well as co-workers and colleagues, ran or walked in his honor on June 7.Their team name, naturally, wasTeam Matt.

 Anyone who knew Dr. Harrison knew how dedicated he was to health and wellness, physical fitness, and nutrition. He came to Taos to practice Sports and Physical Medicine for Taos Health Systems in August 2011, where he performed non-surgical treatments for physical ailments and sports injuries.

“We decided to form Team Matt to honor Dr. Harrison by doing something that he loved to do. Dr. Harrison worked at the Center with us and was part of our work team. We all grew very fond of him and really felt his loss,” said Kathy Alcon, Director of the Taos Center for Physical Health. “We not only got to know him through work, but as his cancer progressed all of our Physical Therapists went to his house and worked with himon their own time, trying to keep him independent for as long as possible.”

Dr. Harrison was an advocate for health. He not only prescribed exercise therapy to his patients but lived a healthy lifestyle himself. His philosophy was that everyone is an athlete in some way or another, whether they play a sport, step onto a curb, or do household chores. Everyone moves either a little or a lot throughout the day, and they want to be at their highest level of independence and quality of life.

As a physician, Dr. Harrison was trained to treat and prevent disease. However, he believed that health was more than simply genetics but more of a “health triangle” involving the mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Harrison would say, “A disturbance of one aspect affects the other. Genetic factors play a role, but so do environmental and cultural experiences – otherwise known as lifestyle. To assess one’s health I have learned it is important to investigate the mental and spiritual wellbeing as well as the physical problem and understand the whole person.This way I can promote health and not just treat disease.”

“At the Center we would often see him write prescriptions for health. He would literally take out his prescription pad and prescribe 30 minutes of walking or biking or whatever it was,every day or three times a week, for his patients. He really believed that exercise was the key to health,” says Alcon. 

Team Matt consisted of 16 members including Dr. Harrison’s wife and kids, most of the staff from the Center for Physical Health (previously known as Taos Center for Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine), and family and friends. Each person on the team chose their own event to participate in. Most team members walked the 5k together supporting one another along the route.A few members of Team Matt, including Dr. Harrison’s son, ran the 5k timed race. 

Kathy said, “It was really a part of our healing process. We all had a great time, we got to catch up and visit with each other as well as honor his spirit and what he loved to do.”

In a 2011 interview, Dr. Harrison explained his healthy lifestyle:
Some ways that he stayed physically active were by riding a bike, swimming, skiing, and running. He rode his bike to work as often as possible, almost every day. He said that by doing so it naturally built exercise into his day. “I have learned it is easier to stay fit than to try to become fit,” said Dr. Harrison. 

His lifestyle includes regular exercise, sleep, good nutrition and planning. He said, “Being healthy is not easy. It is hard work and it takes a great deal of intentional effort. Being unhealthy can be easy. It is really important for each individual to take responsibility for their own health.” 

For anyone wanting to live a healthier lifestyle,Dr. Harrison said,“be patient. Take baby steps toward big changes and remember it is important not to feel disappointed or blame either yourself or others for poor health. A sense of victimization or failure leads to a barrier for promoting change. Partner with your doctor or a coach, and work hard at promoting your health. Understand that your health maybe your greatest possession. I recommend the three G’s:

  1. Goal – which provides accountability and inspiration. Make it attainable but challenging.
  2. Guru – provides guidance.
  3. Good time – choose activities that you enjoy, maybe even with friends whose company is motivating. Lifestyle changes should be with a sense of celebration. Enjoy the new and healthier you.”

For more information about Center for Physical Health (formerly Taos Center For Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine) visit our website www.PhysicalTherapyTaos.org. To learn more about For the Health of it! and Taos Cancer Support services, or to make a donation, visit www.TaosHealth.com