SAN DIEGO – (May 13, 2013) In the latest in a growing series of recognitions, La Jolla Institute for Immunology has been named one of San Diego’s Healthiest Companies. The award, presented annually by the San Diego Business Journal, honors local organizations that demonstrate a strong commitment to creating a healthier workplace. The Institute placed as the number four healthiest company among medium-sized organizations in San Diego.
Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president and chief scientific officer, says the award is a welcome validation of the Institute’s efforts. “We have made it a priority to create a healthy work environment that mirrors our mission to improve human health and accelerate research toward life without disease,” says Dr. Kronenberg. “It is extremely gratifying to see our efforts acknowledged as being among the best in San Diego.”
The “healthiest company” award comes on the heels of the Institute’s back-to-back rankings as one of the best places to work in the U.S. research community. In that competition, known as the “Best Places to Work for Postdocs,” the Institute earned the number two national spot in 2013 and number seven in 2012, according to a nationwide survey of “postdocs” (postgraduate researchers with an M.D. or Ph.D. in advanced training) conducted by The Scientist magazine. The Institute also got high marks in a similar survey involving senior research staff, placing number six in the top 10 “Best Places to Work in Academia” worldwide in 2012.
In addition to the workplace recognitions, the Institute ranks extremely high for the quality of its science – scoring among the top five organizations in the world for research impact in immunology, according to an independent analysis.
“The Institute is not only recognized as one of the premier immunology research organizations, but it is also racking up an impressive list of acknowledgements for its exemplary work environment,”
says Board Member Herbert A. Wertheim, O.D., D.Sc., a physician, inventor and optometry industry leader, who strongly advocates preventive medicine. “Their focus on wellness is admirable and a subject close to my heart. I think the program’s success is just another example of the attitude of innovation that permeates every corner of the Institute.”
Innovation is readily apparent in many of the healthy lifestyle programs implemented over the last two years. Consider the recently launched “bike share” program, whereby employees can check out an Institute-owned bike to run errands or the “five for five” program that rewarded employees who incorporated five servings of fruits and vegetables into their daily diet.
There are also free onsite fitness, yoga, and stress reduction classes, and various organized exercise, nutrition, and other “challenges” to encourage healthier lifestyles. “It makes a difference on so many levels,” says Pam Fettu, senior director of Human Resources, who heads the healthy workplace program. “Just getting some exercise and fresh air can really change a person’s attitude. And when you feel good, you are more motivated and inspired.”
Fettu says the Institute launched the wellness program in 2012 with strong support from executive leadership. “I believe our employees recognize good health on all levels is an important part of an energized work environment,” she says. A committee composed of employees from every department oversees program goals and activities. Various metrics are used to measure improvement in the three major program areas: Nutrition, Exercise, and Stress Reduction.
Leading a healthier lifestyle simply comes down to changing habits, notes Fettu. “If you have healthy options available, it is easier to make good choices,” she says. In this vein, the Institute recently replaced the traditional candy-laden vending machines with refrigerators stocked with “real food” items like carrots, yogurt, fruit, and salads.
In addition, the Institute launched its in-house Liaison Café in 2012. The cafe serves high quality, healthy catered meals two days per week, with costs subsidized by the Institute to ensure reasonable prices for employees.
“We want to give the employees easy access to affordable, healthy meal choices on site and also to encourage employee interaction,” says Dr. Kronenberg, who notes that interaction sparks conversation and exchange of ideas that leads to a friendly, vibrant work environment. “We take a
holistic approach to making the Institute a positive place to work,” he explains. “The benefits come in the form of healthier, happier and more productive employees who are passionate about coming to work and making a difference. In a research environment focused on finding new breakthroughs to fight disease, that’s an invaluable asset.”
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, La Jolla Institute for Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and asthma. La Jolla Institute’s research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute’s work, visit www.liai.org.