Penn employee transforms health due to ‘Be in the Know’

The Division of Human Resource’s (HR) “Be in the Know” campaign is a program designed to give Penn faculty and staff better insight into their health status—as well as a $100 incentive, less applicable payroll taxes.

Jim Riley, director of fiscal operations for Penn Medicine’s Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute and Department of Cancer Biology, says the reward he received from the screening was priceless.

“I thought I was in pretty good control of my overall health. I saw my physician routinely,” he says. “As it turned out, my screening told me a different story.”

Riley first attended Penn’s “Be in the Know” screening two years ago, and expected to walk away with little more than some extra cash in an upcoming paycheck. But after completing the program’s routine biometric screening—a series of quick tests that measure blood pressure, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and blood sugar—he was stopped in his tracks when a concerned nurse took him aside to explain his results.

“When I spoke to the nurse, and she told me how bad my blood pressure result was, I was definitely surprised,” Riley says. “Then when she told me I should leave and go straight to the ER, it was really an eye-opener. It made me realize the time to change things was now, not tomorrow, and that there could be no more excuses.”

Slowly but surely, with the help of his family, Riley made some major lifestyle changes. He swapped his impulsive fast-food French fry habit for homemade grilled chicken and vegetables. He joined a gym and started running. He dusted off his bike and cycles to work, as well as for fun and exercise.

Riley’s hard work has paid off. Since his initial “Be in the Know” screening, he has lost approximately 40 pounds, and his blood pressure is in check.

“I have four kids, I’m married, and thinking about them and knowing that my health was out-of-control like that made me realize that I need to start making significant changes so that I not only will be around for them, but can be more active with them,” Riley says.

Riley hasn’t just been active at home. He says his newfound fitness has led him to become a team leader for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day, 150-mile cycling adventure that benefits the Abramson Cancer Center. Riley assembled a team of more than 60 members who train and raise funds together for the upcoming October race.

“If I had not attended the original ‘Be in the Know’ screening, chances are, my health would have prohibited me from even considering doing this ride, much less getting a team to go with me in the Ride to Conquer Cancer,” Riley says. “Overall, I’m much more active and can say literally I’m in the best shape of my life.”

For more information about the “Be in the Know” program, which will return this fall, visit the HR website.

Originally published on August 7, 2014