NIWH Graduate Spotlight Questionnaire
Dr. Bill Croft
Ed.D., Ph.D., RRT, RCP, FAAIM
Q: What drew you to the Whole Health field and the National Institute of Whole Health?
A: My story is rather long. In the 1960’s, I was considered a slow learner, and I had a physical disability which was eventually corrected after years of physical therapy and orthopedic interventions. It turned out that I could not hear well due to ear trauma suffered at birth. I walked with a limp and could not hear very well so I must be slow as they called it back then.
Also, I suffered from severe allergies, thus completing the picture of someone with a disability. At times, my peers treated me harshly as you could imagine.
Labeling people can hurt them for a lifetime or propel them to do greater things in life. I was determined to find a pathway to better health as a young child, so I consider my journey to the NIWH beginning when I was about 12.
Fortunately for me, I had great parents and siblings. My big sisters would always protect me, and my mother refused to believe I was a “slow learner.” Mom also pointed out to the doctors that something was wrong with my right leg. After all of my childhood issues, I learned to never give up despite the whispering behind my back when relatives would ask how I was doing. Dad would always smile and say he is okay.
He refused to believe anything could hold me back as long as I worked hard. There is always a pathway to success. With that said, there were lingering issues relearning words and sounds which created other challenges.
Great teachers helped me overcome these issues along with my family. At the heart of overcoming any problems in life is learning from those life lessons rather than shrinking from them.
These challenges led me down a path towards healthcare as a career and powerlifting as a sport. I saw firsthand how the health care system treated people in those days especially young children. It was a different time, especially in military hospitals. When I decided to enter respiratory school in the mid-eighties, I had already attempted some jobs like many adult students. I had no sense of purpose. Nothing seemed as promising as respiratory therapy as a way to a purposeful life.
Of course, I had no idea what would follow. I loved my didactic and clinical experiences so much that I knew teaching or management is where I would land. Of course, this would not occur without experience. After graduation, I determined that I needed a variety of experiences in ICU to teach, so I embarked on working in various settings.
It was not until I obtained a job in the NICU that I found my clear path. There was nothing about the role that I did not love. I worked with great professionals in nursing and respiratory care. They taught me what teamwork was all about. They were the best.
The NICU manager required that we take the Perinatal and Pediatric Specialty Exam which was just released that year by the NBRC. Of course, it is now the neonatal and pediatric specialist (NPS) credential. While this was one of many steps towards teaching, I would soon discover that it was the one thing that made a huge difference in my skills clinically and professionally.
The following year, I was offered a clinical education position at a hospital based on my experience and credentials working with students and staff. My primary job was to ensure the students had positive clinical experiences, so I developed a comprehensive clinical rotation program to maximize the facility resources for students.
I have been in the field for over 34 years and am a Registered Respiratory Therapist for 33 years. Those early experiences in the ICU and NICU led to my dream job of becoming a Professor, Program Director, and Department Chair at Sandhills Community College which was my alma mater. I relied heavily on the experiences in the NICU in my teaching with the neonatal and pediatric courses as my favorite subjects to teach.
Along the way, I completed my BS Applied Science and Technology, M.Ed. in Educational Technology, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in counseling and psychology at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. However, when I became a Certified Whole Health Educator (WHE) through the National Institute of Whole Health. It all clicked for me. I could see clearly how everything was connected to everything else.
Throughout my career, I was driven by my early childhood experiences. My inherited and congenital “physical issues” propelled me to never give into the status quo. I always found time to stay active in powerlifting, which I began in 1978. Since 2000, I have competed and won my division and weight class at AAU World and International Powerlifting Championships while setting over 100 state, world and American records.
In 2016, I was inducted into the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame. This year marks 44-years in the sport and 33-years in my profession. While these seem like mutually exclusive experiences, the success in powerlifting convinced me that I could also overcome any of my learning deficiencies by first conceiving success, then achieving it.
The NIWH program breathed new life into my career but also helped me better understand the mind, body and spirit well beyond what I learned in college. The tenets of the program are embedded in everything I do in healthcare and personal care.
Q: Did the Whole Health training meet your professional goals?
A: Without question, the program exceeded my expectations. After graduation from the NIWH and obtaining my Certified Whole Health Educator designation in 2009, I was allowed to serve as an advisor for the NIWH programs. In addition to this role, I was still employed full-time as a college professor in respiratory care.
For more than twenty years, I taught courses in cardiopulmonary pathophysiology, pharmacology, critical care, and community health classes. In 2009, I rewrote the entire curriculum around the whole person concepts. All community classes were revised to emphasize the five aspects. It had a significant impact on my students.
Q: How are you currently applying your training from NIWH?
A: During my tenure at Sandhills Community College, I chaired the Health and Wellness Committee and co-chaired the Diversity Committee, both of which sponsored a variety of innovative wellness and culturally based programs designed to enrich the health and culture of the campus community based on the NIWH concepts.
The diversity and wellness programs emphasized campus and community awareness using health screenings and various holistic health engagement activities focused on underserved demographics’ needs. Under the supervision of licensed and credentialed faculty members, the burgeoning talents of the nursing, health science, massage therapy, culinary, and health and fitness science students were used to deliver these services in partnership with the First Health of the Carolinas.
The program cultured self-care skills aimed at enhancing academic success and life-long well-being. In addition, the NIWH concepts were introduced to our professional group at the national level when I participated in the American Association for Respiratory Care 2015 and Beyond Conference representing the state of North Carolina.
The whole health model was incorporated into the expected competencies for respiratory thereapists beyond 2015. As a member of the International Committee, I taught as a guest lecturer at the University of Vlorë-“Ismail Qemali,” located in Vlorë, from 2007 to 2012. I served as a guest lecturer for the nursing programs and the local hospital where I brought the NIWH five aspect concepts to the people of this region. Also, I served on the University Scientific Committee from 2009 to 2015, reviewing graduate-level scientific papers.
During this period, along with other members of the SCC International Committee, I also hosted, guided, and exchanged cultural experiences with the faculty and staff from the University of Vlorë during their time in the United States. As a result of these relationships, I was asked to present a whole health approach to asthma management for the inaugural International Conference in Respiratory Public Health in Vlore, Albania.
At the local community level, I served on the First Health Regional Services Board as a vice-chair and Health Service Committee Chair, responsible for oversight of all ancillary and outpatient services owned and operated by First Health of the Carolinas.
As the representative for Sandhills Community College, my tenure ushered in a more substantial commitment toward campus health needs, such as facilitating the mobile health van and the farm-to-table project with the Moore County Farmers Market which was an extension of the competencies earned while enrolled with the NIWH.
Q: Would you recommend the Whole Health training to others?
A: My sojourn towards better health led me to research programs extensively. I considered many programs, but this program resonated with me immediately. I could not provide a higher recommendation to anyone wanting to improve their professional and/or personal life.