by Jay Morris
Susan Varlamoff is Director for the University of Georgia’s Office of Environmental Sciences. She has dedicated her life to improving the health of the environment. Her work in sustainability has resulted in UGA being recognized by the Princeton Review as one of the top leaders of sustainability in the country.
But Susan’s biggest accomplishments aren’t the professional milestones she’s reached, but the personal ones.
Susan recently suffered from a rare heart condition known as an aortic dissection. This means that the artery most responsible for pushing blood through her body had suddenly torn. Her doctor noted that this condition is usually fatal, and those who survive will most likely suffer from heart complications the rest of their lives.
Miraculously, not only did Susan survive, but her doctor expects her to make a 100% recovery. She says that her doctor believes her healthy lifestyle saved her life, and she agrees! She told Walk Georgia that before her aortic dissection, she skied, hiked, and swam regularly to stay active. And recovering from surgery didn’t keep Susan down for long! She said that her physical therapy was to walk two miles a day, every day while recovering, and that it made all the difference in her recovery process.
When talking with Susan, she told us that she was taught by her family to value healthy living. She spoke proudly of her father, who walked everywhere he could. She spoke with an equal fondness for her mother, who made sure Susan’s family had a healthy, home-cooked meal every day. Her father even maintained a family garden while she was growing up in metro New York City!
Susan has carried her family’s commitment to healthy living with her everywhere she goes. She told me that maintaining healthy values is a way of honoring her family, both past and present. Her grandfather, who was a Hungarian immigrant, came to America with very little, but he made it a priority to walk anywhere he could and eat healthily. Her grandfather passed this priority on to her parents, her parents passed it on to her, and she has passed it on to her sons, who teach it to their children.
“This ethic of living a healthy life is four generations in the making!” she beamed.
Needless to say, we are very impressed with Susan’s outlook on life and her can-do attitude towards health. When asked what advice she’d give others seeking to live healthier lives she said, “Don’t be discouraged if you forget to walk one day or have the occasional doughnut. Every day is a new day. Part of becoming healthier means learning how to forgive yourself for your mistakes.” Susan is proof that one event does not change who you are, it’s the summation of consistent healthy choices that determines your path.