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Herkith Ar Hon
AIPM C Don
Powell as glad to
welcire son Brett
into, e business.
American Institute for Preventive
Medicine says, "To your health."
he wellness business is doing
quite well, thank you, and Jewish
businessman Don Powell, who
looks and talks like a wellness expert, is at
the forefront of the nation's ongoing health
movement, helping thousands of people to
Sales have been increasing 10 to 15
percent a year at his company with a name
that sounds like a college, the American
Institute for Preventive Medicine (AIPM).
And Powell is especially elated that his
son, Brett, 26, of Royal Oak has joined the
firm and is helping it to go global.
Powell, 61, of West Bloomfield, is an
aspiring engineer-turned psychologist, who
rose to become president and CEO of AIPM.
He says the company has helped millions
of employees in about 13,000 corpora-
tions, hospitals, unions and governmental
agencies in the past 30 years by developing
and providing medical self-care, disease
management and wellness publications,
programs and now, online content.
"Our goal is to empower consumers
to make wiser health care decisions and
live a healthier lifestyle," explained Powell
in his office on Northwestern Highway
in Farmington Hills. "Behavior change
programs are now available in self-help,
telephonic and online formats; that frees
people from the need to attend group
classes in our 'time-deprived society:
"When I got involved in wellness in the
early 1980s, the focus was on conducting
group classes to help company employees
quit smoking, lose weight and manage
stress. But we've streamlined our meth-
ods," Powell added. "Telephonic counsel-
ing is for people who need quick help in
pressure situations or who just don't want
Backed By Medical Research
Medical research supports AIPM pro-
grams and products, Powell said. "In 18
consecutive studies, our self-care guides
have demonstrated an average savings of
$71.42 per employee in nine months due
to reduced doctor and emergency room
visits," he pointed out. "Our Smokeless
program has been commended in two U.S.
Surgeon General reports:'
Actually, smoking cessation helped
launch Powell's wellness career. A native
New Yorker, he came to Michigan to attend
the University of Michigan and stayed.
"I first wanted to be an electrical engi-
neer, but I realized that wasn't for me:' he
said. "I later heard some lectures on psy-
chology and social services and went in
that direction. It was a wise decision:'
Powell got an undergraduate degree
and two master's degrees in psychology,
followed by a doctorate in tobacco ces-
"At one point, I was an undergraduate
instructor who was teaching graduate stu-
dents:' he said. "Then, I taught psychology
full time for eight years at U-M."
After getting his doctorate, he conduct-
ed a "quit smoking" class for 51 people in
Ann Arbor and achieved a 63 percent suc-
cess rate, using the "warm chicken" style
rather than "cold turkey" method. "It's
done through gradual behavioral modifi-
cation and self-shaping:' he said.
Ford Was First Customer
Powell did a stint with the American Health
Foundation in New York, and then returned
to Michigan to start AIPM in 1983. The
company's first client was Ford Motor Co.
"We helped employees stop smoking.
Then, because they gained weight after
quitting smoking, we helped them lose
weight. Then, because all of these changes
were very stressful to them, we performed
stress management. Our business just kept
growing from there he said.
AIPM opened in 1983 in a small
Southfield location and came to the cur-
rent headquarters 23 years ago. There
are now 17 full-time and 23 part-time
employees, many of whom contact vari-
ous companies and organizations offering
AIPM services, charging most of them
$200 per employee per year.
"Our representatives meet with a com-
pany's benefits and medical departments,
assess the employee population, distribute
confidential questionnaires and do bio-
metric screening:' Powell explained. "This
is often followed by individual counseling,
usually over a year. The corporations are
happy to get our help because it reduces
their insurance costs, boosts productivity
and lowers absenteeism."
The assistance includes a myriad of
self-care publications, including books,
pamphlets, kits, e-newsletters, newsletters,
calendars, posters and other items that
can be used at health fairs, employee give-
aways, lunch and learns, direct-mail cam-
paigns, information racks and incentives.
Factories Need Extra Help
Besides Ford, clients are Chrysler, AT&T,
Citibank, Merck, CBS, Exxon, Blue Cross/
Blue Shield, Office Depot, the Centers for
Disease Control, U.S. Army, CIA, U.S. Dept.
of Health & Human Services and others.
"Some of our counselors spend full time
at several of these locations:' said Powell.
"We've had people on site at four Chrysler
plants for the last 10 years."
The nationwide chain of 1,200 Office
Depot stores takes advantage of AIPM's
aids by distributing a number of publica-
tions to its 15,000 employees to study
individually or use at on-site meetings.
"This has resulted in many favorable
comments from employees and excellent
feedback in general;' said Frank LaPlaca,
Office Depot's benefits director based in
Boca Raton, Fla. "We've been doing busi-
ness with AIPM for six years, and they're
very easy to work with."
AIPM's programs and methods are guided
by a paid senior advisory board, composed
of prominent physicians and others in the
health and wellness field, who help develop
and implement the company's programs.
Powell feels fortunate that the nation's eco-
nomic downturn of the past few years really
hasn't put a crimp in the business. "On the
contrary, when business declines, these corn-
panies, like Office Depot, have to take steps to
save money,' he said, "and cutting health-care
costs becomes a top priority'
Son Fits In Well
Like his father, Brett Powell, one of two
sons, got a psychology degree at the
University of Michigan after graduat-
ing from Bloomfield Hills' Andover High
School. He then chose to stay in Michigan
and join AIPM rather than leave the state
like many of his friends, mostly because
they had no prospects for jobs.
"A lot of my friends from high school,
then more of my friends from college, left to
live and work elsewhere, and I also thought
about it;' Brett said. "But I resisted the idea
and stayed here to work at AIPM. This is a
good fit for me, and we have excellent well-
ness programs to help organizations:'
Said Don Powell: "It's a challenge to be
innovative in this business, and Brett has
been helpful with fresh ideas. The younger
employees at these organizations aren't
too interested in wellness programs yet,
but the older people definitely are, and
that's where we concentrate our assistance.
My book (one of 14) on Health at Home
Lifetime (432 pages) is directed at mature
adults, and I've received a lot of feedback
from readers. Some of them say the tips
helped save their lives."
Powell gives about 50 lectures a year
and, after one of them early this year,
AIPM's fame spread to Peru in South
America. He and Brett spent 10 days in
Lima establishing wellness programs for
the Pacifico Insurance Co.
"We had to solve several cultural issues
there, but the programs have been suc-
cessful so far. We're also doing some work
Powell looks like he practices what he
preaches; slim and trim with a low-key,
soothing voice. He plays tennis, meditates
twice a day and walks a lot with his wife,
Nancy, a retired Hillel Day School teacher
who's now a yoga instructor.
"I try to eat healthy, but I admit I do
sneak in a hamburger and some potato
chips once in a while he said.
Despite the many programs and litera-
ture, AIPM's simple motto seems to sum
up its wellness efforts: "An apple a day isn't
Wellness expert Don Powell offers
the following self-care tips:
•Alcohol in moderation.
•30-40 minutes of exercise at
least five days a week.
•Seven-eight hours of sleep.
•Moderate body weight.
•Blood pressure at 120/80.
•Cholesterol below 190.
•Daily stress management.
•Wear seat belt.
November 10 • 2011