A byproduct of today’s social media era is the growing number of self-described “thought leaders” or “influencers” and the difficulty we all face in trying to sort through the clutter of self-appointed experts. It’s a quirky term, thought leadership. Those who anoint themselves as thought leaders on their biographies probably haven’t given much thought to leadership. After all, ideas are a dime a dozen but it is impossible to put a price on leaders who excel at both words and deeds.

Gladly, trendy terms aren’t needed when it comes to summing up what Ron Goetzel has meant to the field of health promotion. The noun that describes Ron best is as simple as it is profound: He’s a leader. It’s been said that “a good leader leads the people from above them; a great leader leads the people from within them.” And over the past twenty years the HERO team couldn’t be more thankful and proud that we can name Ron as one of our most influential leaders, productive partners and, more than that, a beloved friend.

Maybe it’s because Ron is such an esteemed insider for HERO and for our profession that we can also admit that being around Ron for over two decades has been, let’s say, somewhat exhausting. No one doubts that one of Ron’s greatest strength is his doggedness and his tirelessness. But let’s be honest, agreeing on which of Ron’s accomplishments has impacted our field the most is not unlike debating which of the mutants in Marvel Comic’s X-Men has the greatest powers. Let’s all just be glad that he’s using his powers for good and not evil.

Still, like Ron, HERO has never shied away from quantitative research, so please indulge a little nerding out and listen to some of the numbers that mark Ron’s extraordinary scholarly productivity. Starting with ResearchGate, an online networking tool for sharing research, Ron has a rarified research score of over forty, which means his output is in the same stratosphere as academic mutants like Karen Glanz, Larry Green, Kate Lorig and Nico Pronk. And while it’s important of course to be published, it’s altogether more meaningful to get read! You’re not a leader after all, without followers, and on last count, ResearchGate showed Ron was read by over 34,000 fellow nerds, an amazing following.

But there’s more data displaying Ron’s inexhaustibility, and that further explains why he makes us so tired. PubMed, the search engine hosted by the National Library of Medicine, is the place where any scientist who values the peer review process hopes to be found. If you’re a star in your field you may accumulate twenty to fifty PubMed worthy articles in your career. On last count, Ron had 154 articles in PubMed. For you nerds, Ron is at least three standard deviations from the mean when it comes to publishing serious science.

And if we’ve not yet made you as tired as we are keeping up with Ron, here may be some of the richest data about his impact in our field. Being read is great, but having your studies cited by other researchers is the gold standard for appreciating how a researcher is informing a professional discipline. If a researcher’s work is cited 1000 times that’s remarkable, 10,000 times unthinkable. But on last count in Google Scholar’s research engine, Ron Goetzel was cited 44,653 times by fellow researchers, almost unbelievable. Can we all just take a nap now? And 30,000 of those citations have occurred since 2015 which means Ron’s influence just continues to grow as his followers continue building research pyramids on top of his smarts and stamina.

In reviewing Ron’s greatest hits, HERO has long been the proud beneficiary of one if his most frequently cited papers which was titled: “The relationship between modifiable health risks and health care expenditures: an analysis of the multi-employer HERO health risk and cost database” It was published in 1998 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Ron was the lead author and his co-authors included Bill Whitmer, HERO’s founder; David Anderson, another longtime friend of HERO; and Ron Ozminkowski, one of Ron’s most frequent collaborators. Other HERO studies followed and, indeed, we know that his latest HERO study is presently in press at the American Journal of Health Promotion. Other of his most cited papers relate to absence, disability, presenteeism and cost estimates of physical and mental health conditions affecting US employers and the health and cost benefits of worksite health promotion programs.

We’re all struggling with how to cope in an era that some bemoan as a post-fact society. And there is a hard to miss bumper sticker on one of Ron’s brief cases that says, “Facts Matter.” We couldn’t agree more.

The fact is, negative news gets more attention than positive news.

The fact is, that for every negative article written about our field we need to produce three articles based in real facts to counter the misleading claims.

The fact is, tiring as it may be, no one has done more than Ron Goetzel to bring facts, truth and positivity to the story of the worksite health promotion movement.

Winston Churchill said that we make a living by what we get, and we make a life by what we give.

The fact is, Ron, you may make us tired but we never get weary when it comes to your gentlemanly spirit, your warm good humor and your unmatched leadership.

And the fact is, Ron, no one has done more for HERO than you have and for that we’ll always be grateful.

Thank you.

©2024 Health Enhancement Research Organization ‘HERO’


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