Q&A with Lisa Tunks: Covering the Whole Picture of Good Health and Wellness Learning

Picture of author Lisa Tunks with snapshots of her textbooks in the background
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Get to know Lisa Tunks, the new Cengage Personal Health author of An Invitation to Health and An Invitation to Health Brief.


What is one thing you hope your students learn in your Health and Wellness courses?

Over the course of my career, the classes I most enjoy teaching combine personal and community health concepts. My goal is to help students see the relationship between their daily actions and the world around them. No choice they make about their own personal health exists in a vacuum―it influences their community outcomes. For example, their food choices impact their physical well-being, but also have financial, ecological, and environmental impacts on the world.

Ultimately, I hope they also recognize the many ways to determine “health and wellness” and no longer only consider their physical health, but all the dimensions.

What are your students’ top challenges?

Most of my students are in their first two years of college. One of the most significant challenges facing these students is that they are still developing their identity as adult learners. Often, the transition from high school to college is significantly marked by the difference in learning style. In high school, many students are taught to memorize dates, facts, and vocabulary words to be able to regurgitate information. In college, not only are they expected to become critical thinkers, but they are also expected to become self-directed learners. They learn to consider what they know, why that is useful, and how they can apply those concepts.

What was a pivotal moment you experienced while teaching students?

Early in my teaching career, I had a significant moment that permanently changed my approach to teaching. I was teaching Anatomy and Physiology to nursing students. We were discussing action potentials and muscle physiology. Most of the students stared at me uncomprehendingly. They were not engaged, nor did they grasp this critical concept that would lead to an understanding of other concepts.

After this particularly bad day of teaching, I drove home frustrated. Stuck in traffic, I began to talk myself through my frustration. About that time, a song came on the radio, and I mindlessly sang along. In a moment of inspiration, I realized that I was teaching them from MY point of understanding, not THEIRS. I needed to teach them the way that they learn.

That weekend, I made up a ridiculous song and dance, which I taught them the following Monday. I am certain they thought I had lost my mind and probably only played along to humor me. But about 20 minutes into the lesson, during the second round of the song, a second-year student suddenly lit up. Her unbridled joy at the spark of understanding was the greatest feeling I had ever experienced in my professional life. I want that feeling every day. It shapes how I continuously look for ways to meet my students where they learn.

“I want that feeling every day. It shapes how I continuously look for ways to meet my students where they learn.”

Why did you get involved in authoring, ultimately becoming the lead author on the Introduction to Health series?

I began working with textbook companies over 15 years ago when I suggested some changes to the book that I was using at the time for my general health and wellness course. That company reached out to me and offered me the opportunity to be a content contributor. From that point, I’ve had some cool opportunities to bring a current point of view to teaching and learning materials. Over time, I gravitated toward Cengage for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I found that they shared my sentiment about the importance of providing materials to students in a way that is accessible, affordable, and applicable.

I have been a content contributor on this series for several editions. Cengage reached out to me to take the lead because I have more than two decades of teaching experience in a variety of teaching environments and student populations. More importantly, as a current teaching professional, I can bring the voice of this current generation of learners forward and work to make the materials relevant and inclusive.

Can you speak to how you’ve incorporated what you’ve learned as an educator into your writing?

I look for ways to make the material relevant and current. That could mean I use examples that are relatable to the student population, or draw on personal experiences.

I think often, we are reluctant to reimagine textbooks and simply add to the format and concepts already in print. Many of the textbooks we use today were originally conceptualized as long ago as the 1980s. The word choices, examples, and approaches of those books may have been current at the time of publication―but that was over 40 years ago. An adult experiencing the world in 1980 would have a very different point of view than an adult in 2020. It’s important that we don’t simply update new facts as they come to light, but also consider the evolution of the student population.

How did you address your students’ challenges in your text?

In this text, I tried to tie concepts together and help students to see the connection between key concepts. Also, I created various add-on boxes to provide critical thinking opportunities. I looked for ways that students could imagine themselves in situations where this knowledge could be used.

What do you like most about teaching your Health and Wellness courses?

I have always said that I am lucky to have found a job that is fulfilling every day, every year, and over the course of my life. Every single day, I get to introduce a new idea to my students. Sometimes, it’s an idea or a concept that they already have learned about, but I get to present it in a unique way that applies to them. Imagine if, on that day, they have a lightbulb moment―that powerful moment of understanding a concept and grasping the full potential of that knowledge. What if that one idea is the catalyst that allows that student to move forward in their studies? And then, they go on to create change in their field. Even if the only influence I had was microscopic on that one day, I get to change the world. It’s both a huge responsibility and an incredible honor, and I never take it for granted.


How is teaching Health and Wellness impacted by what’s happening in the world today?

There’s the easy and obvious answer to that, as just this summer the Supreme Court overturned a landmark case regarding body autonomy which may have a resounding impact on health and wellness and health care in the United States. Of course, we should address how current issues impact the health of the populace. But to truly answer that question from a holistic point of view, one must consider that a person’s health includes not only physical considerations, but emotional, social, intellectual, financial, environmental, and spiritual wellness. Therefore, I pull from current issues and ask students to look at them through the bigger lens of public health.

For example, global climate change—which is caused by human behavior―has a direct impact on temperature which, in-turn, alters the water on the planet. Water changes can have implications for plant life both on the surface of the planet and under the sea, which will also inevitably impact animal life. To bring this full circle, global change impacts more than just our physical health. It stretches to include economic, political, social, and intellectual well-being. Discussing global climate change means more than simply recycling and driving a hybrid car. By exploring all the unintended consequences of our actions, we learn to make choices that consider the greater good of our community―however we define that.

In this edition, I looked to bring current issues into the discussion of the many health topics. But more importantly, I made choices with diversity and inclusion in mind. In reviewing previous editions, I began to think about how we present information to diverse audiences. Having been a professor at three very different institutions with varied populations, I am keenly aware that impact of representation has on learning, in both a positive and negative way. I worked very hard to be sure that false stereotypes were never perpetuated and that every student could see themselves in the textbook. Whether that is in a case study, a critical thinking example, or an image.


“I worked very hard to be sure that false stereotypes were never perpetuated and that every student could see themselves in the textbook.”


What excited you most about writing these latest editions?

Personally, I was thrilled to be able to add a chapter about Financial and Occupational Wellness. I think it’s one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of personal health, and it’s one of the areas that critically impacts the likelihood of success in other areas. We have known for years that education and financial status are two of the most significant indicators of health in any population. So, a chance to include some foundational information on financial literacy and managing your resources was a huge leap for me.

In that chapter, I also got to address some of the very real and current indicators of student and professional burnout. This was a timely addition as we had recently experienced more than a year of teaching and learning on Zoom. At first glance, it might have seemed like an easy solution, but in truth, it allowed us to truly analyze the impact of computer-based learning. I hope that including these resources (for both students and instructors alike) will be useful in each reader’s health journey.


What’s one thing you hope students get out of your texts?

I hope that students can truly see how each aspect of their life impacts their overall wellness. That each smaller area is both dependent on and supporting of every other area. I hope this text helps them understand how to create balance in their own lives and recognize when a moment of self-reflection and self-evaluation can be useful.

And more than anything, I hope they find one truly useful nugget of knowledge that helps them understand their world with just a touch more clarity.


About the Author:

Lisa Tunks currently teaches Public Health in the newly formed College of Health and Human Performance at Coastal Carolina University.

She started her academic career at Florida State University, ultimately completing her undergraduate degree in Exercise Sport Science and Wellness Education at Florida Atlantic University. After graduation, Lisa moved to the University of Florida to continue her graduate studies. There, she earned a Master’s in Exercise Science and a Doctorate in Education. By the time she was working on her terminal degree, she was teaching in the Allied Health Science program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. That experience motivated her to complete her studies in Education, as she was sure that she wanted to pursue a career in academia.

After she completed her Doctorate, she was offered a faculty position at Broward College. There, Lisa taught Health and Wellness Education full time, worked with accreditation and curriculum design, and helped develop innovative classroom designs.


Want to teach your students the current Health and Wellness concepts most relevant to them? Explore the newest titles by Lisa Tunks.