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Oh, What a Night! 2017 Wellness Awards

Over 100 nominations have been received in the past 3 years.

The third annual Desert Health® Wellness Awards once again united the valley’s doctors, health practitioners and health enthusiasts in an evening of celebration, education and recognition.

The sellout event began with an outdoor reception and dinner followed by guest speaker Joseph Scherger, MD, vice president of primary care for Eisenhower Medical Center and 2016 Integrative Practitioner award recipient. Dr. Scherger spoke on the movement in modern health care and what each of us can do today. The enthusiastic crowd cheered as Scherger proposed that the Coachella Valley become the world’s next Blue Zone (places in the world where people live the longest).

The evening was hosted by KMIR’s Janet Zappala who received an honorary “Superstar Award” for receiving the most nominations from supporters and fans. As our partner in health, we appreciate all she does in moving health forward!

Our silent auction helped to raise funds for Coachella Valley’s Volunteers in Medicine, the valley’s only free medical clinic. Doctors, nurses, dentists and the general public interested in volunteering their time to help the underserved in our community should contact Doug Morin at (760) 342.4414.

Of course, the evening highlight was the awards ceremony, and we are pleased to present our 2017 winners on page 16.

The evening ended with a beautiful Farmer’s Market and guests filled their complimentary totes with the farm fresh vegetables of their choice.

A special thank you to our sponsors: Eisenhower Wellness Institute, KMIR-TV, PrimeTime Produce, Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Mad River Brewing Company, Salads in a Jar, and Maya Kato’s Aesthetic Art.

And a sincere thanks to all who attended! We look forward to seeing you next year.

We are proud to announce the
2017 Desert Health® Wellness Award Winners


SUPERSTAR: Janet Zappala

This year, the Emmy award-winning reporter and KMIR evening anchor deservedly received the most nominations from the community. As an integral part of the Wellness Awards and our official Partner in Health, Janet was presented with the honorary “Superstar” award. Thank you for all you do, Janet!


Indio High teacher Jason Tate says, if we want to stop the spread of chronic disease, we need to start with the next generation. Seven years ago, he developed a course to help students understand the effects of food on their body. He then developed the Health & Nutritional Sciences Academy of Wellness teaching pre-med, nutrition, yoga, functional medicine, and more to his Indio High students. The incredible results further inspired him to create the Human Health Initiative, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which will work to incorporate the important life skills of nutrition, movement and stress management into every high school in America and beyond.

BUSINESS: Thrive Fitness Studio 

Thrive is a transformational experience that starts from the inside out; 20 percent of their training focuses on mechanics, and 80 percent on mindset. “Thrive Tribe” members, who range in ages from 8 to 78, say they not only shed pounds and gain fitness, but establish mental strength for lasting change. “The formula for fitness has been taught backwards for way too long with the focus on muscle versus mind,” says owner Jay Nixon. Thrive’s unique fitness program also teaches gratitude, positive action, and spreading kindness that includes a daily quota of hugs, high fives and words of encouragement to others.

NON-PROFIT: Cielo Vista Charter School

Seven years ago, Ceilo Vista Charter implemented a comprehensive – and contagious – personal wellness plan at their school including healthy vending machines, a school fitness center open to students, staff and the community, monthly newsletters, workout Wednesdays, a ban on hot Cheetos and sports drinks, a school garden, chickens who provide eggs for healthy cooking classes, and more. Progress was measured through body composition testing and after the third year, student obesity rates dropped 70 percent in their tuition-free school comprised of 79 percent socio-economically disadvantaged students.  Faculty, staff, student families and the surrounding community are all part of their plan for change.

Hessam Mahdavi, MD, DC, CNS 

As a chiropractor before obtaining his medical degree, Dr. Mahdavi always understood the importance of combining holistic and traditional medicine to effectively treat disease. But it was a personal diagnosis of an autoimmune disease that inspired him to obtain his certifications in functional medicine. He now prescribes individualized lifestyle, nutrition, and supplementation along with medicine to bring about wellness. Dr. Mahdavi actively lectures and encourages other medical doctors to embrace integrative medicine. “The art and science of holistic and western medicine has had such a profound impact on my own life,” he says, “that I am driven to give this knowledge – and gift – to others.”

YOUTH: Jaelyn Moraga, RYT200

At 14, Jaelyn is the youngest certified yoga instructor in the country completing more than 200 hours of training in a rigorous adult program. She has dreamed of achieving this honor most of her life and she is passionate about her goal to help educate and teach her peers – and adults – the health benefits of yoga. Jaelyn is a straight A student who plays athletics, is on the student council, and volunteers a minimum of 5 hours every month to the community. “You are never too young to make a difference” she says. “If there is something you are passionate about, go for it.”

  1. Michelle and Kevin Steadman
  2. Cesar Davlantes and Tiffany Bell-Davlantes, FNP-C
  3. Organic wines from Sponsor Bonterra Vineyards
  4. Lauren Del Sarto and Executive Committee Susan Butler, Lisa Ford, Donna Sturgeon
  5. Robert and Jeralyn Brossfield, MD, with guest speaker, Joseph Scherger, MD
  6. The protein station offered grass-fed tri-tip and free-range turkey
  7. Ross Becker, Janet Zappala and Lorraine Branham
  8. Patricia Bauer, Diane Gordon, Pam Salvadore, Lisa Styles, Deborah Tryon, Sandi Phillips, Doris Steadman
  9. Nino Capobianco and Tiffany Dalton Capobianco
  10. Dan Ball and Peyton Drew
  11. Deborah Schrameck, Morris and Diane Sheppard, Tracy Smith
  12. Donna Sturgeon and Adam Ochoa
  13. Guests left with their share of PrimeTime Produce vegetables from the complimentary Farmer’s Market.
  14. Elliot Lander, MD, and Krista Fleischner
  15. Maya Kato, MD, and James Park, MD
  16. Guests left with their share of PrimeTime Produce vegetables from the complimentary Farmer’s Market.
  17. Steve and Reesa Manning
  18. Lisa Beardeaux, Jenn Geyer, Tanya Niwa, Jessica Bush, Devlinn Clinton, Matt Amrine, and Joe Huard
  19. Fatemeh Hadjian, DDS, and Saeide Tourkeman
  20. Indio High Medical Health Academy volunteers with teacher, Jason Tate
  21. The Eisenhower Medical Center team
  22. Shay and Jaelyn Moraga
  23. William and Lorraine Branham
  24. Chris Christensen and Herb Schultz
  25. Lauren and Tom Del Sarto
  26. Jeff Taylor, John and Lisa Ford, Chris and
    Beth Christensen
  27. Donna Sturgeon, John Yuhas, RN, Jason Press
  28. Kristeen Elly, Marci Madain, and Ellen Warren Kauffman

A special Thank You to photographer Lani Garfield.

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