By: Ahmad Graves-El
VINELAND, N.J. — An area resident recently made history by accepting the top position at a local medical fitness facility. In August, Amanda Meschi, of Pittsgrove, became the first female director at the Inspira Health Fitness Connection, located in Vineland.
Meschi is no stranger to those who frequent the facility. She has been an integral part of the Inspira Health Fitness Connection for nearly 15 years.
The Upper Pittsgrove Township native was hired by the organization in 2005 as a personal trainer and has steadily worked her way up to the distinguished position she currently holds.
“I was excited and eager for the opportunity,” Meschi says when asked how she felt when informed she got the job as director. “[I want] to show that we can do good work in the community and provide programs that aid the service lines of the organization.”
Before she became entrenched in—and a tireless proponent of—the rapidly expanding field of medical fitness, Meschi was traveling down a different career path.
“I graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I went to law school,” Meschi recalls. “I went to Widener Law in Delaware. I did a year and a half and that’s when I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer.
“I worked as a paralegal for a while trying to find … an area of law that I really liked. All I really found out is that I liked working for attorneys less than I liked being in law school,” she says with a laugh.
Meschi had reached the proverbial fork in the road. At this moment in time, she embarked on a journey to the center of her mind in an effort to find a profession that would bring joy into her life.
“I thought about when I was happiest, and it was at Rowan [when] I was teaching group exercise classes as a part-time job at the rec center,” she explains. “So, I got certified to be a personal trainer and I found this part-time job in the basement of Bridgeton Hospital and they were going to let me do some personal training.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door. Soon after, as circumstances would have it, it turned into a full-time position.”
There was an additional benefit that Meschi hadn’t foreseen when making her decision to step away from the legal field, which was a significant development in helping her reach the position she holds today.
In 2007, Meschi obtained a master’s degree in exercise science through the hospital’s continuing education program.
While that was certainly helpful, according to Meschi: “ … [W]hat really turned it from a job to a career for me was when I was introduced to the whole concept of medical fitness and how physical exercise and exercise as medicine can really play a [positive] part in the healthcare continuum, the community of healthcare.
“So whether you come into this organization because you had a heart attack or you have a baby—everybody should be referred out and down through a medical fitness facility. That’s to keep that individual engaged in a healthy lifestyle.”
There are many fitness centers and gyms throughout Cumberland County, South Jersey, etc., but the Inspira Health Fitness Connection is different from those facilities.
“We are a certified facility and we’re certified through the Medical Fitness Association (MFA),” says Meschi. “In order to be certified, we’re held to certain standards and guidelines that we have to comply with. And we’re recertified every three years. Those standards and guidelines hold the bar high.”
According to a blog posted by Michelle Wong on activewellness.com, “The biggest difference between a medical fitness center and another type of gym or fitness facility is that the medical fitness center focuses on overall wellness instead of just fitness.”
“ … [A]ll of our staff is degreed and certified,” Meschi adds. “The outcomes of all of our programs are measured and tracked by the staff so that we can gauge success. If they’re doing well, great. If they’re not doing well, we can put an action plan in place to make them better.”
Meschi’s innate compassion for people and her hopes to help them live a healthy lifestyle, has given her the awesome opportunity of traveling around the country and across the world.
She is an examiner and a board member for the MFA, and currently serves as the board liaison to the MFA Conference Committee. Meschi is also a committee member for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Exercise is Medicine committee.
In her capacity as examiner, Meschi recently spent some time in the Shandong Province of China to help one of its facilities apply for its first medical fitness accreditation. According to Meschi, as an examiner, “We examine the facility, interview staff, look through their documentation, [and] speak with their medical leadership in order to ensure that the facility meets the standards and guidelines set forth by the Medical Fitness Association.”
Meschi is an energetic advocate for all things health and fitness, and actively participates in a wide variety of physical activities. “I like to mountain bike. I like to surf. I like to horseback ride. I like to ski. [I like] finding activities to keep [me] moving through all the seasons.”
One activity that Meschi has excelled in is bodybuilding. “I think bodybuilding is an awesome sport. I think it’s a great opportunity that everybody should do at least once,” she says.
Meschi has won five bodybuilding awards spanning three competitions, and although competing in those events brought myriad challenges, she also felt a kind of physical, mental, and spiritual upliftment, as well.
“Standing up on the stage is a [little nerve-racking]. I remember the very first competition I did, I was standing onstage and I could literally feel my knees knocking together. I had never experienced that before. I remember thinking, I hope nobody else could see this,” she says with a laugh.
“But at the same time, it’s also very empowering.”
Although Meschi doesn’t consciously dwell on her historic accomplishment, she is aware that becoming the first woman to hold the position of director at the Inspira Health Fitness Connection is a noteworthy achievement, on many levels.
“I never thought of myself as a … superhero,” Meschi says, with humility. “But, I understand that women are still striving to achieve positions of power. So, I am honored to be among them and look forward to showing that’s our rightful place.”
Those who work with Meschi have expressed satisfaction with the direction the new director is taking them. “I’m impressed with Amanda’s energy and dedication,” says Sue McMearty, front desk receptionist at Inspira Fitness Connection. “She’s really looking out for the members and making positive changes.”
Meschi is excited to be in the position to leave her own positive stamp in the world of health and fitness, and is thrilled to be able to do so at the highly regarded medical facility.
“I’m really happy to be here, and I want to provide a really special, awesome place for the community to come to get services to stay healthy,” says Meschi. “I want to create a great product for the community and the organization.”