Success & Impact

Alumna Takes the Lead at 'Be Well Philly'

by Emmalee Eckstein

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Gina Tomaine ’10 has always been focused on health and wellness.

Her passion for wellness started small on Hawk Hill – she was a frequent flyer at the campus fitness center, took zumba and yoga classes with her friends and even played on the women’s rugby team during her first semester freshman year.

“I’m always willing to try something new, but I couldn’t really hack it on the rugby field,” she admits. “I got pretty banged up. But it’s such an awesome program at St. Joe’s. I was so impressed with the talent and passion of the players.”

Now, Tomaine’s passion is part of her work life, too. In November, she was named the new Health & Wellness Editor at Be Well Philly, an offshoot of Philadelphia Magazine that focuses on the best health and fitness options in the city.

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Tomaine on Hawk Hill/ Photo by Anush Sridharan

During her time on Hawk Hill, Tomaine began to connect her interests in fitness and writing to her underlying desire to raise awareness of individuals facing adversity in health. She studied English and economics and became fascinated by the stories of people who have overcome medical obstacles to achieve a level of wellness they previously considered out of reach.

It started with her Summer Scholars project at SJU. Tomaine worked with Associate Professor of English Jenny Spinner, Ph.D., on a nonfiction manuscript highlighting two brothers from her Northeast Pennsylvania hometown, Scranton. They were both born with spinal muscular atrophy and, essentially, were not expected to live past age three. Against all odds, the brothers grew up to become fully functioning adults with high profile careers in competitive poker.

Tomaine continued working on this story well into her graduate studies at Emerson College, where she earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing. While in Boston, she leveraged her undergraduate experience as a writer for The Hawk student newspaper and as an intern at the Philadelphia Inquirer to land positions at The Boston Globe and Boston Magazine.

“Boston was great,” remembers Tomaine. “But it wasn’t home and it wasn't Philly. It isn’t where I wanted to build a long-term career.”

She headed back to Philly to freelance, and even ended up back on Hawk Hill for a while, teaching adjunct undergraduate English classes at SJU and Rosemont College and working in the SJU admissions office. Shortly after, she took an editorial job at Rodale, a publisher renowned for their focus on living naturally. She then moved over to Philadelphia Magazine, where she dove deeper into lifestyle writing and continued spending her free time running marathons, doing hot yoga and making connections all over the city’s fitness scene.

By the time the editor position at Be Well became available, it was clear that Tomaine was a natural fit.

Although she’s brand new to the job, Tomaine is already bringing her unique spin to Be Well, helping to facilitate the annual Philadelphia Magazine and Independence Blue Cross Health Hero Challenge. She spoke at the celebration and announced the winner, Ainsley’s Angels, a nonprofit that pairs able-bodied runners with those who wouldn’t be able to complete an endurance race without assistance. From there, she has continued to focus on perseverance in health, highlighting the mental roadblocks runners faced during this year’s Philadelphia Marathon and individuals overcoming their own health challenges in startlingly unique ways, like Edie Weinstein, who hugged her way back to heart health.

Tomaine has big plans for Be Well Philly but attributes much of her love of language and storytelling back to her time at St. Joe’s.

“The faculty really impressed me. I was both nurtured and challenged,” she remembers. “I took relationships with my professors well into my professional life. Witnessing how professors like Tenaya Darlington, MFA and Dr. April Lindner practiced their craft when I was just a student really helped me understand what was possible for me in the world after college. When I came back to teach at Saint Joseph’s, working under the guidance of Dr. Peter Norberg and Dr. Jo Parker was an honor. It felt like things had come full-circle.”

It is Tomaine’s strong relationships and natural curiosity that have helped her grow along the way.

“Be curious, ask questions,” she insists of current Hawks. “There are many valuable resources on and off campus – this is the best time to try new things and figure out who you are, even if it means spending one semester on the rugby team. There's always something to learn from each new experience.”