Book Michael Samuelson as your next keynote speaker, health & wellness topical speaker, panel expert, or trainer in leadership. As a cancer survivor and thrivor, Michael draws inspiration from his post-surgery journey that has led him to trek to the base camp of Mount Everest, climb to the summit of Mt Kala Patar in Nepal, and hike across the Davidson Glacier in Alaska. He reached the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa in 2006 and in July of 2011 trekked over the Salcantay Mountain Pass in the Peruvian Andes on his way to Machu Pichu. He recently returned from an epic adventure in the Galapagos Islands where he swam with sharks and conversed with Giant Tortoises, Magnificent Frigate Birds and Blue-footed Boobies. At the age of 67, he is currently training for a trekking adventure in Patagonia, Chile.


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Sample of Michael’s Work


Returning storyteller and Health and Wellness Institute president shares an intensely personal story about breast cancer and the need to be your own advocate.


Frequently Requested Talks

If you don’t see a topic that fits your event, make a request and Michael will prepare a custom talk to fit any health and wellness agenda.

  • BEYOND SURVIVAL…LIVING A LIFE OF THRIVAL - Reflections from Glaciers, Mountains, Rain Forests, Boardrooms and Life

    Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.
    – Viktor Frankel

    Because we are human we do not always do what our mothers taught us to do. We make mistakes. We slip. Sometimes we feel guilty, sad and remorseful. This is followed by a strong commitment to change; to get back on the right path, to do all those things that mom, our first-grade teacher, Captain Kangaroo, Bert & Ernie, Mr. Rogers and Oprah told us to do. Unfortunately—just like when on a bike path—once we slip off we tend to make deeper and deeper grooves in the soft grass and mud. If we stay too long the grooves just get deeper until we find ourselves in someone else’s tracks; someone who slipped off the path long before we came along. Without fast action, we quickly adapt to this new trail. It seems so much easier to just continue along in the mud. The problem is that we know we are in the mud and that we would be much safer if we could break through the rut and get back on the stable road. However, when we try to leave the sloppy and increasingly dangerous trail we are intimidated by the bumps as we smack up against the groove’s edge. So, we settle back into the rut (we’ll try again, later). We lack the courage, strength or will to risk the initial jar so we stay where we are. Such is life both on and off a bike path. The difference between life and a bike path is that, on the life path, there are plenty of people willing and anxious to tell you what’s good for you—what you need to do to live a healthy, happy, and prosperous life—to get back on the right path. Parents, teachers, priests, rabbis, monks, brahmas, mullahs, your Aunt Betty, Dr. Phil and the next-door-neighbor stand ready to offer (push) advice your way. Mostly, this advice is well intentioned, but it is often general in scope with little or no personal relevance. There are countless “How To…” books outlining the objective science of life complete with full-color templates. But, only YOU can explore, discover, design and nurture the unique, subjective, deeply personal, art of living your life. The question is: What do YOU want? Where do YOU want to go? What predictably triggers and sustains those moments when you feel truly happy and satisfied with the life you’re living? Is it yoga or deep breathing exercises? How about “The Secret,” The Bible, The Koran, The Torah, or “The Four Noble Truths?” Is it truly better in the Bahamas … and does it simply take a trip to Jamaica to feel all right? Perhaps, for you, well-being—life satisfaction—improves when you read a good book, spend time with your kids, go to the movies, buy gifts for your grandchildren, drink a cold beer on a hot summer day, watch television or work till dawn on a project that comes to life and tickles you each time you give it your undivided attention? Of course you want to increase and sustain your life satisfaction but first you must WAKE UP! You must become AWARE and take inventory of what brings meaning to your life, today. You must open all senses and pay attention. In this entertaining and informative speech, nationally acclaimed health promotion pioneer, Michael Samuelson, will help you design a personal and passionate path toward optimal health and meaningful purpose …as defined by YOU (not mom, your first grade teacher, dad, your partner, aunt Betty, Oprah, Bert & Ernie, Mr. Rogers, Dr. Phil or Captain Kangaroo).

  • THE CHANGING FACE OF HEALTHCARE - Same Players...Merging Roles

    The current healthcare system has become increasingly paternalistic and focused on treatment while all but ignoring individual responsibility and prevention. The result: out of control health spending in a nation of health illiterates. If we are to begin to control the frightening dollar burn rate, we need informed, motivated, and accountable citizens and organizations who will work together to improve everyone’s health and economic well-being.

    Given a projected bite of $4.010 trillion in 2015, the U.S. healthcare treatment model is economically unsustainable. Fundamental to supporting the arch of healthcare reform’s solution mix is the need to address and correct the attitude of deferred responsibility (personal, corporate, and community), and the sociological, economic, and educational conditions that foster lifestyle choices that adversely impact our healthcare system.

    In this thought-provoking, entertaining, and fast moving presentation, you will hear from an international leader in the field of population health management: Michael Samuelson. From his seat as a health promotion pioneer in the early 1970s, a SVP in the health insurance industry, a cancer thrivor and cancer awareness advocate, a university professor, and an renowned expert in the area building community healthcare coalitions, Samuelson knows this story from all angles and he is anxious to share the observations and lessons learned from his journey.

  • VOICES FROM THE EDGE - Life Lessons from the Cancer Community

    Based on the highly praised book of the same name, Voices from the Edge presents the wisdom of real people who have been diagnosed with and treated for cancer.  They have been to the edge and returned.  Some have come back to “normal” life, resolved to endure, to live out the full span of years that they once took for granted, and have put several years between themselves and their diagnosis.  Some have returned for only a short stay and face each day with the reality that the next, or the one after that, could be their last.  All have returned with a new appetite for life.  Their voices ring with their newfound passion – with hope, anger, fear, courage, acceptance, defiance, joy, love, and humor.

    Inspirational, entertaining, and profoundly genuine, this presentation delivers smiles, tears, and laughter, but most of all, the audience is left with a renewed appreciation for the fact that the living part of life is captured in the moments — not years.

    “… You also have the knack of maintaining what I know you strive for, and this a coterie of individuals diverse, yet with one overriding common concern.  You have done it well.”
    —C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D., Former US Surgeon General

    “What a marvelous inspirational book [Voices from the Edge] you have put together — it is so touching as one reads each story.  However, I am not surprised after meeting you and hearing you speak…”
    —Mrs. Betty Ford, Former US First Lady

    “A really powerful and very important book [Voices from the Edge] with life lessons for everyone.  Five stars!”
    —Larry King, Larry King Live, CNN

  • HEALTHCARE VS SICKCARE - Time to Level Set

    “Wellness” is an Amorphous, Dangerous & Distracting Term: The word “wellness,” when used as an antonym for sickness loses punch and significance because it’s not measurable.  How does “wellness” translate into dollars?  The argument goes, “I get that “sickness” means missing work, incurring medical expenses and running-up pharmacy costs, but what are the savings — or, absence of cost — that comes with being well?”  It’s too slippery to measure, so anything called “wellness” is often the first to feel the blade of fiscal cutback.  Far from fluff and waste, WELLNESS is an umbrella descriptor for programs, policies and initiatives that promote health prevent certain diseases and compress morbidity (shorten length of illness).  Wellness is also an objective and subjective incremental state of well being with infinite variations.  The next time someone talks about the need to improve productivity, slow the surge of healthcare costs, recruit top talent, retain key employees and improve the overall quality of life for your community…THINK WELLNESS.  And, then, tell me “wellness” is fluff!

    Think Like A CFO: At the end of the day, the goal of every organization is to open the doors the next morning.  Simplistic, yes; however, sustaining and expanding both mission and margin is a fiduciary responsibility of every corporate officer.  That goes for the one-person-not-for-profits all the way up to Fortune 500 companies.  Nobody in senior management will argue the importance of having healthy and happy employees (mom and apple pie).  That being said, if employee health and wellness initiatives, policies and activities are not tightly framed and measured in the context of corporate survival, growth and profitability, they will be viewed as ancillary and delegated to the same bucket that holds company picnics, charitable contributions and free fresh fruit in the cafeteria.  When times get tough, calculators are worked overtime and, well…you know the rest.  That’s why it’s important that you always level set when using the word “wellness” in a conversation with senior management or when submitting budget requests/renewals.  Make sure it is clearly understood that you addressing business and bottom-line issues.  If not, your programs, initiatives and policies will suffer and, gradually, go away.

    From his seat as a health promotion pioneer, university lecturer, international disease prevention researcher, former health insurance senior executive, and nationally respected cancer awareness advocate, Michael Samuelson knows this story from all angles and he is anxious to share the observations and lessons learned from his journey.

    The item above is only one of ten critical areas covered in this presentation.
    Others include “If Greed is Good…Sickness Must be Better,” Caution: “Granma and
    Grandpa are Killing Your Children,” “Pogo Was Right” and “Death is Not a Curable Disease.”

  • THE POWER OF THE POSSIBLE - 15 Steps to the Leadership Summit

    THE POWER OF THE POSSIBLE – 15 Steps to the Leadership Summit.

    Lessons learned from mountains, glaciers, rain forests, boardrooms, and life.

    “It can’t be done.” “You’ll never make it in time.” “Bob’s impossible to work with.” “This relationship doesn’t have a prayer.” “They must be kidding…”

    Realistically sizing up a challenge or defining a set of problems is more art than science. Data, long-term spectrum of consequence, history, access to resources, immediate impact, and, perhaps, most of all—individual and collective beliefs—paint the picture. In history, the thinnest margins of possibility have expanded into amazing accomplishments; often in the face of overwhelming doubt, skepticism, and sabotage (covert and overt). The determining factors are human drive, resiliency, determination, spirit, and belief.

    High performers and successful leaders collect data, evaluate probabilities, latch onto possibilities, harness trusted resources, trust their gut instincts, and move forward with a clear picture of success—independent of consensus judgments. Consider the following popular opinions and reflect on the power of the possible and the impact of attitude:

    “A man on the moon…not in my lifetime!” “Visual images transmitted from miles away into a box in your house…never!” “Mass produce hamburgers in a national chain of restaurants…it will never work!” “A national newspaper…tried before; can’t be done!” An all news television station…nobody will watch!” “Win the biggest account in the industry…we don’t have the horses to do it!” Surpass last year’s revenue…not likely!” “Balance my life at work, home, and in my community…not this year!” “A person of color elected President of the United States…not in my lifetime!”

    In this engaging and entertaining presentation, Michael provides ready-to-use tools that will enhance both personal and professional performance. He knows the steps and the ropes. In addition to founding and building successful organizations, he continues to respond to a 1999 cancer diagnosis and surgery by trekking across glaciers, wondering through rain forests and reaching the summit of exotic mountains. In August of 2000, he turned possibility into reality by getting re-certified in technical climbing at the Alaskan Mountaineering School. In 2001 he trekked across Nepal and climbed 18,000 ft. to the base camp of Mt. Everest and the summit of Mt. Kala Patar. In 2007, he watched the sunrise from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Continuing to defy the odds, in 2011, he trekked over the Mt. Salcantay Pass in Peru on his way to Machu Picchu. In 2014 Michael headed off to the Galapagos Islands to swim with sharks, and commune with Giant Land Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, Blue-Footed Boobies, and Magnificent Frigate Birds.

    When others (and you) question you and your organizations’ ability to achieve “unrealistic” heights, just smile politely, nod your head, move toward your goal, enjoy the journey and don’t look back.

    “I cannot thank you enough for serving as the Commencement Speaker for the AHIP Foundation’s Fellowship Programs [sponsored by American Health Insurance Plans and Harvard School of Public Health]. The attendees raved about your remarks and found them to be inspirational and thought provoking.”

    – Charles W. Stellar, Executive Vice President, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)


What Others Are Saying

“Michael…You are among a very select group of distinguished leaders, scientists, activists and public figures…”

– George H. W. Bush, Former President of the United States


“Your presentation was truly inspiring and made a significant contribution to the resounding success of the summit (Steps to a Healthier US – Keynote Address) by providing insights and valuable information to our audience.”

– Richard H. Carmona, MD, Former US Surgeon General


“I cannot thank you enough for serving as the Commencement Speaker for the AHIP Foundation’s Fellowship Programs [sponsored by American Health Insurance Plans and Harvard School of Public Health]. The attendees raved about your remarks and found them to be inspirational and thought provoking.”

– Charles W. Stellar, Executive Vice President, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)


“I can assure you that I’ll be asking you back in the future.  Guaranteed! Your talks were exactly what the folks needed and wanted to hear.  Further, you tailored them to your audience beautifully.  My hat’s off to you, Michael.  Very impressive and very worthwhile.  Thanks again for the effort and super job in relating to my folks.  I look forward to a long and productive relationship!”

– Lt.Col Bruce E. Weaver, USAF, BSC, PA-C AETC


“Michael, thank you for helping our stakeholders turn on their radar.”

– Willie G. Davidson, Harley-Davidson Motor Company


“Michael Samuelson has been a tremendous inspiration for our member delegates. His passion and enthusiasm, not only for worksite health promotion, but also for life, is contagious. Our members come to hear him again and again. His newest book, “Moments Not Years” demonstrates his talent as an author as well. We gave this book as a gift to our members, personalized and signed! What a treasure! Thanks Michael!”

– Kerry Juhl, Former Executive Director, Wellness Council of Central Iowa


“Michael Samuelson is one of those rare individuals who can address any size audience, while making you feel like he is speaking directly to you.  Warm and genuine, yet dynamic and entertaining, his enthusiasm for life is truly inspiring, making him number one with our audiences time and time again.”

– Deb Seyler, Executive Director, Wellness Council of Wisconsin


“On behalf of Aetna U.S. Healthcare, I want to thank you.  The customers in attendance found your remarks very interesting and thought provoking.  Feedback was extremely positive.  We have already had requests for your phone number so that some of these customers can contact you.”

– Russell D. Fisher, Vice President, National & Key Accounts, Aetna U.S. Healthcare