The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

203: Increasing Racial Diversity in the Wellness Field with Dawn Carter, Jessica Etheredge, and Juanita Hawkins

Dawn, Jessica, & Juanita-bio

Take a moment to picture a wellness professional in your mind’s eye. What or who came to mind? Chances are, the image of a young, fit, white woman sprang to mind. Considering the vastly varied workforces that the wellness community aims to serve, the lack of diversity in the field means we’re missing out on a staggering amount of perspective that would greatly benefit our end user – employees. 

Today’s guests, Dawn Carter, Jessica Etheredge, and Juanita Hawkins, are health promotion professionals who are brave enough to discuss the challenges they’ve faced in their careers. 

They offer their perspectives on why the health promotion field is largely white and what the wellness community is missing out on due to a lack of diversity. The panel leaves us with what wellness professionals can do to encourage more diversity and lessen the micro and macro aggressions black wellness professionals experience.  

Interview Highlights (with timestamps):
  • [8:02] Introductions and how the panelists got into the wellness field
  • [19:34] Challenges faced as a result of being a Black wellness professional
  • [34:41] Perspectives – why is the health promotion field so white?
  • [42:15] The effect of predominant homogeneousness on Black wellness professionals, especially at conferences
  • [45:32] What the wellness community is missing out on due to lack of diversity
  • [47:53] Thoughts on how we can increase the diversity in wellness
  • [51:09] Possible action steps for white wellness professionals
Mentioned in this episode:
Full Bio:

Dawn Carter is currently a Senior Manager of Health Promotion and Wellness Programs at Florida Blue.  With over 10 years of experience in worksite wellness, leadership, program management, strategy and product development, rewards and platform integration, group consulting, Dawn’s work is focused primarily on supporting strategic alignment of her organization and its customers in beneficial growth and success. Dawn holds a B.S. in Biology/Nutrition and Fitness from Florida State University; and a M.S. in Human Resources Management from Webster University. 

Connect with her on LinkedIn:

Speaker, teacher, and lifestyle coach Jessica E. Etheredge has a passion for bringing out the best in people.  Her passion for wellness and well-being started early when having to watch her mother suffer through three bouts of breast cancer and a life long struggle with obesity. Jessica vowed to help and educate individuals on making healthy lifestyle choices so that they may prevent chronic conditions and diseases. 

Once Jessica earned her B. S. Degree in Exercise Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill she moved to Washington DC where she worked for L&T Health & Fitness Company as a Program Manager for government entities such as Freddie Mac, the Department of Justice, the Federal Energy Reserve, and INTELSAT.  During this time she was also selected to be a trainer at the White House under the Clinton administration, and also served as an Adjunct Professor at American University in Washington DC teaching classes in the Health Promotion Department.

In 2005 she accepted a position as the Health & Safety Director for Nash County where through her wellness programming saved the County two million dollars over three years in medical savings.  She served on the National Panel of Advisors for the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), the Wachovia and Local Government Federal Credit Union Board of Advisors, and was previously a member of the Rocky Mount Rotary Club.  She holds a dual insurance license in life and health as well as property & casualty for 14 years, is a certified Corporate Wellness Coach, and was named the MVP for Blue Cross NC Client Health Promotion Division in 2014.

Jessica joined Blue Cross NC in 2012 and is currently a Strategic Advisor where she is responsible for using business insights and market data to design and execute initiatives and product offerings focusing on improving the cost and quality of care delivered to North Carolinians.  She previously was the Wellness Account Executive and Team Lead for Client Health Promotion where she was responsible for leading her team in the strategy and execution of health care programs, employee educations, and communications.

In 2019 Jessica launched New Dimensions Training, a personal and lifestyle training enterprise that focuses on fitness and personal development solutions for individuals. Jessica loves giving talks on health, wellness, and women’s issues and has spoken to thousands across the country.  Her presentations included Resilience Training, Thinking Through Stress, Holistic Health, and Discovering the Value of You to name a few.  Her presentation style is a no-nonsense practical approach coupled with humor and an array of personal testimonies and experiences that make her talks engaging, informative, and memorable!

Her favorite saying is from Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” 

Juanita Hawkins works for Transit Employees’ Health & Welfare Fund where she manages a workplace wellness program for approximately 8500 Union members in the DC metro area.  She began her journey into workplace wellness approximately eight years ago after working in the Human Resources field for over 11 years.  Juanita was drawn to workplace wellness to advocate for healthy workplace policies and programs to help address the high incidents of preventable chronic diseases. Her mission is to empower her population to find ways to build small healthy habits into their lifestyle. 

Juanita holds a B.S. degree in Management from University of Maryland University College and is a certified health coach and diabetes educator. Additionally, she is currently enrolled in a master’s program at Maryland University Integrative Health.

She resides in Maryland with her husband and their two children and enjoys reading, cooking, and fitness. Additionally, she aspires to become a mindfulness and meditation teacher to help bring these techniques to the forefront of public health programs.