Prior to launching Health in Her HUE, Ashlee Wisdom developed her medical advocacy and public health experience at a variety of New York City medical centers including Weill Cornell Medicine. A healthcare professional and challenger of the status quo, Wisdom received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Howard University, and a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in healthcare policy & management from New York University.
Wisdom was selected as a fellow for the 2018 Leadership Incubator, a partnership program between TRESemme and Vital Voices, providing women in the United States with training, network expansion, mentorship, and community.
We recently spoke with Wisdom about how she founded Health in Her HUE and her plans for growing the organization.
How did you come to create Health in her Hue and what is the driving reason behind it?
Ashlee Wisdom: I created Health In Her HUE when I was in grad school pursuing my MPH, and while working full-time for an academic medical center. At that time, I was working in a department that was extremely toxic for me as a Black woman, and I was seeing firsthand how institutional racism works in health care organizations—it was jarring to me. While experiencing that, I was also reading academic articles for my classes and was saddened and enraged by the racial health disparities. The outcomes for Black women were abysmal, and not because Black women are inherently more unhealthy, but because of structural racism. I was deeply disturbed by this harsh reality and felt like I had to do something to make Black women aware of how much our social context impacts our health, but then also equip them with information and resources they could use to better care for themselves, and also navigate a health care system that’s often unsafe for them.
Combating unconscious bias is a big part of your mission. What are some of the things you want health professionals to be aware of?
AW: I want health care providers to see Black women as the whole individuals we are, who are deserving of quality care, and who are also deserving of being heard and understood. Given our experience of being both Black and women in a society that is quite frankly, racist and sexist, we deal with a lot of discrimination and microaggressions that trigger stress in our body. I need providers to check their biases at the door and instead acquire a level of consciousness and sensitivity to the lived experiences of their Black women-identifying patients. Black women are not a monolith; we have different needs and concerns. However, all of us are dealing with the stress that comes with being Black and a woman in a white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalistic society. Health care professionals really need to understand that as they engage us.
Can you tell us more about the app that you’re planning on launching this year?
AW: We are building a web and mobile app that allows Black women-identifying patients to quickly and easily connect with Black and culturally competent health care providers. The app offers health information and resources that center around Black women’s lived experiences. Users will also have the opportunity to join live sessions with health care providers and professionals to learn more about various health issues and topics that are of concern to Black women. We are currently in the Beta phase so signing up is free, and we will eventually offer premium membership and services in the future. Within the first two weeks of launching, we have nearly 200 Black women and providers on the platform. If interested, you can join our community on HealthInHerHUE.com.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered during the past few years working on HIHH? What things have changed the path that you initially wanted to follow?
AW: One of the hardest things for me was learning to ask for and be open to help and support. Because I’ve been bootstrapping Health In Her HUE and we haven’t generated revenue yet, I don’t have funds to pay a team. But the mission is what drew the women on my team to Health In Her HUE; they saw the need and wanted to be a part of building and scaling this business with me. I had to get over myself and recognize that this company’s mission is much bigger than me and that I need a community to help me build it. The new challenge is learning how to be the best leader to ensure that I’m leveraging the expertise of my team strategically. The other hurdle is finding the technical expertise to build out the app, and figuring out how to raise capital. I don’t want to accept money from just any investor; I need to make sure that we have investors who understand the mission and who really recognize the need for this platform, and won’t just write us a check and leave us hanging, but will be instrumental in supporting us as we grow and scale.
What are your plans for this year and where do you see HIHH in 5 years from now?
AW: This year, I want to fully validate the demand for Health In Her HUE by getting as many users on the platform and by generating revenue from premium features. In five years, I want Health In Her HUE to be the organizer of the leading health summit focused on Black women’s health, and I also want Health In Her HUE to have a venture fund that makes investments in companies that are building solutions that address health care issues that disproportionately impact Black women. I also see HIHH having a foundation that can make donations to non-profits like Black Women’s Health Imperative. I want HIHH to support and propel the work of other organizations and companies that are working towards improving Black women’s health outcomes.
Note of transparency: Saskia Ketz, editor-in-chief of AWT, serves on the New York Council of Vital Voices, the non-profit that initiates the Leadership Incubator program.