EP94 Launching a Digital Health Startup with Ashlee Wisdom, MPH ‘18

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I AM GPH EP94 Launching a Digital Health Startup with Ashlee Wisdom, MPH ‘18
EP94 Launching a Digital Health Startup with Ashlee Wisdom, MPH ‘18 

Mulanga: Hello, and welcome to tonight's conversation on health technology, entrepreneurship, and challenging the status quo in healthcare and society. My name is Mulanga Muofhe, and I graduated in 2009 with an MPH in International Community Health. I'm the founder of Mulanga Muofhe Naturals, a premium natural and organic skincare brand that aims to cater for specific Black skin concerns. Joining us tonight is Ashlee Wisdom. Ashlee Wisdom is an experienced public health professional. She's the founder and CEO of Health In Her Hue, a digital platform that connects Black women and women of color to culturally competent healthcare providers, services, and health content. Health In Her Hue's mission is to reduce racial health disparities by leveraging the power of technology, media, and community to improve health outcomes for black women. As a public health professional, Ashlee is a champion for health equity and is passionate about taking an equitable approach to healthcare innovation. Most recently, she worked for an advisory firm, Gentle Health, where she was the program director for the strategic ventures group an exclusive consortium of nationally ranked health systems investing in health technology. Earlier in her career, Ashlee managed the recruitment and regulatory activities of the large-scale clinical trial in the healthcare policy and research department at Weill Cornell Medicine. During her time at Weill Cornell, she also supported the New York City Clinical Data Research Network, facilitating and streamlining research on chronic diseases and health services. Prior to that role, Ashlee worked for a federally qualified health center developing programs based on the health center's clinical priorities, identifying and securing federal state and private funding, and establishing strong relationships between the health center and local community organizations and foundations. Wisdom also served as the Assistant Director of grants management in the office of Population Health at New York City Health Plus Hospitals where she managed grants and the research alliance between the health system and NYU. Wisdom received her Bachelor's of Science from Howard University and her Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in Healthcare Policy from New York University. Wow, Ashlee, that is one impressive bio. Welcome, How are you?

Ashlee: Thank you. Hi Mulanga, I'm doing well. And thank you for having me. How are you doing?

Mulanga: I'm doing well. I feel so privileged to get to talk to you today. Now I hear that you were on Good Morning America this morning and something exciting happened. Do you mind sharing with us?

Ashlee: Yeah, so some exciting news. We were featured on Good Morning America this morning. And we were selected from Pipeline Angels, which is a network of women, non-binary, and trans woman investors who invest in women-led companies. And so Health in Her Hue was selected out of 10 companies to receive this investment. And we were invited on GMA but we didn't know that they were gonna announce the investment from Pipeline Angels this morning. And I got to talk to him, Robin Roberts. So that was an exciting opportunity.

Mulanga: I'm so excited for you. That is amazing.

Ashlee: Thank you.

Mulanga: That is absolutely amazing. And congratulations for more funding coming in. I know that is every entrepreneur's dream, right?

Ashlee: Absolutely, absolutely.

Mulanga: So I read on your website that it was when you were growing up in the Bronx that you became aware of social inequality, and that your Christian faith further influenced you to commit to justice. Can you tell us how your passion for equity and justice led you to pursue a career in public health?

Ashlee: Absolutely. So growing up in the Bronx, I had this unique experience of seeing the inequities in the world. So I went to, I had the privilege, I guess so to speak of going to both public schools and private schools throughout my childhood. And I ended up going to a public school for like freshman year of high school, that was in the South Bronx which is a very under-resourced neighborhood, and dealt with metal detectors. And I just remember being a student there and thinking about my experiences in private schools and it was like completely different. And my mom ended up taking me out of that school. And I went to an all-girl Catholic high school for, yeah, all-girl Catholic high school for the rest of my high school career, so to speak. And I remember thinking back to the experience of going to that school in the South Bronx and my experience in this Catholic high school and thinking my trajectory is literally going to change because of a decision that my mom had the privilege of making. And my parents are not people with money, but they were willing to invest in my education. So they made sacrifices to make that decision for me. But I just remember as a teenager thinking why is my experience in this school so completely different from that school? And if I continue saying in this school that, I mean, I think I still would've been as successful. Not think, I would have because my parents wouldn't have expected less of me but I just remember thinking, I remember seeing the inequities and thinking that there's something about this just doesn't seem right. And that was like my first, I guess my first inkling of society isn't fair. There are inequities in our society. And I'm upset about that. I don't think it's right. So what can I do about it? And so you feel that energy and then it's a matter of figuring out which industry do you want to focus [on], trying to right those wrongs in. And I ended up choosing healthcare, and [I’m] excited to share more about that as we go on into the conversation.

Mulanga: Thank you for that. I've seen the disparities in the offerings of skincare products, specifically catering to Black skin challenges which is what motivated me to start my own skincare company. What would you say were the key drivers that made you go Oh, I need to bring Health In Her Hue to life to tackle the health inequalities Black women and women of color face.

Ashlee: The answer to that question is a bit two-fold. So there were two things happening around the same time. I was an MPH student at NYU, reading paper after paper, after paper, as all of us grad students do and enjoying it 'cause I'm a nerd. And, but also being really disturbed at seeing the poor health outcomes for women of color and Black women specifically. So that was happening. I'm like learning about the social factors that impact health outcomes. And my wheels are turning, I'm like, all these things that I was paying attention to as a teenager, like I said, like riding the train in the Bronx and seeing how neighborhoods change as you get to certain areas. And then at the same time, I was also working for an academic medical center. And my experience working in a particular department at that academic medical center was not... To put it quite frankly, it was a toxic work environment, and it weighed on me, it had a direct impact on my health as a Black woman. So I was like breaking out in hives, chronic hives daily. And I was seeing an allergist to try to figure out what was happening. She's running a bunch of tests on me, nothing is coming up. And so I ended up leaving the job and the hive stopped. So I left the job and also graduated from NYU. So the stress of grad school plus this toxic job just was not a great combination. And I remember thinking about that experience- my allergist, she was a great doctor. She was a white woman, but she never asked me anything more in-depth about my...like what was going on in my life. She was just like, I ran the panel of tests, and you're not allergic to anything. So I don't know what to tell you, but take these two Allegras every day and hopefully, that will keep the hives under control. And I left the job, graduated from grad school, and the hives stopped. So I realized that they were induced by stress. And I remember reflecting on that experience and thinking about the fact that it never dawned on me to share with that doctor, what I was experiencing in the workplace. The microaggressions, the racism, it just never dawned on me. 'Cause I didn't think that that experience would resonate with her as a white woman. And then I juxtapose that with the way that I communicate with my Black gynecologist. And I share so much with her. I talk about things like brunch, and day parties and who I'm dating, and just, she gets a full picture of what's going on in my life and she's able to make better clinical recommendations because she has that social context. So that experience, coupled with me reading those papers for class. And I remember one night distinctly, I was reading a paper for class, and I was in my bed and I was crying because I was just tired of seeing the data that showed that Black women's health outcomes were poor across the board. And my anger and my sadness and just like feeling those emotions, I remember thinking if I'm this upset about something then I probably should do something to address it. And one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite writers, Toni Morrison is, "I get angry about things and then I'd go on and work." And that was exactly what happened. I was like, if I'm in bed at 11 o'clock reading a paper for class and I'm tearing up, I probably should do something to try to address this issue. And so that's what we started.

Mulanga: Yeah, I think representation is key. It allows people to really put the walls down and be vulnerable- that can definitely lead to better health outcomes. Can you talk to us about the app? Tell us where it is now. And if you are willing to maybe share some of the big wins and the big highlights that you've had so far.

Ashlee: Yeah, so the app is still in its very early stages. And so I'm really proud of what my team has been able to build to date with very little funding. So we've been bootstrapping. And we actually just pushed a new version of our what we call a minimal MVP, a minimal viable product, which is not like your sexy glamorous app that has no bugs. It's like the bare bones just has the basic functionality of what you're trying to build to test and validate whether or not people actually want this product. And so we built...I started Health In Her Hue back in 2018, I just created the mission and vision. It was a passion project that I felt had the potential to become a business. But I started off with like, let me just create a mission and vision around this idea that I have. And the initial thought was, let's focus on health literacy first. And so I tap into my network of Black health care professionals and ask them to content for the platform. So we were able to build a community around making health information less academic and making it more culturally relevant and engaging to Black women and bringing it to where they were which is on social media. So that was the first step. That was two years of building a strong community around content. And then last year in late June, early July we released our very first product which was a web-based app, that was just a directory. And it only has six doctors listed on it. And these are six doctors who I've been working closely with on content, doing events. And we took a screengrab of that, posted it on our social media, and it went viral. We had 34,000 people log in to that within the first two weeks. And that's when I realized, Oh, we're onto something here. And I credit that to building a community first because I'm just one Black woman. I don't know all the problems that Black women have as they're navigating healthcare. And so I really wanted to understand what were the collective pain points and problems that Black women were having as they're navigating the US healthcare system and then taking that information and using that to build the product. So the recurring thing that I kept hearing was I wanna be able to find Black doctors but it's difficult to find them. So I was like, okay, I'm gonna build an app that makes it easier for these women to find Black doctors. So that was the first step. Like I said, we got a lot of traction from that. And now, today we actually launched our new MVP which is still not our shining glory app, but it's improved on the experience. It has a provider directory with over 800 providers and practitioners listed on it, a content library with health information that's written by either Black healthcare professionals or Black patients who are sharing their health experiences and want to share their experiences with Black women. And then a community forum where women can ask questions, other women can respond to those questions. Providers can respond to those questions and that's building towards the bigger vision. We're not quite there yet. We want Health In Her Hue to become eventually like a telehealth platform that women can use to have virtual access to culturally aligned and culturally competent providers. But right now the core elements of the platform are a provider directory, a content library, and then a community forum for women of color to connect with other women of color around specific health issues.

Mulanga: Okay, nice. And so, any highlights and big wins that you've had so far? I mean, today, you're on Good Morning America, a definite win and a highlight but any others in the past three years that you've had?

Ashlee: Yeah, so we actually, last year we received a grant and got a shout out from Serena Williams in Vogue Magazine. And we got a $10,000 grant from her. I was a part of a leadership incubator called Vital Voices. And they have a relationship with, they have relationships with a bunch of corporate organizations but Serena had a brand ambassadorship with this brand called Stuart Weitzman. And Stuart Weitzman made a donation to Vital Voices and said we wanna invest in some of the women who are part of your leadership incubator. And as part of that, we want Serena Williams to select from the group of women who are part of this to be selected for this grant. So she could choose two out of, I forget how many of us were in the incubator at the time but at least 10 or 12. And Health In Her Hue was one of the companies that were selected. And we received the grant and Serena talked about how Health In Her Hue resonated with her because of her personal experience, giving birth and having a complication and trying to advocate for herself and a nurse not taking her concern seriously. So that was really, that was a major win because I remember the day that I got the announcement or got the news, it was a hard day because being an entrepreneur, you have your high-highs your days that are like extremely great. And he had your low-lows, as I'm sure you can imagine or you can relate to Mulanga. And it was one of those low, low days. And I picked my head up from work and I looked at my phone and I got the news and I was like, wow, this is another data point and sign that I should keep going forward on building this platform.

Mulanga: Exactly, exactly. Nothing like a good win when you're feeling down to keep you on track exactly. Okay, so Ashlee, just for fun, right? Humor me, let's go on a journey five years into the future. So the year is 2026 and Health In Her Hue has a highly anticipated IPO coming up, and it's a wild success. What does the future look like? And what impact has the startup had on the world?

Ashlee: Hmm, this is a great question. So many things, but I'll narrow it down to, I always say that we don't want to, we're not advocating for a segregated healthcare system. What we want to see is a world in which the healthcare system can adequately provide quality care to women of color. And that means white doctors, Asian doctors like whatever your race or ethnicity is, being able to provide culturally competent, culturally sensitive care to Black women and women of color generally. And so we want to basically establish the criteria for lack of a better word for what it means to be a culturally competent or culturally sensitive provider and really training providers to provide quality care to women of color. And ultimately like the big vision is for Health In Her Hue to be like the first touchpoint for women of color when they think about health and health care, where they're looking for providers, we wanna really use data insights to make personalized recommendations in terms of information, screening reminders, appointment reminders, to women of color so that our platform is empowering them to take better care of their health and to better advocate for themselves. And also to be more, be better consumers of healthcare. That is what I want Health In Her Hue to enable women of color to do.

Mulanga: And if I can play the devil's advocate really quickly, are you thinking of scaling and going globally one day? Because I feel like this platform would be such a welcome platform in countries like South Africa.

Ashlee: Absolutely. So that is something that I've been leaning more into because we've gotten inbounds from women saying, "Are you offering this in the UK? Like I need this in Canada." And I've been so US, even though I went to a school of global public health I've been so US-focused when I've gotten started but it's definitely a plan to expand both globally and also beyond just like Black women. So other demographics of women of color. But we do see a future in which we can expand globally because clearly there is a demand for this platform beyond the United States.

Mulanga: Absolutely, absolutely. What has been the most challenging part of being a female Black entrepreneur?

Ashlee: I'm so tired of saying fundraising but it's the first thing that comes to mind because it is, 'cause you need capital to build and scale a company. And so I would say the lack of access to capital is difficult. Not coming from a wealthy family where you can go to your Mom and say, or Mom and Dad and say, Hey, I have this great, brilliant business idea. I just need $25,000 to validate it. So not having that network where you can just tap on the shoulder or send a quick text and say, I'm gonna raise a quick friends and family round of 50,000, a hundred K to see if I'm onto something. Or if I'm not, then just like scrap it and go back and get me a corporate job. So yeah, so fundraising is difficult for being a Black woman. I feel like I have the battle wounds now to talk about it and I'm still going through it, but it's not impossible. Fundraising is hard, period. But being a Black woman who doesn't look like this typical venture-backed company, it's incredibly hard. So I would say that is extremely difficult being a Black woman. And then also the weight of failure. So people talk about failing fast and not being afraid to fail as a founder and you'll learn from the failures and then you pivot. And I'm all for that I'm game for that, right. But as a Black woman, I feel like being able to raise money and I haven't quite fit or reached all of my fundraising goals but raising the amount of money that I have to date, I still feel like an extra level of responsibility of- if I fail, my failure can impact the other black woman coming behind me. Because then someone might use this as a data point around like we shouldn't invest in Black women because look at this. And other white men who went to Stanford or Harvard, whatever they get that benefit of the doubt. I'm like, Oh, they just learned from this experience. And when it gets to the next startup, they'll figure it out. They learn that. They learn what not to do. And now the next time there'll be better, as a Black woman I feel like I don't have that luxury. So there's this extra pressure of wanting and feeling like I need to succeed, which I want to period because I'm an entrepreneur, I want my business to succeed, but you also feel like if you fail, your failure is also closing the door for other women who are coming behind you. And so that pressure is something that weighs on you. And I don't think it's fair and I've been learning to try to give myself some grace but those are some of the things that make this journey more difficult for me as a Black woman.

Mulanga: Well, thank you so much for sharing that, Ashlee. I think sometimes entrepreneurs just wanna talk about their wins and just focus on that, and not so much on the journey and the failures, we're up one minute, down the next minute, that I know to get to success. So thank you so much for sharing that. So what do you think are the most important hard skills and soft skills for being successful in this line of work?

Ashlee: In terms of hard skills, I would say communication. Like, so I pride myself on being a great communicator. And then I was going through all these like investor conversations. And I think naturally maybe I have a little bit of charisma but charisma isn't enough to like sell a business as a Black woman. You need a little bit more than that. So I had to get clear on communicating the business and the market, the market opportunity and really speaking that language of venture capital. And that was it. I wouldn't say it's difficult, but it was a learning curve. Like, I'm very much like Black women need this. And like the health outcomes and this, I'm like talking all this public health language that was going way over investors head. They're like, okay I understand that this is a problem, but like how's this gonna make me money? And so like toeing that line of this, there's like this social ill that I'm really passionate about solving but there's also a big, huge market opportunity because people are overlooking Black women. And so finding that fine line between the issue and the problem that you're solving and being able to communicate the business proposition or the value proposition that you can, that you have for the business is something that you have to learn which is at the end of the day, it's communicating. Learning how to talk and speak to a specific audience. Like when I'm speaking to a public audience I can talk about social determinants of health and cultural competency but an investor is not like, they don't care about that. They wanna hear market size. So learning how to fine-tune your speech or your pitch to a particular audience is something that you absolutely need to have. Beyond that in terms of soft skills, I would say, just being, being resilient and you can't, no one can teach you how to be resilient. No one teaches that. It's something you have to learn to do. Like I had to learn to not take the no's personally. And it was hard. Like I would get off of an investor call, and they'd be like, this is amazing. What do we think you're the right person to do this, but you're too early. And I'm just like, ah, but that's like a soft, it's like a soft way saying I don't believe in you. But I had to learn to not take things personally. So I would say resilience is a soft skill that you should have.

Mulanga: Okay, sorry, keep going.

Ashlee: No, that was... I mean, I would say, I mean, to keep it kind of concise. Communication is a hard skill I think that people need to have. Business acumen, also one of my investors and advisors have told me, like one advice he gave me was or something that's resonated with me was, you need to have a healthy relationship with the truth. So when you recognize that you have a gap in a certain area, just acknowledge it, like I know that I need to grow in this area. And are you willing to invest or does it make sense for you to invest in ramping up in that? Or does it make sense for you to hire someone or bring someone on who has that skill set or expertise that you have a gap in? So I would say just being honest about what your gaps are and knowing in those things like those are all, some of the soft skills like having emotional intelligence and knowing how to navigate people's skills and so on and so forth. Those are some of the skills I think that you need to have as an entrepreneur.

Mulanga: Thank you. So has your understanding of this subject evolved over time- the subject being public health or digital health? And if so, what would you say you understand about it now that you didn't in the past?

Ashlee: I think I'm just getting into this. I definitely have a much more in-depth understanding of the disparities. Back when I was like MPH student I couldn't really spit stats like off the top of my head but the more that I've been working on Health In Her Hue is the more that I've been like getting knee-deep into the work and really understand the structural issues that are at play, that really are creating the issues and the inequities in the health care system. I would say that NYU has really equipped me to think critically about health and healthcare, and how all these different things and society impacts health outcomes. So I had that real strong foundation coming out of the program. But just my own, like I said I'm a nerd, just like getting more into the literature because I wanted to really understand these issues. If I'm gonna build this company, I felt like the responsibility is on me to understand how do you apply your public health lens to innovation? And that is, that's like taking really academic stuff and applying it to real-life issues. That is the work that I'm doing now. I think my time at NYU is really helping me ramp up and in terms of understanding the issues from like more of a theoretical standpoint, and now I'm actually applying that to the work that I'm doing as I'm trying to build Health In Her Hue, and that's definitely a different learning experience.

Mulanga: Wonderful, thank you. What has been one of the most rewarding moments in your career as a public health practitioner?

Ashlee: This is really hard. Actually, so there's so many. But I'll keep it narrow to my time as a clinical managing clinical trials at an academic medical center. I recognize that we were recruiting too many as an AMC [Academic Medical Center] on the upper East side of New York City where there's lots of wealthy people, wealthy white people. And I remember thinking this trial, this study is not going to be diverse. Like based on the people that I’m speaking to on the phone, it's just not diverse. And I would speak to Black and Brown people on the phone and would try to get them to agree to be a part of the clinical trial. And I realized it was harder to convince them over the phone. So I remember talking to my supervisor and saying, I wanna actually go into the clinic and sit in the waiting rooms. And when eligible patients are sitting and waiting for their appointments I wanna approach them and try to talk to them about the trial and study and see if they would sign up. And I remember seeing, like talking to certain patients, and them seeing me as a Black woman and I would talk to them about the trial and they would feel comfortable signing up because they saw me and I took the time to explain to them about the Institutional Review Board and patient consent and so on and so forth. And I remember one patient telling me that “you remind me of my niece.” And so there was like a level of trust that she had talking to me because I looked like someone who she knew and who she trusted and who she loved. And that experience really opened my eyes to how powerful trust is within healthcare. And I think that those experiences throughout my career have really shaped the way that I think about the work that I'm doing now, building Health In Her Hue, how powerful trust is, how powerful and important and absolutely critical diversity is as we're thinking about healthcare. So, yeah, that's just off the top of the head, top of the dome that's one experience that I can think about that I remember really just resonating with me and sticking with me.

Mulanga: For a minute there, I thought you would say Health In Her Hue, and I almost said, except for that one... Right, sorry, go ahead.

Ashlee: I was going to say that's part of the journey but it's not the entire, we're just getting started there.

Mulanga: Exactly, exactly. How do you see technology-based healthcare contributing to or changing the future of public health professionals?

Ashlee: Ooh, that's a good question. So I think technology, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. 

Mulanga: Really?

Ashlee: More love, I guess, I guess more love than hate. I probably shouldn't say that out loud since I'm building a digital health startup but keeping it honest here, technology is not the panacea to all of our problems within the healthcare system. We have to do a lot of dismantling of the current system as well as [the] rebuilding of the system that we want to see if we wanna see equity. So that's why I think technology is not going to solve all the problems. And even what I'm building with Health In Her Hue at times, I feel like the technology that we're building is helping women navigate a system that is not equitable and it's problematic. And I don't want that to be, I want to build a company that's doing that. Helping women navigate the status quo what they have to deal with now, but also at the time using that company to change the system so that it's not this inequitable and problematic and scary and dangerous thing for Black women and women of color to have to navigate. So that's what I'll caveat my disdain with this idea of technology being the answer to all of these problems. What I will say in the case of technology is that it has the power of bridging the gap. So [there’s] one anecdote that I've often shared with investors and it's just an example. There was a patient that found a doctor on the Health In Her Hue platform and she was willing, this is a gastroenterologist. She was trying to find a Black woman gastroenterologist in her city Houston because the other doctors that she was seeing weren't taking her issues seriously. She couldn't find them, so she went on the Health In Her Hue app, found one, three hours away, and drove three hours to go see that specialist. For a 30 minute visit, husband waiting in the car for this 30-minute visit. That is the power of technology making that doctor more visible to her, but also she had to drive three hours to go see that doctor. That's crazy, that's insane to see a doctor who she felt would take her issues seriously. And so there's an opportunity to leverage technology so that you don't have to drive three hours but maybe you just wanna get a second opinion from a Black doctor to say, Hey, I saw this doctor and I felt like they weren't taking this issue seriously. I feel like something's actually off. Can you tell me what questions I should ask my doctor when I go back in for a visit? Can you tell me if some, like, are they being biased in the way that they're providing care to me? And so there are opportunities to use technology to bridge the gaps in terms of access that currently exists within our inequitable healthcare system. So I see opportunities for public health professionals to leverage technology in powerful ways, as long as they're looking at it as a tool to bridge the gap in the interim, as they're also trying to use policy, address policy so that we don't have a healthcare system that's so inequitable that we're forced to use technology to bridge some of these gaps.

Mulanga: Oh my, as, you are actually talking, I was like, “no!”, but being in South Africa or in developing countries we are so ready for tech-based healthcare to bridge the gap- the health gap because for us, it's literally the difference of being able to give timely information to somebody who might live in really hard to reach areas, right? Or empowering community health workers with a mobile phone, they can go make home visits instead of that person then tracking to the nearest clinic which is probably, for some people if they have to walk, it could take days. So we're very, I guess we're on different sides of the same spectrum in a sense where it's like our health systems are very... They're not equal at all. But I think having tech, being able to use tech mechanisms, tech tools now to bridge that healthcare delivery gap is like what we're really, really, really needing. But thank you for sharing your take on that. So Ashlee, what motivates and inspires you to put in the hours and to do this work every single day?

Ashlee: The stories, the stories of Black women who have unfortunately died because of the inequities in our healthcare system. Reading stories like Amber Rose Isaac, Sha-Asia Washington, just too many Black women to name in the US specifically, those stories, as well as those sad and depressing stories of women who didn't have to die but who died because of a system that failed them and that wasn't designed to provide them quality care. I'm tired of hearing about preventable deaths about Black women. That keeps me going. That's what makes this work feel like no matter how difficult it gets, no matter how uncomfortable it gets like that is the problem, the burden that keeps me up at night. And so I have to keep trying to solve it. I can't just stand by knowing that Black women are dying. Like when I look at the data, I see my mom, I see my sister, I see my best friends, I see myself. And so I can't turn a blind eye to that. The other thing I would say is, the impactful stories that I get from Black women who I've been using are very bare-bones app. That is not the final product, that is not the full fleshed out vision, but they've been sharing their experiences and their stories about connecting with Black doctors on our platform and how they got the diagnosis that they felt within themselves was the diagnosis but other doctors didn't take the time to really explore everything. And they found a Black doctor in Health In Her Hue where they were able to get answers to their questions. Those stories, they always also seem to come in like people DM us on Instagram or tag us on Twitter. They always seem to come in those moments where I'm just like, I don't know if I should keep doing this. I'm not making any money. I should just go apply for a job. And like, just like take the safe route. Those stories always come in right when I'm having those moments of self-doubt and discouragement and they just keep me, they keep me going. I can't, even if I wanted to stop at this point, I can't. So that's what motivates me.

Mulanaga: Thank you, thank you. Actually, we should have definitely encouraged the audience. Viewers, if you have any questions, any comments that you would like to share with Ashlee, please feel free to do so. Ashlee, it's really been a pleasure to have this conversation with you today. I know I've been inspired by the work that you're doing, the work that you've already done, and all the insights you've been so willing to share with us today. So we did receive some pre-submitted questions and there are a lot of people who wanted to know how they can join, physicians and just people who have an interest in the work that you're doing and thinking about how that can work for countries like Ethiopia. So how... Tell the people how they can get involved.

Ashlee: Yeah, so as of today... Yeah, absolutely, so thank you for that question, Mulanga. Or in the audience for so many of those questions in advance. One of the things you can do is download the Health In Her Hue app. So there are two ways you can sign up. You can sign up as a provider if you are a doctor who wants to be listed on the platform, you download the app in the Apple App Store or the Google Playstore. And yeah, sign up as a provider. If you're a doctor and you wanna be listed on the platform. And then if you're a woman of color, a Black woman who's just looking to connect with other women of color who wants to see the content that we have. We have great masterclasses with black doctors and researchers. You wanna ask questions to other women of color. You can download the app and sign up as a member. So those are ways that you can stay engaged with us. We're keeping our users engaged in our journey as we evolve the app and the platform, you will be a part of this journey. So I encourage you all to sign up and also spread the word.

Mulanga: Thank you, thank you. Is there anything else you wanna share with the viewers and you wanna share with me today?

Ashlee: I guess some final words are that, during my time at NYU, there was one professor in one class I took that was I think the class was titled public health systems. And it was taught by Dr. Chris Pernell, who I believe was an adjunct professor. I don't know if she's still there, but she's amazing. And I'm a super fangirl. And she brought in a healthcare, health tech entrepreneur to our class and it opened our eyes, the entire class's eyes to the ways in which we could be innovative within healthcare. And I was so appreciative of that because like I said, I was experiencing my own turmoil, working for an academic medical center and dealing with racism. And I had this idea that was budding in me. And I didn't really know what the idea was gonna be. And then she brought this man in who was a doctor who started his own company. I believe the company was called Sherpa. And it was just a really innovative approach to care. It was about bringing care directly to, like making care of personalized to people and doing home visits. And I'm like, Oh, this is really fascinating. So I, one, want to say I'm grateful for my education at NYU. And this is not just a plug- like NYU is not clearing my student loans because I'm saying that. I'm really appreciative of my time at NYU because it really gave me a strong foundation in terms of understanding the issues that are now allowing me or equipping me to build a company that will, that's building and shaping the healthcare system that I want to see in the future. And I'm excited for that. I'm glad that Dr. Pernell brought that innovative approach to this public health system class that opened my eyes to think about, not just feeling like you have to navigate this existing system but that you can create the system that you wanna see. And so I just wanna encourage any student that's watching this to really open your eyes and think through... think through what kind of career you wanna create for yourself. And more importantly, what world and what healthcare system you want to see and don't feel like you'd have to be pigeonholed to the job opportunities that you see on LinkedIn. Figure out the problem that you wanna solve and lean into that.

Mulanga: Oh, thank you for that. And so in closing, I'm gonna ask you one difficult question. I'm just kidding. Well, what's in the future for Ashlee Wisdom? What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Ashlee: I have a lot of soul-searching to do Mulanga, especially after this call. So much soul searching to do. I did not expect to become an entrepreneur. And in fact, I was supposed to go to medical school and be a doctor and I pivoted, and then I did public health and now I'm building a digital health company. So the roadmap that I had set out for myself has completely changed, it's completely upended, but I'm leaning into the uncertainty and the unpredictability of this all. And what I'll say is that I am excited about impact. I'm excited that my career is now being driven by impact as opposed to just personal success. And that is what I'm excited for. I don't know what the future holds. I do know that I'm much more than Health In Her Hue. Although Health In Her Hue has really now shaped my career in a way that I never imagined, but there's so much more to me. And there's so much more that I care about beyond the work that I'm doing with Health In Her Hue. And this is me just getting started, and I hope that I can support Black entrepreneurs in the future. I hope that I can support entrepreneurs who are public health professionals regardless of race and ethnicity. And just taking everything that I'm learning on this journey and supporting other people with the work that they wanna do.

Mulanga: Ashlee, you are a powerhouse, you are a changemaker. I feel so privileged to have been nominated to have this conversation with you. I mean, Health In Her Hue, and all the other work that you've done and you're still doing in the health space, trying to bring equality and justice to the health space is really great. You're creating very meaningful and impactful work. And I am so proud to have been in conversation with you today. And I hope that we will keep in contact because I think you and I have a lot of similarities. I also wanted to go be a doctor and I pivoted and did my MPH. And then I added an MBA to that to then branch into entrepreneurship. So it's been so lovely talking to you. And I've been seeing comments here of people saying they really enjoyed your insights. They enjoyed listening to this conversation. So thank you to all the viewers. Thank you for giving us 45 minutes of your day and listening to our conversation. And Ashlee, thank you once again for being here tonight.

Ashlee: Thank you for having a conversation with me, Mulanga, and for moderating this. And I think we, everyone who tuned in and who'll be tuning in after the fact is, this is great. I appreciate you having me.

Mulanga: Great.