Participant Spotlight: Brandee Hicks

In our latest Participant Spotlight, we chatted with Brandee Hicks. Brandee shared some of her favorite things from our programs, what brings her joy, and a little bit about her own work as a disability advocate.

Tell us about yourself.

I’ve lived in metro Atlanta for nearly 20 years, but I will always have a soft spot for my hometown of Detroit.

I am an experienced learning and public health researcher as well as a disability inclusion and accessibility advocate. And it is as an advocate that I use my public health experience and keen eye for identifying community needs that I started B. Out the Box. I launched B. Out the Box with the goal of changing the narrative around people with disabilities, exposing gaps in community accessibility, and celebrating innovative solutions for creating environments that are open to people of all abilities.

When did you connect with NCHPAD?

It was a few years ago when I was looking to build my network around disability advocacy work as well as possible job leads. A former colleague introduced me to Amy Rauworth with the Lakeshore Foundation. I met with her to talk about work within the disability space and building a network. She talked about NCHPAD and other avenues. I started doing some research and did a few NCHPAD exercise videos online here and there.

However, I learned about Movement-2-Music (M2M) through an Instagram ad! I saw a post about the program, so I reached out, and that’s what got the ball rolling over this past year. I did the screening for M2M, but my blood pressure was up so I couldn’t participate in that yet. Lori, who I talked to about M2M, told me about MENTOR, and I participated in the cohort that started in October 2022. I’m so grateful to Lori for telling me about the program!

What NCHPAD programs have you been part of?

MENTOR and NCHPAD Coffee Club.

What did you like about them?

Right away I noticed how comprehensive and well-planned MENTOR was – and that hooked me immediately. It’s hard to believe that all the knowledge, equipment, and time that I received was at no cost to me. The programs took away any barriers or excuses that I could make, and I appreciate that I could participate from home since I don’t drive.

I also liked having a schedule to get me into a routine and I had something to look forward to. It helped me feel like I “had a life” and had a group that I belonged to.

It’s difficult for me to identify which component in MENTOR I got the most out of because they were all so good! Mindfulness with Tara challenged me because this is an area where I struggle the most sometimes.

I would say that I was most surprised about what I learned from Lacey about nutrition because I tend to pay attention to my diet and read labels and thought that I had it covered. However, I learned so much about the types of fiber, the 5 areas to focus on when identifying a healthier option, and the safety tips and recipes were really helpful.

I also really enjoyed the coaching sessions with Carla. They helped reinforce everything and were a great way to cap off the week.

It was also good to have a time set aside during the day to get some exercise in, and I liked having access to John Ream’s videos.

In addition, I really appreciate that I still have access to all the resources plus some bonus information and exercises in Healthie. The instructors still respond if I ping them in the chat with a question or note!

Tell us why you would recommend a NCHPAD program or NCHPAD Connect to someone else.

I have told other people about NCHPAD, and I will continue to do so. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain. It’s an opportunity to enhance key areas in their life (e.g., mindset, fitness, and connection) and they can do it all from the comfort of their own home. I’m not aware of anywhere else a person with a disability can go to access the quality or quantity of support and services that are available through NCHPAD.

What brings you joy?

I’m a research junkie so I get excited when I find or learn something new. I love reading, watching movies and ATL football with my husband, good food, and music.

I also enjoy engaging in activities where I can share my lived experience and insight to help underserved populations and improve healthcare experiences for all. I have done this as an activist involved in legislative and policy efforts, a patient family advisor, and a PCORI merit reviewer.

What else would you like us to know?

I’m sold on NCHPAD and look forward to all their programs because I know that it will be useful and engaging. I’m also currently in the UAB Arts in Medicine writing for healing program. I know that this is external to NCHPAD, but the impression is so strong that I knew that it would be worthwhile, and it has been a valuable experience and has helped me find another tool to use in my journey.

How has this impacted your life? Is there anything you’ve learned from NCHPAD that has impacted your life?

Besides the education and resources, I would say having a community or network has made these groups most meaningful for me. Although I may not talk much during the session or connect outside the group, it’s great to know that they’re there and that I’m adding to my support team.

Is there a particular person you’d like to give a shoutout, like an instructor, health coach, etc?

I’ve been blessed to connect with an amazing group of people throughout these programs and it hasn’t even been a year yet. Everyone has been so awesome, and I appreciate all the staff, instructors, and coaches that I’ve met. I would love to highlight Stephanie Ward not only for her work with NCHPAD Coffee Club but also for her responsiveness and openness even outside of the club. She is a warm beam of light I’m grateful that we have connected.