ENTRY FROM: 2019 Top Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Katie Callender

A Fleeting Friendship that Changed my Career Trajectory

• Current Company: Higginbotham
• Job Title: Senior Wellness & Health Risk Management Consultant
• Industry Type: Insurance
• Years in the Field: 8
• Organization Size: 1,000

• Education: Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and Exercise Physiology
• Certifications achieved:
o American College of Sports Medicine - Certified Exercise Physiologist
o WELCOA – Certified Designation
o WELCOA – Faculty Designation
o Chapman Institute – Certified Wellness Program Coordinator
o Chapman Institute – Certified Wellness Program Manager
o Chapman Institute – Certified Wellness Program Director
o Chapman Institute – Certified Wellness Program Consultant
o American Red Cross – Adult and Pediatric First Aid, CPR, AED
o Corporate Health & Wellness – Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist
o Texas Department of Insurance – General Lines Agent

• Academic honors received, awards won, recognition received (organizational, program, or individual):
o Individual
 Worksite Wellness Leaders Alliance – Director
 Fort Worth Business Press - Published Article
o Organizational/Program
 WELCOA – Well Workplace, Gold
 National Association for Business Resources - Nation’s Best & Brightest in Wellness
 American Heart Association – Workplace Health Achievement, Gold
 Healthiest Employers - Dallas, Houston, Austin, & San Antonio Business Journals
 Blue Zones Project Approved Worksite – First Certified Worksite in Fort Worth
 Austin Mayor’s Health & Fitness Council - Healthiest Worksite Award, Silver
 San Antonio Business Group on Health – Healthy Workplace Recognition, Platinum
 American Diabetes Association – Health Champion

Callender Headshot

My journey through the wellness world has had a few twists and turns, some in my favor, some obscure and unwarranted.  In high school, I worked at the local gym, primarily interacting with children – kid’s camp, mother’s night out, lifeguarding, you name it.  My first year at Oklahoma State University was one spent as an Early Childhood Education major.  I wanted to make a difference in the world, starting with our greenest generations.  After a few classes and some hands-on experience, I gained a new appreciation for professionals working with a large amount of children at one time – they have a heart of gold, and mine was bronze at best. 

The summer after my freshman year, I went back to work at the same gym and became friends with the Personal Trainers.  I was so envious of their lifestyle – flexible hours, knowledge of the human body, and the best part - workout clothes… worn to work!  Beyond the apparent glamour, they had a meaningful and personal relationship with each of their clients.  During PT sessions, clients often talked about their strife at work, their child’s latest accomplishments, or simply what they ate for dinner.  For me, it was a no-brainer.  I switched my major the following semester to Nutrition and Exercise. 

When I returned to school, the obvious top job pick for me was the university recreation center, The Colvin.  Students fought for these positions, so chances were slim.  Sure enough, I landed the dream job, I’m sure with much credit given to the major listed on my application.  I worked at the Colvin and the Seretean Wellness Center through the remainder of my stay in Stillwater, Oklahoma, soaking in all of the resources and opportunities there was to offer for a flourishing student in health promotion.

After graduating Cum Laude, earning my certification through ACSM, spending some time as a Personal Trainer, and realizing that I was by no means a sales person, I was offered a job at Higginbotham as a Wellness Coordinator.  This role would launch me into the field that would become my current career. 

Naturally, I am looked at by clients and internal employees alike as “the wellness girl”.  As a fundamental and inherent job duty for this position, I strive to be someone that has confidence in my health and can be a role model for the average person.  To do so, I have had periods of struggle, but have managed to maintain an active lifestyle, training for marathons, Spartan races, and developing a vegetarian diet.  Some might consider this extreme, but I believe the body is an amazing structure that can be pushed to (and through) perceived limits.  My continuous ploy for “what’s next” leads me to believe that long-term goals can help keep you motivated, help you adapt to change, allow you to accommodate your current situation, and overcome obstacles.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Eleanor Roosevelt, “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do”.

As a Wellness Coordinator, I was responsible for helping a large client launch a wellness program for their 6,000 employees.  Because this was a new role to Higginbotham, there was no training guide or learning manual – candidly, I made it up as I went along.  There were a few learning curves and times when I was gently forced outside of my comfort zone, but the result was a young professional with a conscious effort to become more resilient. 

As my experience grew and I was promoted to Senior Wellness Consultant, I began working with clients that needed a comprehensive wellness initiative - something to ease their negative claims experience, alleviate staggering medical trends, and ultimately help the bottom line.  I was also tasked with managing Higginbotham’s internal wellness program… no pressure, right?

I quickly learned that I had to meet the needs of two completely different subsets – senior management and employees.  Naturally, those in the c-suite wanted to see outcomes through numbers – return on investment, decreases in medical spend, and many other seemingly impossible elements to quantify.  Meanwhile, I needed to find a way to please the employees who were actually taking part in the program, help them earn their incentive, and not have my name said in vein more than a few times a day.  Over the past 6 years, I have tried to please both sides of the coin by playing a very delicate game of seesaw. 

Senior management loves community recognition, so it was incredibly fortuitous that a major health initiative came to Fort Worth in 2015.  The BlueZones Project is a global movement that encourages communities to make lasting change by involving worksites, schools, restaurants, and other organizations to “make the healthy option the easy option”.  In order to become BlueZones certified worksite, companies had to implement efforts in varying areas of wellness: healthy vending options, allowing volunteer time, bringing sanctioned events onsite, etc.  With many existing initiatives already in place, we were able to move quickly through the application, but were also compelled to look at what was missing and perhaps think outside the proverbial wellness box. 

We looked at aggregate data to determine what we should focus on, and use that to define our future efforts.  For example, our screening results showed a large population with moderate or high-risk blood glucose (23.6% to be precise).  With that in mind, we decided a priority would be to develop a healthy catering policy, implement free fresh fruit, and ditch the candy in the vending machine.  Not to fly my own kite, but Higginbotham became the first BlueZones worksite in Fort Worth!

In my current role, I have the honor of working with over 150 clients, all of varying size, industries, and demographics.  With the inherent obstacles that come with implementing effective wellness programs across different populations, I have learned to appreciate diverse lifestyles, remember that most do not have a background in health promotion, and value the work of those that have progressed in this industry. 

During my time at Higginbotham, there has been a 360° shift in the definition of corporate wellness.  Early on, describing my role as a “Wellness Professional” was heard through outsiders ears’ as “yoga instructor”, “essential oil consumer”, or some other holistic expert trained to make people feel good.  When senior managers started buying into corporate wellness, the focus shifted to essentials: nutrition and exercise – anything to make employees healthy and save money.  When those efforts did not influence the bottom line as anticipated, it adapted back to a total well-being approach, this time including initiatives around mental or financial wellness, resiliency, and work-life balance.

If the industry can find an effective balance between the pillars of wellness, I believe the biggest opportunity for advancement lies in the future.  While we have certainly determined many best practices and strategies, I plan to impact our industry by evolving those efforts through research and data analytics, benchmarking, and real-world experimentation.

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Katie C.
I joined Higginbotham in 2012 after working as a personal trainer. I have a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University in nutritional sciences and exercise physiology. I am a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine and a Certified Wellness Program Coordinator, Manager, Director, and Consultant through the Chapman Institute. As a Health Risk Management Consultant, I assesses employers’ culture and develop wellness programs that have a direct impact on their workforce by improving employee morale and productivity, decreasing absenteeism and ultimately containing cost. I also administer the internal wellness program for Higginbotham's workforce. View Katie C.'s Profile.
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I vote for Katie Callendar because she knows her job and does it very well

Donna K. on 4/24/2019

I vote for Marie because she knows her job & does it so well

Donna K. on 4/24/2019

I vote for Katie Callender. She’s the BEST! She also loves salsa and is denied it sometimes

Gay L. on 3/22/2019

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