Interview with Dawn Menning: Canary Health’s Director of Clinical Services


What’s unique about being a coach at Canary Health?


Dawn: It’s really three elements of coaching here at Canary Health that are distinct.  But before that, I must say what is not distinct.  What is not distinct to Canary Health but is so present here – is the incredible commitment we have and that our coaches have to making a difference in peoples’ lives.  I must admit that prior to joining Canary Health almost three-years ago, I was a bit skeptical about digital coaching – I thought it would be hard to build a real relationship with someone remotely and primarily through messaging.  But, just like great coaches across healthcare, that is what we do – build impactful relationships that support those we’re coaching.  In fact, I think we might actually build deeper, richer relationships having many shorter interactions across time versus a few more intense but less frequent interactions.  What I mean is the 15-20 or so times that I see a participant’s progress or get a message from them and engage for 3-5 minutes each week or two – I actually get to see more of their lives and understand their situation better than if I had a one one-hour session per month.


And now, on to what is really distinct about being a Canary Health coach.  First, is the breadth of people we get to coach – across all ages, demographics, geographies.  We’re not bound to one chronic condition, but really helping so many.  Second, because some of the basic elements of more typical coaching – like education and logging behaviors – are handled by the program application, Canary Health coaches spend almost all their time on the coaching.  Meaning we get to do what I love and what human beings do so well – dive into the heart of the challenges/opportunities facing those we’re coaching.  And lastly, Canary Health offers tremendous flexibility to its coaches.  Each coach can determine how many participants they want to take on, gets the chance to work from home, and most importantly, because the vast majority of the coaching is based on asynchronous messaging, each coach gets to determine when during the day they coach.  It is safe to say that coaching at Canary Health really can fit into the lives of our coaches.


What is most rewarding about being a Canary Health coach?


Dawn: I really value that I get to work with and coach so many different people.  I am engaging individuals of all ages and from across the whole country.  And interestingly, I see so many different challenges.  It’s really rewarding to see that what we do – what I do – can help in so many different ways to support people making and achieving their goals.


Can you share a story of someone you coached?


Dawn: There are so many great stories – it is really rewarding to be part of so many peoples’ lives, but one does stand out.  You know we have to protect privacy so we’ll call this participant Michael.  And Michael’s story is touching because it was both so personal but also similar to so many stories, and because for Michael to get healthier physically he also had to work through his situation more broadly.  He was in an unhappy place and in a bit of a vicious cycle where being overweight impacted his sense of self and contributed to poorer choices.  Michael is in his 60’s and for him the starting place was to get more active.  He began to go to the gym – challenging and even embarrassing for him at first – but actually relatively quickly began to feel better.  And I remember, one message about four months after I started coaching him – So I think I have a new girlfriend – was how it started.  I loved seeing that “I think,” and though I had never met him in-person or actually heard his voice, I could imagine him saying that out loud.  And now I would say Michael is flourishing and full of energy.


What would you say to someone considering becoming a Canary Health coach?


Dawn: Join us!  Coaches are like a little family in the larger Canary Health family.  You’ll see chatter on our Slack channel (by the way,  love that I know these tech terms and tools and I would tell interested coaches – don’t worry if you don’t know them yet).  Coaching here you really get to focus on the personal items hindering or enabling those you coach.  You get to spend more time on the part of coaching that most of us love.  And on top of that you’ll grow your skills here – skills in modern, technology enabled coaching, skills around connecting with individuals more deeply and personalizing your coaching to them.  You’ll appreciate it and you’ll feel appreciated.  And as I said in response to the earlier question – you’ll get to coach — fitting into your life and your time.


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