All of us at WellStart bring diverse passion and experience to one unified mission: Devoting our talents to ending the chronic disease epidemic and boosting quality of life for people everywhere.
Olivia Kelly, MPH, began her lifelong expedition in healthcare by starting a fitness training business in her undergrad days at UCLA, where she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology.
After gigs teaching surfing on Maui and writing for the Rough Guides, her father informed her that she would have to go indoors to earn a living. A stint working in the first dot com boom for an early internet service provider got her thinking about how to harness social networks and mass communication to inspire healthier lifestyles.
Her writing and communications background led her to a communications director and speechwriter role with a Los Angeles city council member, whom she helped position for a subsequent role as U.S. Congresswoman. It was her experience in the council deputy job that inspired Olivia to study health policy. After graduating from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health in 2013, in the department of Health Policy and Management, Olivia worked at UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, spearheading an impact investing project focused on improving population health throughout the lifecourse.
An idea Olivia first developed in one of her MPH courses just wouldn't go away, and, a few iterations later, is what has now become WellStart Health.
Olivia is perpetually excited about sharing the innumerable benefits of a healthy lifestyle with others.
Her favorite vegetable is eggplant – yes, a nightshade -- and she loves spending time with her family, running, surfing, skiing, camping, traveling, and cleaning up cereal spills, along with an affinity for Latin American culture.
Olivia Kelly, MPH
Howard Jacobson, PhD is Chief Behavioral Science Officer at WellStart Health. He is contributing author to Whole, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Proteinaholic, by Garth Davis, MD, and the host of the Plant Yourself Podcast.
As co-founder of WellStart Health, Howard guides clients to adopt and maintain lifestyle and dietary habits in alignment with their health goals and life values. Howard has been coaching high performers since 2001. He sits on the advisory board of the International Coach Certification Alliance, and is a certified in Peter Bregman’s QUICC Coaching methodology, BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits, and Glenn Livingston’s Never Binge Again system. He is a visiting scholar at Duke University’s Institute for Advanced Hindsight.
Howard is also a digital marketing strategist. The author of Google AdWords For Dummies, he has consulted and taught marketing strategy in the US, Europe, and South Africa. He is a columnist for Fast Company and The Huffington Post, and has contributed to Harvard Business Review.
Howard earned his MPH and PhD in Health Studies from Temple University, and his BA from Princeton University.
Howard lives on an ecological farm in rural North Carolina, where he writes, gardens, plays Ultimate Frisbee, runs ultra marathons, and practices Russian Martial Arts. Howard’s goals include shaking up healthcare, sharing how delicious and joyful a healthy life can be, save the planet, and reintroducing people to their most authentic, bipedal, plant-eating, antifragile, best selves. And maybe someday not finish last at the Leadville Marathon.
Howard Jacobson, PhD
Chief of Behavioral Science
A passionate advocate for eating plants and running, Josh LaJaunie has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, People magazine, Runner’s World magazine, and the Rich Roll Podcast.
Josh grew up in Thibodaux, LA, and proudly embraced all aspects of his culture: hunting, fishing, playing high school football, rooting for the Saints, and eating and drinking to excess.
In his early 30s, Josh tipped the scales at well over 400 pounds. As more and more friends and family members suffered and died too young from chronic diseases caused by their diet and lifestyle, Josh woke up and decided to turn his life around.
Through pragmatic experiments, Josh explored weightlifting, Atkins, paleo, and many other approaches to weight loss. When he began running, the first hundred pounds melted away like magic.
When he adopted a whole food, plant-based diet, the second hundred disappeared. At under 200 pounds, Josh discovered a passion and talent for running, one that led him to appear on the cover of Runner’s World magazine in December, 2016.
As his family, friends, and wider community observed the stunning changes in Josh, he became an accidental guide and mentor to others who wanted to emulate his success. His immediate family has lost over a thousand pounds.
The secret Facebook group that Josh co-founded, the Missing Chins Run Club, includes men from all over the world who are losing hundreds of pounds, reversing their diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and finding joy through living a healthy lifestyle.
At WellStart Health, Josh spends most of his waking moments pounding the drum of plants and running as a way to achieve a natural, non-diseased, authentic human existence; and swinging a giant sledge hammer at the current health paradigm that ignores lifestyle and simply manages disease once it arises.
He teaches, coaches, and promotes the concept that we can take the reins of our health destiny.
Chief Brand Ambassador
Anthony Dissen, MPH, MA, RDN, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in community and public health, plant-based nutrition, and holistic and integrative healthcare modalities.
Working in the field of community nutrition and health education since 2005, Anthony is currently an Instructor of Health Sciences at Stockton University and an Integrative Dietitian at CentraState Medical Center.
He graduated from Rutgers University with a BS in Dietetics, completing his Supervised Clinical Practice in Dietetics from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2009. Anthony also holds a Masters in Holistic Health Studies from Georgian Court University, and a Master of Public Health Degree with a concentration in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
He worked as the Outpatient and Community Education Dietitian for University Medical Center of Princeton, and was the Lead Educator and Chef for the Whole Foods Market Wellness Club in Princeton.
Anthony Dissen, MPH, MA, RDN
VP of Nutrition - WellStart Health
Anthony Dissen, MPH, MA, RDN
VP of Nutrition
Jessica Barnette, MPH, is always looking for new ways to meet individuals who share her love for healthy living.
After graduating from Santa Clara University with a BA in Communications, Jessica spent two years in the Peace Corps, teaching English in western Ukraine.
During her service, she got involved with HIV/AIDS awareness and helped start a summer camp for HIV+ youth.
Having previously worked in various global health roles at UCLA, Jessica has a particular interest in the intersection of health, media and technology.
She has her MPH in Community Health Sciences from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and will be graduating with her MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in June 2019.
In her free time, you can find Jessica planning her next adventure (she's been to over 50 countries on 5 continents), running (she's an 8-time marathon finisher) or listening to her favorite podcast, This American Life. Her favorite vegetable is butternut squash.
Director of Operations
John is a seasoned designer, programmer and entrepreneur. His expertise is in software development for startups.
After completing General Assembly’s backend web development program in 2014, he’s co-founded and developed several successful startups.
He’s also helped many existing business bring their businesses online through app and platform development.
When he’s not writing code you can find John jogging or dabbling in photography.
Our Coaches and Dietitians
Karen Smith is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator, and is passionate about helping people understand the powerful role food plays in preventing and reversing chronic disease. Karen helped create and co-facilitates lifestyle medicine group programs at Progressive Health of Delaware. She also teaches Food for Life nutrition and cooking classes and provides individual nutrition counseling and coaching through her private practice. Karen is an avid runner and fitness enthusiast and loves spending time outdoors.
Coach Karen WellStart
Board & Advisors
CEO Launchpad Digital Health
Bojana Jankovic Weatherly, MD, MSc
Andrew Freeman MD, FACC FACP
Department of Cardiology, National Jewish Health
Brian T. Kelly, MBA
Entrepreneur, Health Care COO
Lindsey Mcilvena, MD, MPH
Lifestyle Medicine Physician
Leah Vriesman sPhD, MHA, MBA
Associate Adjunct Professor UCLA Fielding School of Public Health
Benefits Expert & Consultant
Experienced healthcare CEO Business Operations Expert