First In Wellness is a team of experienced and highly-specialized coaches from around the world. We provide goal-oriented, personalized, preventative health and wellness programs designed to meet the specific challenges faced by firefighters. Our programs are educational and encourage meeting small goals to build motivation for lasting lifestyle changes. We use a functional medicine, preventative care model and utilize core principles of several behavioral change models.


Danielle Cook Kawash, MS, RD, NBC-HWC

Founder First in Wellness, Dietitian

Danielle is the founder and nutrition expert at First In Wellness. She has a diverse background in health as a university educator, published author, personal trainer, and clinical dietitian. She co-developed and participated in wellness programs with the Berkeley Fire Department and Santa Clara County Fire Department. Specializing in Functional Medicine, Danielle uses this integrated, preventative approach as the foundation for the First In Wellness program development. Danielle has a master’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science, along with a Board Certification in Health and Wellness Coaching.


Mike Salemi, BA,BS

Founder Kettlebell Lifestyle

Mike is the creator of the Kettlebell Lifestyle Program, the main fitness component of First In Wellness programs. He specializes in human performance and is a sought after international presenter in the field of health and fitness. Mike has competed over the course of 15+ years as an elite level athlete in Powerlifting and Kettlebell Sport. He has served as a Division 1 strength and conditioning coach for Santa Clara University, and trained elite athletes across a wide range of sports. Mike developed and taught the fitness and corrective exercise branch of the wellness program for the Santa Clara County Fire Department. Following that successful collaboration with Danielle, Mike co-developed the foundation of the First In Wellness fitness program.


Simon Matthews, FASLM, MHlthSci, DipIBLM, MAPS

Director of Coaching, Psychologist

Simon is certified in Health Coaching and Lifestyle Medicine. He’s the CEO of Wellcoaches® Australia School of Health Coaching. Simon is also an Adjunct Lecturer at Avondale College University Lifestyle Medicine & Health Research Centre and is on teaching faculty with Wellcoaches USA. He’s the Chief Psychologist and Director of Program and Learning Development for Likevekt Helse, the Director of the US not-for-profit Global Positive Health Institute, and the Director of the Australian not-for-profit Practice Excellence Institute. Simon consults and presents nationally and internationally in the areas of health coaching, behaviour change, positive psychology and lifestyle medicine. Simon has extensive experience working with first responders and ex-military personnel to assess and treat PTSD.


Ashwin Patel, Ph.D.

Mental Skills Coach

Ashwin is currently a Professor and Program Coordinator for the Sport Management, Recreation, and Leisure Services programs at Humber College as well as co-founder of Sport and Wellness Consulting. Since 2003 he has provided mental performance consulting to individuals and groups. He works with professional athletes from the  Vancouver Canucks hockey team, the Ontario Hockey League, and Hockey Canada’s U17 team. Ashwin received his Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of Tennessee.


Noah Gentner, Ph.D., NBC-HWC, CPHWC, RHC

Mental Skills Coach

Noah provides Mental Training and Wellness Coaching with a focus on performance enhancement, psychological resilience and agility, and healthy living. He is also a Mental Health First Aid instructor, a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, WellCoaches Certified Professional Health and Wellness Coach, and a Registered Health Coach as recognized by the Canadian Health Coach Alliance. With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Noah is now a Professor and Program Coordinator for the Wellness Coaching Post Graduate program at Humber College in Toronto.


Michael Scholtz, MA

Lifestyle Coach, Exercise Physiologist

Michael is the founder of Vistas Life Coaching. Vistas combines exposure to nature with health and wellness coaching to empower people to achieve their goals. Michael has a master's degree in exercise physiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a Certified Professional Wellness Coach through Wellcoaches, holds the Professional Certified Coach credential from the International Coaching Federation, and is board certified through the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. Michael is also a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise, a strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and a USATF Level 1 track and field coach. He is also co- owner of NOVO Wellness and co-author of Coach Yourself Thin.

Erin Craw, BA, MA, PhD(c)

Research Coordinator

Erin Craw is a second-year doctoral student at Chapman University studying communication with emphasis in health and interpersonal communication. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and journalism from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in health communication from Fairfield University. Erin received her First Responder Support Certification in January 2021 and is currently working toward a certificate in Police Mental Wellness and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing through the College of Certified Psychophysiologists. Her research interests are at the intersection of health and interpersonal communication. More specifically, communication as it relates to social support, stigma, and resilience. Her master’s thesis focused on the barriers and facilitators of mental health-related disclosures in police departments. As the daughter of a police officer and granddaughter of a firefighter, she has a true passion for research that informs mental health-related interventions for first responders, enhances communication surrounding mental health, and improves access to support.  

Betty Gilbert

Program Coordinator

Betty GilbertBetty has a long career history in the bicycle industry as a technical communicator and marketing copywriter, and has owned her writing and design business for over 7 years. She is a trained life coach through Goal Imagery Institute and Martha Beck Institute, and runs a thriving coaching business, Wild Hair Ventures. As Program Coordinator for First In Wellness, Betty combines her passion for wellness with her technical skillset to deliver communication and content for the programs.


FIW Advisory Panel


The First In Wellness Advisory Panel is a skills-based panel that provides advice to the FIW Principals. The Panel reviews and advises on the strategic direction of FIW, and supports the FIW mission. Advisory Panel members provide advice to the FIW principals in the following areas:

  • The strategy and best use of FIW resources
  • FIW Programs and Activities – both existing and yet to be established
  • FIW systems of risk management and internal controls
  • Consultation mechanisms with First Responder communities
  • Building a culture for FIW consistent with its values and purpose

Alexandra Bryant

Alexandra is a career Firefighter with Fire and Rescue NSW and works in a fast paced station located in central Sydney, Australia.  Her areas of operation include Structural, High Rise and Bush Firefighting, Truck Driver, and Pump Operations. Alexandra is also a skilled Social Worker with 20 year in the health field. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Psychology and a Bachelor of Social Work, both from the University of Sydney. She has extensive experience as a Critical Care Social Worker in busy emergency departments and intensive care units, supporting patients and their families through difficult and traumatic experiences.  As a Firefighter, Alexandra values health, strength, and physical fitness, and trains as a Powerlifter to a competitive level.

Bryan Reid

Bryan has been in emergency services since 1985. After working with two smaller fire departments in Alabama he served with Cobb County (GA) Fire & Emergency Services for 27 years, retiring in 2018 as a company officer. He also served on the Cobb County Fire Safety Committee and acted as an assistant to the department fitness coordinator and the Assistant Fire Marshal with the Charleston Fire Department. The certifications he holds include Nationally Registered Paramedic, Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, Specialist in Strength & Conditioning, Specialist in Sports Nutrition, TacFit Field Instructor, Escaping Violent Encounters Instructor, Critical Incident Stress Member, Incident Scene Safety Officer, and Health and Safety Officer. He holds an Associates Degree in Occupational Safety and Health from Columbia Southern University.

John Renner

John has been an Engineer Paramedic with Menlo Park Fire District for 21 years. He’s an avid proponent for health and wellness in his department. In 2007 he joined the wellness committee at Menlo Park and is still an active member. In 2009 John was certified as a Crossfit Level 1 trainer. He has coached at a local Crossfit gym and also shares his fitness knowledge with coworkers. He’s also had additional training in mobility and understands the importance of rest and recovery for building resilience and reducing injuries. Outside of work John’s focus is on his wife of 27 years, his 2 daughters, and hunting with his dog.

Michael Sugrue

Michael began his law enforcement career in the United States Air Force as a Security Forces Officer in 1998. He honorably separated from the Air Force as a Captain in 2004. Immediately after the Air Force, Michael was hired by the Walnut Creek Police Department where he served in a variety of assignments including: Patrol Officer, Driver Training Instructor (EVOC) Field Training Officer (FTO), SIU Detective, Undercover CA DOJ Narcotic Task Force Agent (Contra Costa County), Public Information Officer (PIO), and Patrol Sergeant. Michael was awarded the Walnut Creek PD Distinguished Service Medal in 2014 for his heroic and life saving actions during a Fatal Officer Involved Shooting in 2012. Michael ultimately medically retired in 2018. He is now a Peer Volunteer at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat (WCPR) and an Ambassador for Save A Warrior (SAW). Michael is a dedicated advocate for awareness, prevention, education, training on Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), and First Responder Suicide Prevention. Michael continues to speak at law enforcement agencies all over the United States. Michael is currently working on his first book “Frontline Trauma and The Path to Recovery” with co-author Dr. Shauna Springer PhD (Psychologist and Author).

Paige Russel

Paige is a retired Fire Captain from the Santa Clara County Fire Department. During her tenure at SCCFD, she witnessed many of her fellow firefighters fight cancer, and learned that this is an epidemic in her field. Through research, Paige learned that there are simple behavioral changes that can be followed to reduce exposure. She has become a leader in efforts to reduce firefighter cancer risk. Her work includes writing new policies, promoting best practices, and developing training to insure best outcomes for firefighters’ health and wellness. Paige retired from the job as healthy as she came in. Healthy in. Healthy out. She committed to helping others achieve this outcome.