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About Dr. Carla

Brief Biography

HeadshotDr. Carla Stokes, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a professional speaker and certified success coach for life, school and business. She provides health education, self-empowerment, and personal development programs for women, youth and girls through her speaking, coaching and consulting practice.  A multi-passionate social entrepreneur, Dr. Carla is also the founder of Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS)®, an award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underserved young women and girls to develop leadership skills, create positive social change in their communities and realize their full potential.

Dr. Carla has devoted two decades to public health and youth development programming and is internationally recognized as an expert on the impact of media on girls’ health, relationships, identity and sexuality. She is a leader and trailblazer in the fields of women’s and girls’ health, adolescent health, and positive youth development.

Decatur Daily - Protecting the Children - Front PageThrough her pioneering research and transformational work as an educator and coach, Dr. Carla passionately helps youth and girls build resilience, make healthy choices and reach their full potential; empowers parents to communicate effectively with their daughters and help them thrive during the teen and tween years; and prepares educators and concerned adults to deliver effective girls’ programming. As a business coach and mentor to women who work with girls, she teaches her clients how to monetize their passions and build enjoyable and profitable businesses so they can have a bigger impact without burning out.

A sought-after, dynamic and memorable speaker, Dr. Carla has lectured widely and delivered powerful messages to diverse audiences of youth, parents, women, researchers, educators, public health practitioners, youth-serving professionals and concerned adults.  She was featured as one of “30 Allies in 30 Days” by SPARK, a girl-fueled movement that advocates for the development of girls’ healthy sexuality and self-esteem.

Dr. Carla is available for speaking engagements, in-person and virtual coaching, media appearances, spokesperson opportunities, writing opportunities and consulting projects.

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Professional Biography

Carla Stokes, Ph.D., M.P.H., affectionately known as “Dr. Carla,” is an internationally recognized women’s and adolescent health and behavior expert, professional youth empowerment speaker and certified success coach.  Her personal mission is to help women, youth and girls achieve their personal best in life, make healthy choices and thrive during life’s pressures and transitions.

Public Health Researcher, Health Educator and Youth Expert

Dr. Carla’s activism and original research in the areas of women’s and girls’ health, adolescent health, girlhood and sexuality has been highlighted in academic books and studied in multidisciplinary courses at institutions around the world ranging from Ivy League universities to small liberal arts colleges. She has been featured in national media outlets and popular web sites including The New York Times, Reuters, Woman’s Day, Ebony, Heart & Soul Magazine, Daughters, Real Health: The Black Wellness Magazine, The Crisis, American Sexuality magazine, AlterNet and  She has also been interviewed as an expert on morning shows and television networks around the United States such as NBCCBS and Fox.

Dr. Carla’s pioneering scholarly research on the intersections between adolescent girls’ sexuality, identity and body image with youth culture, hip hop and social media has appeared in scholarly publications including the international peer-reviewed journal, Culture, Health & Sexuality and the book, Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity, edited by Sharon Mazzarella.  As an expert on public health, girl empowerment and teen health and behavior, she has presented her research and community-based work at scientific meetings and national conferences of professional associations including the American Public Health Association, American Anthropological Association and the National Council for Research on Women.

Dr. Carla graduated cum laude from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts degree and departmental honors in Psychology.  She earned Doctor of Philosophy (with distinction) and Master of Public Health degrees in Health Behavior and Health Education (with a cognate in Social Work) from the University of Michigan (consistently ranked in the top five schools of public health and #1 school of social work in the U.S.) under the advising of Professors Larry Gant and Marcia Inhorn.  Her doctoral dissertation research was funded by a competitive Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation/Johnson & Johnson Dissertation Grant in Women’s Health and won honorable mention in the University of Michigan Distinguished Dissertation Awards competition (selected from more than 660 dissertations).

Dr. Carla at School of Public Health

Dr. Carla with University of Michigan School of Social Work Professor Dr. Larry Gant at the Rackham Graduate School’s Centennial Doctoral Alumni Lecture sponsored by the Department of Health Behavior & Health Education

At the University of Michigan, Dr. Carla’s doctoral training focused on improving the health of women, teens, girls and communities of color by developing, implementing and evaluating effective programs and strategies to promote healthy choices and behaviors.  She also taught courses on women’s health and representations of women in hip hop and popular culture as an instructor in the Department of Women’s Studies. Dr. Carla investigated racial/ethnic health disparities and health policy issues as a National Institutes of Health Doctoral Trainee at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture & Health, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Health Policy Research Fellow and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Public Health Fellow. She was one of four distinguished doctoral alumni of the University of Michigan’s Department of Health Behavior and Health Education invited to lecture in honor of the Rackham Graduate School’s Centennial celebration, which showcased noteworthy careers and scholarly work of the University’s graduates.

Dr. Carla completed her Master of Public Health field placement at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Adolescent and School Health.  After earning her Ph.D., she completed a two-year post-doctoral research fellowship at the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, where she conducted research on HIV prevention in communities of color and women’s and adolescent health under the mentorship of senior behavioral scientists.  For more than 15 years, she has provided program development, evaluation, technical assistance, web development and consulting services to community-based organizations, nonprofits, schools, colleges/universities, and private corporations that reach women, youth, girls and people of color.

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Professional Speaker

Dr Carla on stage

Dr. Carla was the featured speaker at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Smart Girls Expo at the National Keystone Conference in Anaheim, California.

A sought-after, dynamic and memorable speaker, Dr. Carla has lectured widely at schools, universities, professional conferences, and youth-serving organizations around the United States.  She delivers powerful messages to youth, women, parents, educators, health care and social service professionals, and concerned adults through multimedia keynote addresses, breakout sessions, workshops, retreats, teleseminars, webinars and training programs.

She uses her knowledge, insight, creativity, humor and compassion to address pertinent topics related to women’s and adolescent health, youth development, leadership, academic success, popular culture and media, personal development, relationships and self-empowerment.

Dr. Carla blends her training and research with personal stories of self-discovery and overcoming personal challenges to educate, inspire and encourage her audiences to make positive choices and take responsibility for their actions.  Her work has inspired women, youth and girls to make healthy choices, pursue their dreams, and realize their full potential.

Dr. Carla’s Speaking Programs

Certified Life Coach and Mentor to Young Women and Girls


As a certified life and personal development coach, Dr. Carla combines her extensive training as a behavioral scientist with her real-life experience as a health educator, speaker and mentor to inspire women, youth and girls to become more confident, overcome challenges and achieve their greatest potential. Through private and group coaching sessions, seminars and workshops in person and by phone/Skype/Internet, she teaches young women and girls new ways of thinking about their lives and encourages them to push through limiting beliefs and pressures that hold them back from achieving their goals and dreams.

Dr. Carla’s coaching clients appreciate her nonjudgmental, compassionate, honest, down-to-earth, humorous and laid back style of communicating, which makes it very easy for women and girls to feel comfortable talking to her about their personal lives, challenges, concerns and dreams. Through a range of coaching modalities, she helps her clients develop resilience, resist negative influences, build healthy relationships with adults and peers, embrace their authentic selves, maximize their strengths and develop a positive self-image. Her unique coaching approach builds on her work as a nonprofit leader, social entrepreneur, researcher and health educator and incorporates media literacy education and positive psychology principles.

Dr. Carla empowers parents and guardians to raise healthy and resilient daughters and shares her expertise, life lessons and advice with young women and girls on a wide range of topics, including academic achievement, college and career planning, decision-making, healthy behaviors, romantic and family relationships, self-esteem, body image, friendship, entrepreneurship,  leadership development and goal setting. Dr. Carla’s approach to coaching challenges the common belief that youth need to be controlled by adults. Instead, she partners with young women and girls and focuses on helping them develop their strengths and decision-making skills.

Dr. Carla’s Coaching Programs for Young Women and Girls

Business Coaching, Consulting & Training for Entrepreneurs and Women Who Work With Girls

Dr. Carla developed workshops on media literacy and effective girls’ programming for the Junior League of Monmouth County, NJ.

Dr. Carla offers workshops, webinars and professional development training to help parents, educators, youth-serving professionals and concerned adults better understand and connect with youth and girls.

She is also passionate about mentoring women and teaching them how to monetize their passion of helping young women and girls so they can do what they love, make a difference AND build profitable businesses.

Click here to find out more about Dr. Carla’s business mentoring and coaching programs for entrepreneurs and woman who work with girls.

Founder of Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS)®

Dr. Carla has mentored and educated youth for two decades and is a trailblazer in the fields of youth development and girl empowerment.  As a young woman coming of age in the hip hop generation, she struggled to develop a positive self-image and overcame low self-esteem, unhealthy body image, peer pressure, academic underachievement, toxic friendships and unhealthy relationships.  These experiences serve as the motivation for Dr. Carla’s life’s work and enable her to relate first hand to many of the challenges faced by today’s women, youth and girls.

During her freshman year at Spelman College in the 90’s, Dr. Carla tapped into her passion for health education and youth empowerment while volunteering as a peer health educator and mentor to underserved youth at numerous schools and community organizations in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C.  After realizing that the existing sexuality education and violence prevention curricula needed to be adapted in order to effectively reach her peers in the hip hop generation, she developed her own creative lesson plans and materials that utilized popular TV shows, movies and hip hop/R&B songs and videos to educate urban teens about sexuality, HIV/AIDS, dating violence and other health and social justice issues.  Through these efforts, she recognized the need for youth friendly, age appropriate and culturally relevant health education programs and decided to pursue graduate studies in public health and social work at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Carla and pre-teens after a keynote at a girl empowerment event

After completing her Master of Public Health degree and spending a year working as a health consultant in the Washington, DC area, Dr. Carla answered an urgent call to continue her education and dedicate her life to improving the health and lives of young women and girls. Shortly after returning to the University of Michigan to pursue her Ph.D., she founded Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS)® in November 2001 with only $20 and a passionate vision for educating youth and empowering disadvantaged young women and girls to realize their full potential.

Since its humble beginnings as an HIV/AIDS education initiative for black young women and teen girls delivered in a social networking site, HOTGIRLS has transformed under Dr. Carla’s leadership into an award-winning youth-driven 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has positively impacted thousands of youth and concerned adults across the United States.  Now celebrating more than 10 years of service, HOTGIRLS is dedicated to improving the health and lives of underserved young women and girls through leadership development, media education, peer health education and youth activism.

Dr. Carla is recognized as a pioneer in the use of hip hop, popular culture and social media to reach, educate and uplift youth and girls and promote media literacy and positive images of women and girls in the media and society.  She serves as a bridge between youth and those who care about, educate, mentor and advocate for them.  Over the years, she has listened to the concerns of thousands of women, youth, parents, educators and professionals and is recognized for her ability to effectively engage and connect with people of all ages from diverse racial/ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Honors & Awards


Over the years, Dr. Carla has been honored for her leadership, achievements and dedication to community service by post-secondary institutions and organizations such as the National Association of University Women, the University of Michigan and Spelman College.

Along with other recognized girl empowerment scholars, leaders, and advocates, she was featured as one of “30 Allies in 30 Days” by SPARK, a girl-fueled movement that advocates for the development of girls’ healthy sexuality and self-esteem.

In recognition of her leadership and service to the Atlanta community, she is one of ten recipients of the Outstanding Young Atlantans Award in 2012.  She was also selected as a member of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Understanding Black-Jewish Young Leadership 2013 class, which provides an opportunity for Black and Jewish leaders to strengthen community relations in Atlanta.

Current Projects

Dr. Carla is currently creating educational and coaching products and programs devoted to healing, inspiring, uniting and uplifting women and girls.

Personal Interests

In her spare time, Dr. Carla enjoys playing with her rescue dog and cats, reading, drawing, sewing, fashion design and visiting small towns to search for vintage sewing patterns.  She grew up in the Washington, DC area and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you’d like to know more about Dr. Carla’s interests when she’s not educating and inspiring women and youth, follow her on Pinterest!

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