Women to Watch: Dawn Abernathy


Dawn Abernathy is the Lead Patient Advocate for Educated Alternative and Registered Medical Assistant for Primero Cannabis Clinics. She is a passionate advocate for patient access, veterans, and cannabis education – her early involvement makes her a woman to watch. 

In Abernathy’s words, Educated Alternative is a “medical marijuana advocacy center designed to address the most pressing problems found in the cannabis community, lack of education and funds. The goal is to provide information and financial assistance to the patients in need through a series of charity-driven programs and seminars.”

Primero Cannabis Clinics is a medical cannabis certification clinic for Missouri and Illinois residents.

Dawn Abernathy of Educated Alternative/Primero Clinics

Abernathy has a diverse professional background with experience in retail, dispatch, telemarketing, and more. 

We talked to Abernathy about her background, and she tells us, “I honestly feel I’ve been working in a professional capacity long before earning an income. I grew up with entrepreneurial professional parents (jacks of all trade type) and as an only child, I absorbed everything I was exposed to like a sponge. Being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was raised in a loving but extremely strict Christian household, and because of that, I can speak with anyone about nearly anything and respectfully debate opposing points. From my father’s nearly 50 years in law enforcement and my late mother’s background in all things secretarial with a 99wpm typing speed, I was a kid running in the back stacks or working the switchboard answering calls in downtown’s St. Louis Public Library Central and Film branches, out-reading summer reading goals threefold year after year & teen volunteering before I was actually a teen.” 

She tells us she has always supported cannabis for medicinal use.

In private, that is.

Coming from a strict Christian family, cannabis was not even seen as an option.

“I suffer from migraines,” Dawn said. “I found that it was the only medicine that has ever worked for me since I smoked the first time in high school at 15 years old. I’ve had migraines since I was 13 years old.”

Abernathy says her realization of cannabis as life-saving medicine was a two-tiered experience.

“The first tier was 6 years ago,” she says. “I tore my ACL in my left knee, and I felt I was becoming addicted to the opioids I was prescribed for the pain I was living with daily. I was the mother of three kids, 14, 10 & 3 years old that still needed their mom to be mom, not a sleepy hurting zombie.”


She says the second part of her realization was when she was prescribed medication for her panic attacks that came with unpleasant side effects. 

Abernathy lost her mother to breast cancer in 2003.

When I lost my mother I didn’t have an option or knowledge to present her with cannabis due to the stigma religiously or legally, and I will always feel I should’ve done more to at least have her comfortable and maybe, just maybe, I could have kept her here with me longer,” she said. “I was only 22 years old, pregnant, and barely married with no idea of what to do with the cards I was dealt. Years after losing her, I helped a friend while their mother was transitioning and fighting a five year battle with breast cancer like my mom. I found that when she decided to smoke cannabis, she improved. Even if it was only her appetite picking up, or pain reduction, cannabis let her have a fighting chance with more glimmers of hope.”

At one point in Abernathy’s professional career, she was laid off by her healthcare call center job.

“I was basically the medical assistant on the floor for call escalation with serious patient issue calls,” Abernathy says.

Because of that experience, Abernathy “was able to baby step into the industry. I noticed a cannabis clinic post that they were looking for work-from-home call agents with the chance to work in the clinic with patients directly part-time. I emailed my resume in, and we waited to see if cannabis would be legalized medicinally in 2018. By New Year’s Day 2019, our CEO asked if I was ready to work! I was and jumped in eagerly, wanting to learn everything immediately. I was able to cut my teeth in and meet amazing people along the way. I had a chance to make a difference in the Illinois market by just learning quietly and making connections. When I was presented with an opportunity to work at a structured, five-day a week clinic dedicated serving those that are veterans or on disability, I had to be a part of that team and support that mission. It’s been an amazing almost year now!”

“It’s important to be able to provide the services we provide to the Bi-State region because there is still a severe shortage of cannabis-friendly/cannabis supportive physicians in the area,” Abernathy says. “There is also a shortage of advocates offering guidance and assistance in just knowing what a patient’s next steps are. As with any medical-clinic/patient relationship, we maintain contact and provide advisement from the physician to their patients. We are one of the few that are providing these services at our clinics in both Illinois and Missouri, it is not unheard of to see providers in the neighboring state. Southern Illinois per capita has more patients than providers, so we must help where the need is.”