How do you choose a doctor? What questions should women be asking their medical professionals? To answer these questions we have Denise Pines, crusader for women’s health. Denise is a doer, someone who catalyzes stuff to happen. She is also incredible fun, having the time of her life, as you can see from the photo above. Who knew a Stanford MBA health expert was so cool?
Women’s midlife health issues are becoming more of a societal conversation, and Denise is right at the center of it, having become a trusted source of valuable information. She is president of the Medical Board of California, with considerable influence and knowledge around all aspects women’s health and how it is being managed in the medical community. She is especially attuned to the disparities of care in the communities of color.
As a serial entrepreneur, she is the founder of WisePause Lifestyle Summit, a tour for premenopausal women, and the FemAging 2020 Tech Index, a report that combines key trends and survey data focusing on diverse women’s preferences for products and services in the tech sector.
You are the president of the Medical Board of California. What do you see that needs to be addressed in women’s health?
Unfortunately more and more, women, even young women are seeing themselves as a diagnosis, a problem or something to be solved. Women’s health is so much more than a medical intervention. If we’re not understanding each woman/girl’s cultural context, misconceptions, self-imagery, life stressors, individuality as well as her medical presentation then we are missing the entire diagnosis. To really effectuate passionately and involved care for women of all ages as a whole, we cannot just address parts of a woman and call it her sum. Each woman and each girl brings a uniqueness that is rich and evolving, and as the founder of WisePause and FemAging, I am prepared to evolve with them.
“Simply being listened to can make an enormous difference in the healthcare system”
What are the differences for women of color in dealing with women’s health?
The intersectionality of gender, race and health is the difference in care for women of color. Simply being listened to can make an enormous difference in the healthcare system, and it explains at least part of why marginalized groups experience worse health outcomes. A University of Maryland study demonstrated that women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men’s by healthcare providers; consequently, women are less likely to be adequately treated for pain. Similarly, The Boston Globe reported that Black pain patients are less likely to receive pain medication than their white peers — and even when Black patients are given pain medicine, they receive less. Black women, of course, are at the intersection of each of these areas of disparate treatment.
How much of those differences have to do with images and role models?
It entirely has to do with systems and structures built long ago. Our systems and structures in health are built on foundations that weren’t inclusive of treatment for women or women of color. In order to change outcomes for communities of color, we have to provide equal access to quality medical care for all.
“Stop focusing on what’s bad, start focusing on what is good for you”
What do you want women over 50 to know?
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you,” Isaiah 26:3. What does this reference mean? Stop focusing on what you don’t want and focus on what you do want. Stop focusing on what’s bad, start focusing on what is good for you. So with our health it means to choose to do things that increase energy, choose things that lower your stress, eat better, get more sleep and prioritize what’s important. So be steadfast about every choice and trust God for the results.
Women’s Health Resources
What are your favorite resources for women’s health?
Women’s Health Advisor by Weill Cornell Medicine; Healthywomen.org; Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Experience Life (My favorite printed magazine), InStyle (we like fashion and it’s good for us).
What are some of the questions that women should ask their doctors?
Women should begin by asking for a saliva, blood, urine test for hormones. Then a series of questions: What can I do to stay healthy throughout my 50s and beyond? What is my baseline blood pressure, blood sugar levels? How often should I be screened for a pap smear and breast cancer? What foods should I be eating more of? How’s my bone health? Ask about liver health; many people have fatty liver which causes all types of health issues. Then they should ask questions to uncover any genetic predisposition like: Does my personal health history increase my risk of developing other age-related health conditions?
Choosing a Doctor
You oversee a lot of doctors via their licensing. How does one choose a doctor?
Once you turn 40 you should work with a menopause practitioner and someone who will spend the necessary time with you. To determine if a doctor is right for you, learn about how they treat patients: Herbal therapies? Hormone therapies? Natural therapies such as acupuncture, supplements, hypnosis or meditation? And do they measure and evaluate hormone levels as part of management?
Make each visit effective and productive. Prepare in writing a list of reasons why you are meeting with the provider. Describe and list symptoms, frequency, medications, herbal therapies or lifestyle treatments taken to manage symptoms, and always include family history. Take a note pad and pen for notes or ask permission to record the conversation, keep a menopause symptom’s journal, ask for recommended reading and turn off your cell phone.
How do you know if you have a bad doctor?
When they have no solutions and they say, “Let’s see what happens in the next 6 months.” Or they tell you your diagnosis is just a part of getting old. Run. Fast.
What are you looking forward to in this coming year as far as women’s health?
I’m planning to host a FemAging Hackathon in the winter with the goal of integrating a tech solution for premenopausal symptoms. I’m also working with a leading women’s doctor to encourage medical schools in the state of California to train all medical students on women’s health especially as they age. Finally, I hope to get companies to integrate a menopause-in-the-workplace policy to support women and increase productivity.
How has this time of life been for you? What sort of adjustments or not have you made?
I’m loving this time of my life. I think much faster, have more relationships so I can execute my ideas much faster. I still challenge my body by competing in ½ marathons and triathlons. I recognize that I’m older because I can’t stay up until 2am and feel fresh the next day. Or that ache in my leg or arm that comes out of nowhere and then it’s gone. That reminds me I’m not 30 physically.
“My superpower is manifestation. I seed ideas and bring them to life”
When you were growing up, what did you think being your age would be like?
When I was young I thought 35 was old and set benchmarks for everything that was to happen by that age; they were all achievement and materially focused. Even now, I haven’t thought much about what even 60 will be like. I don’t want to limit my future by defining it now. My life has never operated like a play book, so what I’m doing today may all change tomorrow and I’m okay with that. I do have this belief that I’ll live until 105 so I guess I better make plans for 90.
You define yourself as a renaissance woman. What does that mean to you?
My superpower is manifestation. I seed ideas and bring them to life…vision to execution. So, I’m not defined by what I do, but by what I can do, so that mindset: Let’s be an entrepreneur, an advocate, an author, a filmmaker, a runner and now, since COVID-19, a cook.
Totally frivolous question, but love the outfit you had on today. How would you define your style?
Conservative funk is my vibe right now.
“I want women to love themselves as they age and to stop feeling shameful or remain silent”
What are you passionate about changing in the world today?
I want women to love themselves as they age and to stop feeling shameful or remain silent. I’m passionate about helping them create their own good health and to feel sexually desirable.
Are you starting any new businesses?
We plan to grow our product line at www.teabotanics with a Night Sweat Tea to complement our Hot Flash Tea. I’m executive producing a few films as well.
How are you managing events during COVID?
Do you have any upcoming events?
Currently we have a virtual event that can be viewed, called BEYOND FERTILITY: THE FEMAGING ERA —Advancing Women’s HealthTech Innovation and Investment, until November 30, 2020.
All photos by David Harry Stewart, on location in Los Angeles.