This is an energetic woman on the move, literally. To hang out with Denise, you had better be a fast walker, because she is all about getting stuff done. For her, this time in her life is a moment to seize. Her company is expanding, now with distribution in large east-coast retailers along with direct to consumer. Being health-focused, she also knows how to switch off and relax because, no matter how important it is for her to make an impact, she is wise enough to acknowledge that taking care of herself, putting the oxygen mask on herself first, is essential for long-term success.
A member of the Osteopathic Medical Board of California and of the Federation of State Medical Boards, she sees health issues up close and how they affect people’s lives. When we last spoke to her 2 years ago, she spoke forcefully about the issues women may face with their well-meaning physicians who may not have access to the latest women’s health information. With her strong entrepreneurial instinct focused on women’s health issues, specifically menopause-related issues, she has founded Tea Botanica to help solve the issues such as hot flashes and sleeplessness that may occur around menopause.
How old are you now?
Are you still living in California?
Yes, I love Los Angeles!
When we spoke to you in 2020, you were at the center of women’s health issues. Has the women’s health arena changed at all since then?
Yes, in that poor reproductive outcomes are being addressed, some through legislation and others through structural health systems change. In the richest nation on earth, moms are dying at the highest rate in the developed world — and the rate is rising and the crisis is most severe for Black moms, who are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of their white counterparts. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 addresses the maternal health crisis in America; Congressional leaders have been fighting for critically important policies like 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage and this Act builds on existing legislation to comprehensively address every dimension of the maternal health crisis in America, not just for Black women but for all women. On a health systems change that impacts women ages 40+, the NIH recognizes the lack of research in women’s health that exists starting with the fact that there’s not even a research code for menopause and neither is there a menopause medical electronic records code. We need to continue to get to the center of changing these issues where they continue to perpetuate from one generation to the next.
What are some of the issues in women’s health right now?
The potential Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade is a threat to women’s rights in the collective which will first play out in healthcare and then lead to unintended consequences in our larger society of women’s rights and abilities to make other life choices. I’m not on the left or the right of this issue; I’m on the side that a woman has a right to decide on anything that concerns the health of her body.
Tea for Hot Flashes
Remind us how you got started focusing on women’s health after age 40?
That’s easy; I got a hot flash. I’m a runner, do triathlons, eat pretty well and my mom never experienced hot flashes so it wasn’t even on my radar that this could happen to me. But when it did, I realized I was like so many women who were blindsided by menopause and needed information that was often unavailable even from their own doctor, including treatment options. As a natural remedy seeker, I first went to my functional medicine doctor who specializes in healing teas and we co-created Tea Botanics Hot Flash Tea, a fast-acting natural remedy that treats the symptom by regulating the communication loop between the brain and reproductive system creating a cooling effect which reduces hot flashes. Since then we’ve created more products along with an active menopause community called WisePause Wellness.
How do you find business sectors that are of interest to you?
I’m interested in tech sectors that can improve the efficacy and efficiency of healthcare delivery. That can look like a self-monitoring app, a medical device, or a SaaS program that integrates managed care and delivery of that care. And I love natural solutions to health ailments. I believe we can solve half our problems by focusing on what we put in our mouths.
As a serial entrepreneur, you seem to always be staying busy with new ventures. What other projects are you currently involved in?
I find NFTs fascinating, having been in entertainment for 20 years, and as a rights holder of intellectual property, we all know this is king because you can repurpose it into licensing and royalty earnings. So I’m looking at how this fits into some of the worlds I’m currently working in filmmaking, CPG branded products and gaming.
“I’m interested in tech sectors that can improve the efficacy and efficiency of healthcare delivery”
How do you schedule your days/weeks?
I’m overworking…I used to take Saturdays off but I’m still on COVID hours, meaning blurring the lines between home and work. However, I do end my day around 6:00 pm, but I start at 5:00 am — see why I need Saturdays off.
How do you evaluate team members to work with you?
I work with people where clarity of understanding the delivery of their work product is key. I’m results-driven so everyone around me has to be that way. If you’re not that way, then I’m not going to be a good boss to you, and I accept that.
“Menopause is really more than a gender issue”
Do you ever find that you are treated differently in your profession based on your gender, age, or race? What about in your everyday life?
I see it more through the lens of my gender and guess that’s because of the work I do around menopause. I think it is the last taboo — well, almost probably women enjoying sex and talking about the vagina is a close second. Menopause is really more than a gender issue which is why I’m hyper-focused in all my environments on this issue. I love talking to men about menopause; I find they fit in two categories: deer-eyed shocked or curious because they have a spouse in the midst of dealing with it and they want to help. As a Black woman, I’m even more sensitive to the issue of health disparities between women of color and menopause but, again, very little research on causation.
It can be difficult to advocate for your own health, and sometimes doctors don’t take the issues of age and menopause as something that can be positively impacted. How does one advocate for their health even if your doctor is not legitimizing how you are feeling?
Go to Wisepause.com; we list great midlife experts who can help you even if you live outside the physical service area because everyone works remotely. I always tell women it’s okay to leave the doctor who delivered your babies because if they don’t have late stage reproductive strategies you will definitely suffer and there is absolutely no reason to suffer.
What is new with your projects WisePause Lifestyle Summit and the FemAging Tech Index?
Our Hot Flash Tea from Tea Botanics is going retail, our products can be found in CVS stores and we are expanding our menopause tea line to include Night Sweat and Brain Fog. We’re hosting the 6th WisePause Wellness Virtual Summit on March 26th and we will be in person in Los Angeles on September 10th. I’ve also decided to take menopause on the road with a giant bus traveling up and down the state of California and then to other states in 2023. I’m not going to stop talking about menopause until it becomes part of the zeitgeist.
Women’s Health Innovations
What changes in FemTech have you seen during the pandemic?
More and more conversations are happening around the world from the UK to Australia. Women-led organizations have formed and grown tremendously to bring women together in discussion, best practices and shared resources. These women-led ventures are no longer waiting for men to join the party and we are also seeing an increase in investments in FemTech.
Are there any new and exciting innovations for the future of women’s health?
One of the most innovative approaches to hot flashes I’ve seen is Pride Chill which provides thermal comfort by cooling the air breathed in.
What is most exciting to you in the healthspan/longevity space?
We are seeing more centenarians, and the possibility of living to 120 is something GenZ will experience more of and this fact is going to change the longevity space.
Who are your heroes?
My mom and all the silent people doing the work.
What are your three life non-negotiables?
Running — I love to run so I don’t let work interfere; taking off early on Friday for a massage and a drink and traveling — COVID did not stop me.
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