…Do you know why it looks that way? Is it supposed to get that big? Why does it hurt when I…?
“Anyone with a question about women’s health would usually contact me.” Said Dr. Kelly Culwell, founder of Dr. Lady Doctor. I nodded… at least ten women were waiting to meet her while we talked. She said, “This type of information should be available to everyone!” Agreed. Somewhere between Sex Ed in junior high and our pregnancy check-ups, we self-study with Dr. Google, Dr. Oz and Cosmo. It’s far from ideal. Kelly is intent on improving how women learn about reproductive and sexual health. That’s right, everything from fibroids and better birth control, to perimenopause!
Although ‘pursue your passion’ is the prescribed path to professional bliss, few do. Or believe they can. Once work-life transforms to working-mom-life, it all changes. Finding time to build new competencies can feel insurmountable. Mom-friends barely have time to workout, eat right or brush their hair! Career growth, amidst overwhelm, seems like an impossible luxury.
There’s room for side hustles, passion projects and ambitious ventures. If you make it. While raising kids is exactly when to rethink what’s vital. Especially in our careers. The long-standing wage and achievement gap, aka the ‘motherhood penalty’ doesn’t serve families. If you have an idea, go on and play it big! Learn how Kelly made the space, while working in the demanding field of medicine, to integrate her passion project and full-time job.
Do You Trust Your Doctor?
As with other institutions, public trust in the healthcare system has been declining in the US. The social stigma, associated with all-things-women’s-sexual-health, also persists. We should not be surprised when women (and girls) still lack essential information. Kelly explained, “Health care providers work really hard… but typically only have time to spend 10 minutes with a patient. People don’t usually have the same doctor their whole lives anymore who can see changes over time. It’s hard to trust the information being given. The idea (to create Dr. Lady Doctor) came from that.”
Use Your Superpowers to Solve Problems
“Young people were talking about health matters in a hip and cool way, yet doctors were not.” Kelly began her career seeing patients as an OBGYN, before working to address macro issues for the World Health Organization. Her concern for the growing gap, between knowledge critical to women’s health and what typical doctor/patient relationships provide, sparked her exploration. She began to learn everything she could about building a compelling digital experience to complement her medical knowledge.
How Passion Project Meets Full-Time Job
“My company, Evofem Biosciences, wanted to create a video series to get information out there on topics like birth control, STIs and vaginal health to educate women on issues we’re working on novel solutions to address. I expressed interest in developing an entertaining educational platform, for women’s health, which allowed me to bridge the gap between my passion and full-time work.” Kelly explained. Amazing! She proactively offered to solve her employer’s need in a way that’s aligned with her talents. She added, “My CEO is a woman, she’s very open minded and willing to take risks. It’s a great place for me to grow.”
Don’t Lean In, Lean On!
Kelly had the concept, and the will to execute upon it, but needed to augment her expertise. She advises, “Find people who can help you! As an OBGYN, I sought expertise on topics where I didn’t have training. For example, finding quality resources on sex and relationships… I don’t have to be an expert on everything.” So true! She also brought in her brother to handle the video and production work. She said, “He has a lot of experience as a producer and I knew I could leverage that. As women, we need to keep leaning on each other instead of leaning in. I want us to lean on!” Here, here! Many of us find asking for help uncomfortable… profoundly so. Yet it’s necessary to ascend. We met at a conference and she gestured to the dozens of women around us, “I’ve had a 300% increase in my followers just in the past day by being here. We can’t do it all ourselves… Find your tribe, and yes it may be people you pay to manage professional and personal.” Question what belongs on your personal to-do list and how we can help each other.
Make. The. Time
Predictably, I asked about how she’s carved out this space. Kelly smiled, “…It’s a work in progress. Number one, I have a very supportive husband who has a flexible job. We have a very equal partnership.” To underscore the point, she shared a great story, “…We read a book for my son and the Mom (in the story) was washing dishes. My son said to me, ‘But Mommies don’t wash dishes.’ I love that my son is seeing that.” I was impressed. The old rules, that encumber women with more of the household and childcare, still linger in most male/female couples. Freeing up discretionary time (and ourselves) from this burden means spouse-sourcing, outsourcing or both.
How to Maintain Presence at Home
We discussed what’s hardest about her entrepreneurial endeavor. “I struggle to be in the present moment with my son when there is so much going on.” Kelly admitted, a concern shared by most Moms managing overwhelm. Perhaps one of the biggest difficulties of exciting projects is how the creative process competes for open space in your mind. “I’ve had to learn that sometimes ‘good enough is good enough.’ I’ve stepped away from perfectionism. In medicine, we say ‘good, better, oops!’” Wisdom to help banish that inner voice of perfectionism.
We discussed self-care, although always challenging, is especially important as you embark on new initiatives. Kelly said, “I try to keep a massage appointment once a month. I actually have a subscription which forces it!” I smiled. She explained, “To keep up with personal maintenance (such as nails and hair) I also schedule it. Anything I do for self-care is scheduled! I go to a fitness class and plan it in advance, that way I book it and if I don’t go, I lose my money. If I didn’t schedule it, I’d just put it off.” Love how she literally calendars self-care!
We discussed the inevitable, yet gripping fear that comes with doing something different, and how she’s learned to move past it. Kelly said, “I remember my husband says ‘you’re comparing your insides to someone’s outsides.’” Whenever she would question her own momentum. She continued, “…(By) sharing stories we all realize we’re very similar. Find people who believe in you, who will tell you that you can do it… that will never doubt you.” She explained by involving her brother on her team and reaching out to family and friends for support, she’s able to stay focused on her long-term vision.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Kelly Culwell, Founder of Dr. Lady Doctor and Chief Medical Officer at Evofem Biosciences. Kelly has specialized in women’s reproductive health for nearly 2 decades, working as a fellowship-trained Ob/Gyn, including her time as a Medical Officer for the World Health Organization in Switzerland and a Senior Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood in the U.K.
We’re fortunate to have Kelly advocating better health outcomes for women! Visit Dr. Lady Doctor to get answers to those health questions we all have and to sign up for the mailing list. And follow Kelly’s great adventure on Facebook and Instagram.