Saya Nagori, MD, is a Founding Physician and Vice President of Medical Affairs at SimpleHealth.com, an online birth control company.
Tell Us About Your Unconventional Career Path in Medicine
After completing a fellowship in ophthalmology, I knew I wanted to expand my career beyond clinical medicine. I felt that digital health tools and telemedicine could provide a more efficient way to help patients. So in 2015, I co-founded SimpleHealth with two other partners. This start-up venture that began with three people has now grown into a well-known telemedicine company with over 70 employees.
While we didn’t know that COVID would change the world of medicine and telehealth dramatically and for the better, it was wonderful to be experienced in the online space when everything closed down so we could continue to serve our customers seamlessly.
I plan to continue to innovate and find digital solutions to make the world of healthcare more efficient and more accessible to everyone. For example, I recently started FemHealthProject, which has two primary program elements:
- Lectures and courses bringing evidence-based medicine to patients from board-certified physicians.
- FemHealth Purpose Summit provided participants with an inside look at the career paths of nearly 16 C-suite level female leaders in the healthcare industry ranging from CEOs of multi-million dollar companies to visionaries in the health tech space.
We have a large community of physicians, medical students, and premed students who are working together to further our mission. Anyone interested in getting involved can message us on Instagram @femhealthproject.
Who or What Has Influenced Your Choices in Healthcare Delivery?
In general, I have learned that while we all make mistakes, it is what you do in these circumstances so that you are able to learn from and grow from every opportunity. As well, I try to collaborate with others and offer help when I can. During my career, the journey of egg freezing changed my perspective about healthcare and clinical practice. I realized how bad the information was in women’s health and it inspired me to start the Femhealthproject.
As I see it, the biggest challenge for me has been continuing to hustle and accepting that there was not going to be a point where I felt like “I had made it.” This doesn’t mean that I don’t take moments to celebrate wins along the way, rather I have learned that growth is where I feel happiest and most accomplished even as growing isn’t easy. Taking a nonacademic career path requires a tenacity to always push forward which means there are often uncomfortable moments. Acceptance that I must be in the moment is something I have done continually so I can embrace the ongoing challenge. What I have come to realized is that going through something uncomfortable is actually what has led to me to feel fulfilled and probably satisfied professionally.
Are You Active in any AMWA Initiatives? If So, Has This Shaped Your View of Medicine?
I was able to organize a leadership conference highlighting female leaders in medicine in which AMWA was a partner. The Femhealth Purpose Summit showcased the most successful women leaders in healthcare who are paving a unique and inspiring path in the medical world. In addition to collaborating with AMWA, we had over 100 ambassadors from across the country that participated in this initiative. It was a very collaborative event that brought a lot of value to everyone who was involved. AMWA members who are still interested can register at: FemHealth.
Given Your Lived Experiences, Do You Have Any Insights for Other Women in Medicine?
While you have no doubt heard this before—remember, life is short and often uncertain —so give yourself the time to care for your physical and mental wellbeing. Just as important, follow your heart and do what makes you happy. That could mean working full-time and having a side hustle. Maybe it will be working part-time and spending more time with your family. Or, possibly, your career might be filled with traveling and doing telemedicine from your location of choice. Just don’t let yourself get boxed in.
Medicine can be a very judgmental space in which you are boxed in by traditional rewards of earning titles, invitations to speak at conferences, and being labeled as an expert. None of these milestones will matter if you are not drawing true joy from such achievements. In fairness, there are many accomplished women who will never get the recognition they deserve; as such, it is better not to wait for external seals of approval. Instead, focus on the achievements that have meaning to you.
That has worked well for me. When first starting out in my new venture, I was not yet successful so people thought I was foolish for taking such a risk. When my start-up became successful, I was invited to speak at national events and was feted for having such foresight. Even as I was the same person and working at the same company, it took time for our ideas and concepts to gain wider acceptance, which took years of perseverance. I am glad that I followed my desire to seek a career in medicine doing something I can confidently stand behind, and feel proud of. I believe we will all be more fulfilled when we choose to define what “successful” is for ourselves.
Is There Anything Else that Has Impacted Your Career Trajectory?
I have always recognized that the most joy comes when I spend time with my family and friends. Sometimes in the grind, it can be easy to lose sight of this fact. Yet, whenever I achieve a hard-fought accomplishment, all I want to do is pick up the phone and share it with my parents, my husband, my brother, and my best friends. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of maintaining my health and enjoying my close relationships. I am grateful to have a healthy family and wonderful people in my life. I can say that I probably have multiple Ah-ha moments in a given week, but the overarching message is and remains that life is short so it is important to find work that feels good and that you take time to be with the people that matter most to you. It no longer seems as complicated as I use to think; I hope that will be true for you, too.