Meet HERmd founder, Dr. Somi Javaid, a trailblazer and pioneer in women’s sexual health on a mission to educate, advocate for, and empower women. Dr. Javaid’s patients – women from all walks of life, seeking her expertise in sexual health – inspired her to open her first HERmd location five years ago. Her vision was to create a place where all women would have access to experts in the field of women’s healthcare within an insurance-based model.
After operating her first HERmd location for four years and being recognized as one of Candela’s National Centers of Gynecologic Excellence, founder Dr. Somi Javaid saw the opportunity to grow HERmd into a preeminent, female-forward wellness brand.
“Women’s sexual health has long been ignored, and there has been a real lack of information and treatment options – until now. I started HERmd to empower women to take control of their sexual health.”
Dr. Javaid is a pioneer in menopause and sexual medicine. She travels across the country training other physicians on the newest innovations and treatments, serving as a Key Opinion Leader for multiple healthcare companies and speaking on the importance of women’s sexual health. Dr. Javaid is currently leading multiple clinical research trials for women’s sexual health. In addition to her groundbreaking research, she has developed algorithms of care based on her years of experience.
Did you know?
- There is a glaring gender disparity in healthcare in the United States and it is most pronounced in sexual healthcare. Women are regularly dismissed in healthcare especially as it relates to sexual healthcare.
- Women’s healthcare receives a total of 4% of all medical research dollars – head to toe. In contrast, the prostate alone receives 2% of research dollars. Medical protocols for women are largely based on research studies with male patients, leading to a dangerous one-size-fits-all approach to medical care.
- While men have 26 FDA approved drugs to treat sexual dysfunction, women only have 2.
- Unaddressed sexual health concerns lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and broken marriages.
Women’s sexual health has long been ignored – oftentimes Dr. Javaid is the 5th, 6th, or even 7th doctor her patients have come to see with their sexual health concerns. They have been dismissed by healthcare providers who have told them “Drink some wine and you’ll be fine” or “You survived cancer, just be happy you’re alive, the sex doesn’t matter.”
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Erin Hanson, “What if I fail? Oh but my darling what if you fly?”
Being an entrepreneur is a constant journey of failures and successes. I think I was most surprised by the journey when I realized you could feel both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
My failures have included investing time and money on the wrong individuals or ventures. In a startup, the team is small and sometimes it is just not the right fit. You do not have the luxury of trying to make it work- if someone is not right for their role, it’s best for the company and them to go their separate ways. I have held onto people too long, I do not generally like staff turn over. On the other hand, surrounding yourself with dreamers, doers and believers is immensely rewarding. That is the stuff of magic, when you align yourself with team members who understand not only the business, but the mission.
An absolute high moment was obtaining funding, it’s validating and freeing at the same time. You realize in that moment that someone other than yourself understands the vision. When we were awarded a national center of excellence award, when I gave a Tedx talk, when we were featured as a top local business, when I presented our research at a national conference, these were all rewarding moments. Each year when we celebrate with our patients and hundreds show up at their doctor’s office to toast us on yet another year – those are the moments that keep us going.
Lastly it is the everyday magic, the notes from a patient letting us know we have changed their life, those are pure gold. Use the great moments to keep propelling yourself forward and never forget why you started in the first place. These are all the things I have learned from failures and successes.
Do you believe in destiny or do you think you can control your fate?
I believe in both and a little bit of luck. I have always been a huge dreamer and am wired to think of all the ways I can do something when presented with a problem, rather than all the reasons I cannot – and I think you need to do a little bit of both. I do believe some things are destined to happen. I know there are some things that we cannot change – the circumstances that you are born into, where you live as a child, the socioeconomic status you grow up in – but there is so much left for you to decide, for you to determine – taking ownership of your life and decisions is an integral part of your success, choosing your educational path, the people you surround yourself with, the chances you are willing to take – these are all up to you.
I have always been drawn to the ocean. When I think of fate and destiny – I think of a giant sailboat, knowing that I cannot control the weather, the water temperature or the geography, but I have complete control of the sails and of the helm. I choose where I am going.
If you had an extra 6 hours in your day, what would you do?
Hike. Cook. Yoga.
My hiking boots have some serious miles on them. Hiking is how I center and ground myself. I love the notion of only having to think about my next step and the immediate world around me. I love taking in nature, the sights, sounds and smells. I have been lucky enough to hike through Iceland, Patagonia, Tanzania, Italy, Utah, Colorado, California, and Arizona just to name a few. So with the extra time I would love to find a new trail, head out in my son’s jeep and discover new trails.
I love discovering new foods and restaurants. I am a foodie and I love to cook. However, my career does not allow me to cook as often as I want to. I love the sensation of chopping and I love the smells of a meal cooking in the kitchen. I love when the kitchen is warm and full of laughter and discussion. This is one of the ways I show my family love – through food and prepping meals for them. So I would cook more for sure.
I do miss yoga. It is the one thing I gave up completely during the pandemic. Not on purpose, but as I had to navigate this new reality with my children, my patients, my business, it just fell by the wayside. Yoga is key for me as I am intense and have a hard time sitting still. Yoga is one of the few activities that calms me and grounds me -not to mention it has intense health benefits for women for flexibility and pelvic floor strength. So with an extra 6 hours, I would hike, cook a meal with a glass of wine and do yoga on my back deck.
What is the one advice that has impacted you the most?
This is an easy one. As I was struggling to make my next career move, I could not find an opportunity that fit- that felt right. I was nearing the age of 40 and I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to own my own practice and be my own boss. I just could not fathom taking the leap. My father said something to me that gave me that final push, as parents often do.
He told me that if I could not find the next door of opportunity that I should build the door myself. I took this advice quite literally and figuratively. I ended up purchasing a building and opening the doors of my practice on my 40th birthday.
What was so compelling about my father’s advice was his own story. He moved to this country, with very little money and no “back ups.” He started a veterinary practice and raised a family. He had no choice to fail, as he had no one to help him if he did. My father reminded me that I was surrounded by others who would step in, but I had myself, my education and my medical degree which were my safety net.
What sacrifices have you had to make during life?
This is a tough one. I moved my oldest into college this year, my middle one started high school and my youngest started middle school. Most of the intense parts of medical training occur at the beginning of your career – I would work 100 hours a week, sometimes up to 48 hours at a time. I missed so many firsts – first steps and first words. I missed field trips and was never a homeroom mom. This was in a world prior to everything being captured on smartphones. I wish I had more time with them when they were young. I say my best gift would be to have one more day with them when they were 3 or 4 years old and we would just do all the silly things that they would want to do all day long. Isn’t that what everyone wants at the end of a chapter though? I feel like we all want more time. Someone once told me it was impossible to be a mother and a doctor. I never believed this for a minute. I just had a different journey of motherhood. I know my children are proud, they have watched both my business and their mother grow. They come to HerMD events and support me on social media. They always tell me how proud they are!
What is your next big goal? How do you think you can achieve this one?
It’s been an incredulous ride for HERmd. When we started having patients travel from all over the United States to come to our office, I knew we were on to something. To deliver the type of care that we have in Cincinnati has been exciting – we are revolutionizing womens’ healthcare. Sexual healthcare has long been ignored for women or not covered by insurance. We have had women travel to Cincinnati from all over the United States and they continue to do so on a weekly basis. My goal is to open HERmd centers all over the country.
I strive to make exceptional healthcare accessible to ALL women. There are too many stories of women being ignored, suffering in silence or experiencing significant delays in diagnosis. I no longer want women to feel like invisible patients.It is time for all of this to stop – women deserve better.
My goal with HERmd is to eliminate the barriers that women have while trying to access healthcare. My mission is to educate, advocate for, and empower women. Through this, we can narrow the gender gap that exists in healthcare right now.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
When you are a disrupter you will scare your competition – but you will succeed. Never let others stand in the way of your mission or your goals. Surround yourself with people who understand you and your mission. Never be too afraid to ask for help from other business owners. Don’t be too afraid to trust yourself. Never let others define you or take up headspace- that is valuable real estate. Let people underestimate you and then shatter expectations.
Always give back. Invest in your community and the world around you. From day one we decided we would partner with local charities and we were able to involve our patients. It truly was a win-win for all involved. There is truly something to be said about how much we get out of giving to others. I was able to network, grow my business and meet some amazing people, all the while giving to very worthy causes and people. My favorite partnership was with Project Zawadi. I was able to deliver menstrual underwear to young girls in Tanzania and was able to get my children in on the action. 1 in every 10 girls in Africa misses school due to her menstrual period – to be able to help support their education, that means the world to me.
What makes your business unique?
HER-centric. From the minute you walk into HERmd, you know that this is not your typical doctor’s office.
It is a beautiful welcoming place, with a mission driven staff – all centered around female healthcare. We focus on general gynecology, sexual health, menopause, and weight loss. We have taken all things that are uncomfortable about going to thy gynecologist and made them more palatable – from the robes, to the lighting to the temperature of the rooms, women feel safe to talk to us and trust us with their most intimate medical needs.
The type of healthcare we offer to women – I want to ensure it is accessible to ALL women that is why we have an insurance-based model, which is rare in the sexual health space.
We also offer imaging and surgery all under one roof, as well as a full blown medical spa. We perform research and are developing cutting edge protocols to improve women’s healthcare. We provide free educational health events.
Our practice goes beyond just being a beautiful space, all of the employees are a team of dedicated women who are passionate about making women feel like their best selves. We are revolutionizing women’s healthcare as we know it.
Why did you decide to start HERmd?
My mother nearly died at the age of 45, simply because she was dismissed. She presented with chest pain, shortness of breath and left arm pain. She had an abnormal EKG. She was thin, a non-smoker and had no risk factors for heart disease except for the fact that her mother and sister had died young from cardiovascular disease. Yet doctor after doctor dismissed her, told her she was too stressed out, she drank too much caffeine, that it was rib pain or her stomach or her “nerves.” I was a senior in college at the time and pre-med. I watched incredulously as they patronized her and ignored the medical data – the data that could not explain why a young, thin, nonsmoker was in trouble.
The medical data was based on studies largely performed on men. Women are simply different, different in the ways we present with disease or experience symptoms. Yet, she underwent emergent quadruple bypass surgery for 4 vessel disease and nearly died at the hands of her healers. I knew at that point in my career that I wanted to treat women – I had to be a champion for all of us.
I had not yet realized at this young age how broken our medical system was and how HARD this goal was going to be that I had set for myself. Years later after all of my medical training, I was working as an OB/GYN taking insane amounts of call and seeing up to 50 patients a day. There was no time for self-care, let alone championing for women. As a gynecologist I met woman after woman struggling with sexual concerns and I knew we could do better, that I could do better. So, I quit my job, bought a building and started HERmd.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to female-bodied people in general about their sexual health?
Do not let yourself be silenced. Women face so many hurdles, so many barriers to healthcare. We face provider bias, limited data, not enough female leadership in medicine and lack of funding for female innovation. These barriers combined with repeated dismissals have led to significant delays in diagnosis and access to needed healthcare for women.
I have had women drive 2 days to come see me. I am often their 8th or 9th gynecologist as they struggle with low libido, sexual pain or bleeding issues. They have been told things like, “just be thankful to be alive,” or “women were born to bleed, breed and die.” Unfortunately, this happens all too much with women, and we are suffering in silence.
So, how can we change this? I am a firm believer that in educating themselves, women can then advocate for themselves. I encourage my patients to seek information via support groups and a provider that will listen. Many women suffer from sexual dysfunction, and in finding other women who are experiencing the same issues, in finding a trained provider who will listen they will learn about their dysfunction, about the treatment options, and most importantly that they are not alone. I am a firm believer that sexual health is a barometer of a patient’s overall healthcare.
Sexual healthcare and sexuality should not be associated with any stigma. Women need to learn about their bodies, their sexuality and their choices that exist in healthcare. I want women to empower themselves and to trust their own voice. No one knows your own body better than you do. Lastly, I tell them to never stop looking for the provider that will be a partner in their healthcare. It is time for women to be silent no more – it is truly HER time in healthcare.