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  • Writer's pictureElle

Redefining women's health with Em & Soph

Soph and Em are two lovely humans who have created We are: Changing Health a space that is redefining women's health. I was intrigued by this page, as the girls are from my home town and while I haven't done much time with Em, Soph is one of those characters, you can't not love. Inspiring people, putting positive and passionate energy out...

About yourselves, your day jobs, any fun facts you might want people to know that don't know you yet hehe

Soph: My life has changed a lot during covid, before the international border closures I travelled a lot. I backpacked for a few years and also lived, studied and worked in 5 different countries. I was never one for being tied down to one place, I wanted to absorb as much of this beautiful world as I possibly could. I completed a Bachelor of Sustainability in North Queensland & Costa Rica and now I’m working remotely for an amazing Travel Tech company. I’ve settled in Lake Macquarie in a house near the beach, and I spend my weekends gardening, bushwalking and learning to surf (when I say learning, I am currently at the ‘fall on your face repeatedly’ stage). In a lot of ways I’m grateful that I was forced to slow down, because it’s allowed me time to take a step back and work out what is really important to me.

Em: I am an organised mess, sometimes I honestly feel like the ‘Lose yourself’ lyrics by Eminem are a personal biography; ‘He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready. To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting…’ You know the rest. So I am a Doctor, but it took me 3 career changes before the age of 25 to work that out. Yet I am happy that my journey took me on a few detours. I left home at 17 to move to Sydney to study Indigenous studies, then moved onto a Bachelor of Paramedicine and I have most recently completed a Doctor of Medicine. I am currently living between Sydney and regional NSW for work. I run, I swim and I am trying to get better at cycling. Overall I am very aware of my physical and mental health, but I am trying to learn more about my emotional health. Self awareness can be difficult, I find it very easy to offer advice to others but I find it more challenging to take my own advice.

Was there a particular moment that made you want to create an awareness account?

Soph: To be honest it was one of those things that I had thought about a lot in the past, but didn’t take any action because ‘what would people think’ or ‘there’s so much out there already, how could i possibly make a difference?’. But during the first lockdown when I was still living in Sydney & the world was turned upside down, I decided that I wanted to invest more time in something that I was really passionate about, and even if it only made an impact on one person - that would be enough. Fast forward to now, it has become incredibly clear how important it is to continue to create conversation around health & inclusivity, because people need it. Although we have come a long way, we still have so much work to do and I am really proud to be a part of a journey towards positive change.

Em: Personally, I don’t think I had a moment. There was no epiphany. It was largely based on conversations with my sister and engaging in her passion to contribute to the change culture. I then thought about my own life and personal experiences. I reflected on the fact that my career allows me to be a part of stranger’s lives when they are most vulnerable and it’s a very rewarding experience. I see individuals, families and friends go through hell and back on the daily. And often people are not aware of what is going on with their health and with the healthcare system. So if this account can contribute to providing awareness on certain healthcare experiences I would like to be a part of it.

Say you were doing speaks at schools for young girls, what would your main advise be? or older girls like us.

Soph: Talk. Talk about your health and your body and your thoughts and your period and your sexual health/thoughts. Talk about everything. Talk about it so much that it becomes a normal part of your daily conversation. With your friends, parents, teachers, doctors, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends - with everyone. We grow up with so much stigma attached to our health and our sexuality, and these aren’t stigmas that we’re born with right? It’s things that we learn, growing up hearing things like ‘don’t talk about that, it’s not ladylike’ or ‘cover your legs, you’re distracting the boys’. We have to reframe conversations that we are having with young people, so everyone grows up feeling empowered about their health & sexuality, as opposed to being ashamed of it.

Em: Don’t be afraid of being judged. I have a very distinct memory of a conversation I had with my girlfriends in year 10. In high school I swam a lot, like morning and evening most days. Hence I had a very moist crutch a lot of the time, making it the perfect environment for thrush to put up a tent. I was sitting on the grass at lunch with about 5 girls and I thought ‘screw it I’m going to say have thrush and I want to scratch the absolute shit out of my vagina but I can’t!’ So I built up the courage to disclose to my best friends that I had thrush. This is on a background of us talking about thrush, UTIs, sex etc constantly and all of us vehemently denying that any of us had experienced anything ‘disgusting’. Surprisingly 3/5 of my friends that day confessed they’d also had thrush and 3 had experienced a UTI. I remember this conversation so clearly. SO CLEARLY. Like it was yesterday. Because I couldn’t believe that we were too scared to tell each other for fear of being judged. So in summary, open up to your friends about what is going on in your body, because chances are they have similar stories.

The most shocking statistic you've discovered

Soph: I mean, there are unfortunately a lot of shocking statistics out there, and the more research we do the more we come across. But for me I think it has definitely been discovering that modern medical research has predominantly been conducted on middle aged, (generally white) men. For decades, women were often excluded from clinical trials and studies. Many researchers believed that fluctuations in female hormones would make women difficult to study, and there were also concerns surrounding women of childbearing age in clinical trials. And it’s not just women that have been excluded, we literally have such minimal representation of diverse groups of people in studies. Again, we’ve started seeing some progress here - but have a very long way to go to close the gaps!

Em: Statistically when women leave the workforce to have children, between the age of 25-35, the wage gap between them and their male counterparts never recovers. This is from a paper published by the US Census Bureau in 2018. There’s a number of reasons why the wage gap never recovers and I honestly don’t want to go into the thick of it, but overall this enrages me. The outcome of this financial gap means women, and yes it can also happen to men, are often financially reliant on the man/men they have children for the rest of their lives. This inequality in a relationship works for many people however it can also promote an environment of financial abuse. A form of domestic violence that is poorly discussed and poorly understood.

Something that more of us should care about?

Soph: Continuously challenging and questioning our own beliefs, and being open to change our opinion when presented with new information. I think it is very easy for us to get into a mindset of ‘this is the way it has always been done, so that is the right way’, but in a lot of cases that isn’t true.

Em: Health is holistic and has so many varied domains. It's not just physical or mental.

What sets your soul on fire?

Soph: Learning. Creating space for others to thrive and feel comfortable in their own bodies. Travelling and culture. Deep, authentic connections. Change.

Em: New experiences. Finding a new rock pool. Discovering a new laneway. Trying new food. Anything new ignites a spark and a passion for life.


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