It doesn’t seem immediately intuitive to connect women’s health and space travel. However, as Saralyn Mark would tell you, approaching an issue from a plethora of angles will lead not only to deeper understanding of the issue but also to new discoveries. Mark’s multi-disciplinary approach to studying women’s health is one of the reasons that she has been so successful, and this rounded approach is something she takes into her personal life. Today I have the incredible honor to speak with Saralyn Mark, a Senior Policy Advisor to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and a world-renowned leader in women’s health.
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More about Dr. Saralyn Mark
Saralyn Mark’s women’s health career took off in the mid-nineties, a time when the accepted approach to women’s health was linear and unquestioned. She advocated for a more comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach, which led to her to develop a women’s health fellowship. This fellowship has been highly successful and has inspired many similar programs. Saralyn’s work with women’s health has led her to sex and gender based studies, where she examines biological and society-based differences between men and women.
In addition to developing an expertise in women’s health, Saralyn studies space travel. Her unique career course is directed by her experience that “if you go through territory that hasn’t been navigated, you have to chart your own course and you have to be fearless.” Instead of narrowing her interests to fit into one neat career path, she has chosen to pursue all that interests her, be it women’s health, gender studies, space travel, or dance. Today Saralyn is a world-renowned women’s health specialist, the president of Solamed Solutions, Senior Policy Advisor to Office of Science and Technology Policy, and advisor to groups including NASA.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode :
- The subtle gender and sex discriminations that Saralyn’s consulting organization iGIANT has uncovered in large companies
- How gender and sex based differences can be seen in nearly every facet of life
- How Saralyn maintains balance in her highly active life
- What Saralyn does each week to have ‘self-time’
- Tips and advice on perspective shifts to see value in the work that you do
Saralyn began studying women’s health in the 1990s when the accepted approach to women’s health was the “Bikini Medicine Model.” This model places focus on activity within breast tissues and the reproductive organs, resulting in a divided and disconnected understanding of women’s health and bodily functions. Saralyn recognized that this method was not sufficient, and thus developed the first women’s health fellowship to focus on a broader and more integrated study of women’s health.
Saralyn’s success with the women’s health fellowship led her to become the Senior Policy Advisor for the White House OSTP, a position she maintains today. As the Senior Policy Advisor Saralyn further pursued her dedication to interdisciplinary analysis and developed the iGIANT, or the Impact of Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies, model. At its core, iGIANT enhances progress across the board, as it is useful for policy developers in government, industry, academia, professional societies, and advocacy to name a few. Examples of the work iGIANT has uncovered include the discovery that some car manufacturers safety features are designed to protect a average man’s build, which leads to greater injury for women when they get in accidents. Such discrete subtleties often go unnoticed but can be hugely impactful.
Currently Saralyn continues developing iGIANT and acts as president to her consulting organization, Solamed Solutions. She also provides consulting guidance to groups such as NASA, with whom she studies the effects of space travel on the human body. Although she acknowledges that she has met many barriers throughout her work, the progression of the work itself has come naturally. Because the work she does is truly impactful and intuitive, she feels a sense of ease and confidence each day.
Saralyn finds that having outlets and an understanding that she can’t do it all are her saving grace. She schedules a class in each week and recommends, “people find whatever creative outlet then can and go do it, and not be competitive with it.”
It’s difficult to cover everything that Saralyn has accomplished throughout her life, and yet she discusses her work with an air of calm. Her advice to her younger self is some that I think we may all benefit from hearing.
“The universe will take care of you. Don’t be scared, not everything is that important. If something looks impossible wait a few minutes because a door is going to open and you’re going to find another way through.”
Describe one personal habit that contributes to your well-being:
I make I schedule in exercise classes.
What super power did you discover you had only to realize it was there all the time?
What advice would you give to your 25 or 30 year old self?
The universe will take care of you. Don’t be scared.
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