Everything happens for a reason. And you thought your mom just said that to make you feel better about your cruddy situations. Turns out, she was right. At least in Lisa Martinez’s case.
Not only is she an attorney and a registered nurse, Martinez is also a breast cancer survivor. So, she all-too-clearly understands the impact chemotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery may have on a woman’s sexual well being.
“As a nurse, I know it is devastating to feel alone. But these women often feel that way because they are unaware that certain medical treatments or medications [have side effects],” she says. “They think it must be ‘all in their heads’ and it can be purely from treatments or medical conditions. So they suffer in silence.” Refusing to suffer in silence, and after aimlessly searching for answers without central source to provide educational information to women and doctors, Martinez founded The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation (TWSHF) in April 2003. Today, as the volunteer Executive Director, she draws on her strengths in both medicine and law to advocate for sexual health education and funding for sexual health research.
“For whatever reason, women and healthcare providers have not historically held appropriate, healthy discussions concerning sexual health. And many women, up to 43 percent, will be impacted by a an event or medical condition that will affect intimacy,” says Martinez. “For example, one in three women will have cancer and up to 90 percent of cancer survivors will have a sexual health or intimacy problem either due to the medications or treatments for cancer or the emotional strain.” Enter TWSHF, which is an organization dedicated to providing accurate and up-to-date resources on sexual health for women and healthcare professionals, according to its Web site.
Over the past five years, Martinez has coordinated quite an impressive advisory board of leading international professionals in sexual health. In addition, she has written several educational brochures, consulted with healthcare institutions and spoken to a variety of audiences nationally and internationally. In fact, many notable media outlets – including CBS, The Wall Street Journal and MORE magazine — have used TWSHF as a trusted source of information.
In fall of 2003, Martinez was honored for her contribution to advancing women’s health issues by “Speaking for Women’s Health,” a Cincinnati-based non-profit corporation that coordinates women’s health conferences across the United States.
Martinez is a member of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. She currently serves as a scientific and clinical advisor to The Alexander Foundation, and as a reviewer for the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses journal Nursing for Women’s Health.
Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography