Chic Spotlight: The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation’s Lisa Martinez
Cincy Chic: How did you get interested in your particular line of study?
Lisa Martinez: I personally had some health problems and it was very difficult to find the appropriate care. This was more than five years ago and I ultimately had to travel to the east coast where I found the care that was needed. However, while sitting in the waiting rooms I would hear stories from women who had struggled with low desire for twenty years due to medical conditions or pelvic pain. They had hit one brick wall after another. They essential stated they went from doctor to doctor for years before they found solutions. Some even stated they were dismissed by doctors who would say, “You are in your 40s. I thought you would be done with that by now,” (meaning sexual relations with their husbands). Or this was “all in their heads.” I was so astounded by the stories I heard and then I had a chance to meet some of the foremost experts in this area of women’s health. The above is why The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation (TWSHF) was started.
Cincy Chic: When and why did you decide to launch The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation?
Martinez: The foundation was launched around 2003. I accidentally was introduced to one of the experts in female sexual health research and we discussed the need for a foundation to help educate women and healthcare providers since there was such a lack of information and knowledge. We referred to it as the grand canyon of a gap of lack on information.
It became apparent that this was an area of women’s health that was not being discussed let alone addressed by the medical community. I met women who were in distress because the intimacy they once had with their spouse had been impacted by medical conditions. Some of these women had no idea that their sexual function would be impacted so dramatically. Some were terribly angry that their doctors never discussed how pelvic radiation for cancer for example would create vaginal dryness and in some cases scaring.
Cincy Chic: What are some of the things you do as a volunteer for the Foundation?
Martinez: I am sort of a jack of all trades. I do a little bit of everything and we have a huge need for volunteer help. However, my favorite part is being TWSHF spokesperson. I have had opportunities to speak all over the world including China. Our foundation even received an invitation to speak at a medical conference in Iran.
Cincy Chic: What are some of the goals you hope to accomplish with the Foundation in the future?
Martinez: First of all that TWSHF influences physicians’ practices where they routinely ask women if they are having any sexual health related problems. These questions should become part of the typical annual visit to our GYN. According to our international survey, less than 9 percent of women are always asked such questions during there annual exams and yet research shows that between 50-90 percent of women whoa have cancer will have problems with intimacy. Of the general population of women, 43 percent of women will have a low desire of pain or one of the other female sexual disorders.
Cincy Chic: You do a lot of speaking about women’s sexual health. What are some of the things women are most surprised to learn when you do these speaking engagements?
Martinez: They are surprised to hear how medications may impact sexual function. Antidepressants can have an impact on arousal and antihistamines can cause vaginal dryness. Bipolar medications and cardiac meds can cause problems. They are astounded to hear that.
Cincy Chic: You are on the cutting edge of women’s sexual health research. Tell us about the most interesting sexual health findings you’ve come across lately.
Martinez: There have not been any cutting edge findings recently.
I hate to say this but there is so little money for research, that researchers are practically begging for money to do the research that is needed. We still do not know the location of all the nerves in the pelvis of a woman. So when she is having a hysterectomy or any other surgery in the pelvic area, some women complain of nerve damage. Perhaps if we had a better idea of the location of nerves they would not have these problems There are nerve sparing surgeries for men, but not for women yet.
Cincy Chic: As an attorney and registered nurse, you leverage your strengths in medicine and law to advocate for women’s sexual health. What are you currently advocating for?
Martinez: I had the opportunity this summer to attend a round table in Washington DC to discuss how to advance educating women and physicians. Most physicians do not receive education in medical school nor their residency on women’s sexual disorders. So they do not know how to ask the right questions and assess women’s concerns.
Cincy Chic: Will the new administration affect what you’re advocating for?
Martinez: I hope they provide funding for research to NIH and the women’s health division.
Cincy Chic: When you’re not educating, advocating or volunteering, what do you do for fun?
Martinez: I love to garden. I just bought seeds for my early plantings.
Cincy Chic: What’s your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Martinez: The people.
Photographer: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Model: Lisa Martinez