My Journey to Better Therapeutics
I have always been interested in health and wellness. Growing up as the child of two healthcare providers, some of my most vivid memories are from visiting patients at the hospital with my dad during his orthopedic residency. I remember how most patients would light up when my dad asked if it was okay for me to come into the room with him to check in on how they were doing in their post-op visits. What my preschool self didn’t realize was that, for many patients, my presence served as a bright spot in an often monotonous, lonely and uncomfortable hospital experience. It was a touch of human connection in an otherwise unpleasant situation.
As I matured, so did my interests in healthcare and cooking. I thought about how I might combine these into a career, but it seemed like two different and distinct disciplines. I was drawn toward a career in medicine, but the more I learned about the healthcare system, the more disenchanted I became with a system so hyper-focused on disease. This focus on “sick-care” and misalignment of incentives have contributed to a system where it’s challenging for providers to meaningfully connect with patients, identify root causes of health and illness and proactively care for patients. I also felt a tension between appreciating the provider-patient relationship and seeing the limitations of this model to make a difference in the system at large.
I remember reading that approximately 80% of chronic conditions were attributable to modifiable behaviors like diet, physical activity, substance use, among others. I was stunned. It felt like I had just learned a secret that would provide the key to reducing disease-related suffering and solve the healthcare spending crisis! I came to learn this fact was not a secret, it just didn’t have an easy solution.
This interest eventually led me to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, where I met hundreds of other passionate health-related professionals who also knew the “secret” about the causes underlying the ballooning epidemic of chronic disease. The more I learned, the more I came to understand that nutrition, physical activity, stress management and other lifestyle behaviors were not in addition to healthcare, they were the very foundation for promoting and restoring good health for all people. This fire and passion for lifestyle medicine led me to complete a Master’s in Nursing, become dual board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner and become part of the first cohort to ever be certified as a Diplomat of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
A couple of years later, I learned that my long-time mentor, Dr. Mark Berman (now Better’s hief medical officer), had joined a digital therapeutics startup to create an entirely new way to treat cardiometabolic diseases. I eagerly joined the team and got to work contributing to the development of what we now call nutritional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), designed to address the root causes of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. The partnership between clinicians, product creators, designers and software developers provided a new lens for solving known problems in healthcare centered around patient education, skill-building and behavior change. I participated in clinical discovery, provided behavioral assessment and counseling, collected feedback and worked to translate the data and insights into the product.
Through it all, my personal interest in food systems, nutrition and cooking remained. I loved working with our patients to provide counseling around dietary change and found that a common barrier for many was not knowing which foods were healthful, but rather, feeling comfortable and confident in knowing how to prepare basic nutritious meals or make healthy swaps. I saw this as a challenge and opportunity. In the spring of 2020, I decided to take a sabbatical from what by then had become Better Therapeutics and pursue professional culinary training at the Institute for Culinary Education in Los Angeles, where I completed an 8-month certification program in Health Supportive Culinary Arts.
After graduating, I was eager to bring my new knowledge and skills back to Better and continue to advance our therapeutic platform to transform the treatment of chronic disease through the power of nutritional CBT. At Better, I have the opportunity to combine my personal interests and hunger to change the healthcare system into a fulfilling, dynamic and rewarding career. My goal is to share what I’ve learned by helping to develop therapeutic software that empowers others with the knowledge and hope that they have the ability to positively change their behaviors and dramatically improve the way they feel and live each day.