While Sophia Yen, MD, MPH ’04, was giving a talk at a physicians conference, she had an epiphany: The number one thing that prevented women from taking their birth control on time was not having a steady supply of it.
“We can easily solve this,” Yen and fellow UC Berkeley alumna Perla Ni, BA ’95, thought at the time. “We will ship women birth control and keep shipping it to them until they tell us to stop.”
In 2016, Yen, Ni, and four other colleagues co-founded Pandia Health, an online service that provides birth control and emergency contraception to clients across the country, reaching all 50 states. Customers without a prescription in 15 states can pay $25 for an online evaluation to receive a prescription from one of Pandia Health’s doctors. Patients then get their medication delivered periodically to their door free of cost with insurance or from $7 to $15 per month without coverage.
The service has been popular and, according to Yen, demand has surged since the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion earlier this year.
“We have seen a three fold increase in demand since Dobbs v. Jackson overturned Roe v. Wade,” she said. “We have always offered our patients emergency contraception in advance to have on hand in case they forget to take their [contraceptive].”
Before starting the company, Yen earned her medical degree from UCSF in 1997. She enrolled at UC Berkeley School of Public Health six years later, where she studied maternal and child health with a specialization in obesity, receiving her MPH.
“I wanted to concentrate in childhood obesity and the MPH gave me that opportunity,” she said about her decision to obtain a master’s degree after completing her Adolescent Medicine fellowship. “[It] has always made me think about involving the community and serving the greatest number of people possible.”
Today, in addition to being CEO/co-founder/chief medical officer for Pandia Health, where she sees patients via telemedicine and prescribes birth control and acne medications, Yen is a clinical associate professor and adolescent medicine specialist at Stanford Children’s Health’s Weight Clinic. She sees patients that have above-average BMIs for their weight and age and helps them with their food choices to prevent obesity comorbidities like type 2 diabetes, treats them with medication, or helps evaluate them for bariatric surgery.
At Pandia Health, Yen used skills as an academic to create a better algorithm for choosing which birth control pill to give each patient. This has resulted in 82% retention a year versus the standard 55% for new birth control users.
“I realized that what I was taught at UCSF and Stanford worked fine for a Caucasian female, but didn’t work so well for Asians and Blacks. We came up with something better, with fewer to no side effects. We trained our doctors how to choose from the 40 different birth control pills to address side effects,” Yen said.
Yen views her public health degree as a crucial stepping stone to building her credibility as a public health servant. “I see the MPH as the MBA of medicine but for getting ahead in government and public health versus business. I would love to be the first surgeon general to focus on preventing unplanned pregnancies or women’s health.”
You can get #BirthControl with FREE delivery from @pandiahealth. Enter code CalMPH at checkout, and get $5 off your telemedicine visit, if needed. Check it out here.