Redefining menopause through education: An interview with Jackie Giannelli, FNP

Senior Design Strategist
Strategy Director

Smart Design is proud to partner with female entrepreneurs who are transforming women’s healthcare through innovation and design. Today, we feature Jackie Gianelli, Founding Nurse Practitioner of Elektra Health, a private membership platform for menopause care, support, education, and community.

Elektra’s big mission is to smash the menopause taboo. Jackie elaborates on Elektra’s strategic emphasis on education as a catalyst for this transformative shift in societal perceptions. By equipping women with comprehensive medical knowledge regarding their symptoms and treatment options, Elektra empowers them to reclaim agency over their health and redefines the narrative surrounding post-reproductive years. Jackie further underscores Elektra’s commitment to personalized care, tailored to accommodate diverse preferences among women seeking support and guidance during this pivotal life stage.

What’s Elektra Health’s origin story?

Jackie: It was a vision of Alessandra Henderson, our co-founder, along with Jannine Versi, our CEO. They were both noticing there was a lack of resources and education for women in their post-reproductive years. They became interested in understanding how hormonal health is impacting women and how we can do better to serve them. Women really need education first to feel like they’re in control of their health. And that is the North Star of Elektra – providing excellent evidence-based clinical care and trying to meet women where they are. We understand that women have preferences about how they receive their care. They might want to try different things at different times so how can they do that safely and effectively, and put them at the center of their healthcare journey?

Why do you think it’s taken so long to start seeing organizations like Elektra Health tackling issues that impact older women?

Jackie: There are many reasons for that. We live in a culture where aging is taboo. Women are not necessarily allowed to age “out loud” at all. That was sort of magnified and perpetuated by the fallout from the Women’s Health Initiative study, which was a very big research study that was done in the early 2000s. It was a huge randomized control trial that looked at the effect of hormone therapy on chronic disease in women. But what happened was the results were extrapolated in the wrong way, misinterpreted, and released prematurely. We went from 90 million women receiving hormone therapy to almost zero within the year. It was widely reported that hormone therapy would cause breast cancer, strokes, and dementia. That has all since been walked back in a myriad of ways. We’ve got our megaphones out and we’re screaming into the universe that estrogen does not cause breast cancer and that hormone therapy is an incredible tool. It’s the gold standard for hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause and other healthcare issues impacting women. We missed two decades of opportunity for women to receive truly adequate medical care.

We missed two decades of opportunity for women to receive truly adequate medical care.
Jackie Gianelli
Founding Nurse Practitioner of Elektra Health

What do you think is still taboo regarding women’s health?

Jackie: Sexual health remains taboo, especially the discussion of women’s pleasure and sexual pain. A long history of stigma is still there. I continue to remain surprised by how little access to women’s sexual health care we have in this country. Ridiculous amounts of women suffer with sexual pain needlessly, because we haven’t done a good job of understanding what the root issues are.

Women still die of urinary tract infections (UTIs) even though it’s 100% preventable and can be treated in a very inexpensive way. We don’t teach anyone that a little bit of vaginal estrogen should come with the post-menopausal standard of care. It’s very simple, easy, cheap, accessible things that we can be doing right now that can make a big difference in how women live and their quality of life.

I’m hopeful that as more investments are made into different areas of women’s health, and more options for treatments become accessible, this will elevate the conversation and the care women receive.

What is a statistic or data regarding women’s health that has surprised you and kept you motivated?

Jackie: Concerning menopause, only one out of every five Ob-Gyns has received any training whatsoever. [1] It’s still not discussed for more than an hour or two in most medical school programs or nurse practitioner programs. The majority of the providers who have gotten good at this, like myself and all the menopause-certified providers in the United States, spent their own time, resources, energy, and money, to continue to be educated, go to conferences year after year, and be on the cutting edge of advocating for new research and policy regulation. But we’re seeing this galvanization around providers asking for this education and wanting to do right by their patients. Most of us went to school to help people and when we’re missing an entire set of tools to help anyone in that phase of life, that doesn’t feel great.

Concerning menopause, only one out of every five Ob-Gyns has received any training whatsoever. [1]
Jackie Gianelli
Founding Nurse Practitioner of Elektra Health

As a women-led company, are there unique ways in which Elektra Health is run?

Jackie: There’s this amazing respect for work-life balance that is not common in the medical field. It’s ironic that we have such disregard for providers’ health and expect them to do insane amounts of hours in residency and always put others ahead of themselves, and then to turn around and tell our patients to eat well and sleep well.
I have this amazing luxury at Elektra to get to spend time with my patients. I think that is just a testament to the vision and the mission and a deep understanding of how patients deserve to be treated. We lead with a lot of empathy.

What are you most excited to see happening in women’s health and FemTech spaces in the coming years?

Jackie: I’m excited about new ways to diagnose endometriosis, a painful condition that I’ve watched patients suffer from. Regarding menopause, I think we still have so much to learn about the way that women experience certain medical conditions that have solely been studied in men. For example, women’s cardiovascular diseases or why we have so many autoimmune conditions. There are endless things that we have yet to crack the code on in women’s health. So I am so excited to watch money flow into that space and watch researchers solve these problems and bring it to market in ways that actually benefit women.

We need women in the prime of their careers, who happen to be in perimenopause, to stay at companies and continue to contribute.
Jackie Giannelli
Founding Nurse Practitioner of Elektra Health

Let’s design a smarter world together