March 08, 2024

Meet the Women Revolutionizing Medicine 3.0

photo of Allie Baker

Written By

Allie Baker

photo of Vinita Tandon, MD

Medically Reviewed By

Vinita Tandon, MD

Lifeforce Medical Director

Meet the Women Revolutionizing Medicine 3.0

Women have been moving medicine forward for centuries, contributing significant discoveries, breakthroughs, and innovations that have changed the face of healthcare. On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day, as people around the world rally behind the call, “Invest in women: Accelerate progress.” 

In honor of this day, we’re reflecting on the brilliant women who revolutionized the history of medicine — and looking ahead to the future. We’ll introduce you to some of the exceptional female leaders and clinicians on the Lifeforce team who are accelerating the progress of proactive healthcare. 

Women Pioneers of the Past

Medicine 1.0

As a civilization, we healed the sick long before we had sophisticated tools and systems. Archaeological records show that we’ve practiced some form of medicine since the stone age — broken bones were set and herbs and plants were used to treat wounds. This was Medicine 1.0, and we practiced it for centuries. 

One of the earliest known women in medicine is Metrodora, also known as Cleopatra Metrodora, a Greek physician of Egyptian origin born sometime between 200 A.D. and 400 A.D. Hailed as the “Mother of Gynecology,” Metrodora is known as a pioneering gynecologist, midwife, and surgeon. Her text, The Diseases and Cures of Woman, is believed to be the oldest surviving medical work written by a woman.

Medicine 2.0

Centuries later in the 1600s, the Scientific Revolution and the advent of the scientific method ushered in a new era, Medicine 2.0. This transition was a long and complicated one. It wasn’t until the post-World War II era that healthcare became more systemized and professional.

Women were instrumental in this evolution. Yet, they were still barred from medical schools and excluded from medical establishments for years. Still, many inspiring women persisted against oppressive odds and made their mark on medicine. 

Florence Nightingale — recognized as the founder of modern nursing — instituted hygiene practices during the Crimean War in 1854 that dropped the death rate for patients in field hospitals by 40 percent. In 1849, after being rejected by more than 10 medical schools, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. In 1864, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first Black woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree, in spite of the intense sexism and racism she faced. Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman to graduate with a medical degree in 1889.

A trailblazer in physics and chemistry, Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in 1903 for her discovery of radioactivity. She also earned a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1911 for uncovering radium, which paved the way for the creation of the X-ray and radiation therapy for cancer. Anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar revolutionized neonatal care when she devised the Apgar Score, the first tool to scientifically assess an infant’s health risks, which is still used today. And French virologist Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, along with her colleagues, is credited with determining that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Their 1983 discovery helped millions of HIV and AIDS patients live longer, healthier lives. These are just a few of the remarkable women who shaped medical history.

Medicine 3.0: Women Leading the Future of Medicine at Lifeforce  

Innovation breeds even more advancement. Medicine 2.0 was focused on extending lifespan — helping people live longer. Now, we are moving into the age of Medicine 3.0 — helping people live longer and better. The name of the game is optimizing healthspan, which marks how long your physical and cognitive body will allow you to live healthfully, independently, and pain free. 

“Medicine 3.0 focuses more on longevity, prevention, and personalization,” says Lifeforce Medical Director Vinita Tandon, MD. “While Medicine 2.0 has focused on treatment and fixes,” she says, “Medicine 3.0 will start to proactively address preventable conditions earlier, with more sophisticated testing and emphasis on holistic interventions.” 

At Lifeforce, we are at the forefront of Medicine 3.0, paving the way for proactive care with accessible diagnostics and an individualized, holistic approach to healthcare. 

Meet some of the exceptional female leaders and clinicians on our team who are spearheading this mission. They share their vision for the future of medicine — and what it means for your wellness journey. 

Dr. Vinita Tandon

Dr. Vinita Tandon, MD, ABIM, Lifeforce Medical Director 

A board certified endocrinologist, Dr. Tandon was in private practice for 10 years. She was then medical director for the largest medical weight loss and hormone program in the Bay Area before becoming Medical Director at Lifeforce. She specializes in men’s and women’s hormone deficiency, diabetes and pre-diabetes, and thyroid disorders. She is passionate about treating hormone and metabolic disorders proactively and holistically. 

How do you see the future of medicine impacting women specifically? 

“I think women are going to benefit from personalized and proactive healthcare. Clinicians will stop lumping their health needs with that of men’s, and I think that they will finally get more appropriate, gender-specific guidance and care.”

What is one piece of advice you wish every woman knew about her health?

“That if you are experiencing new symptoms or any changes in your overall health or quality of life, you should pursue it and get evaluated properly. Women have a tendency to deprioritize their own health, downplay how they feel, and only seek help once things have gotten progressively worse. Proactive care and the advancements of Medicine 3.0 offer a promising path to address these challenges, resulting in improved health outcomes. 

Who is a woman in science or medicine who has inspired you? 

“My attending physician during residency was a female gastroenterologist and she was one of the best diagnosticians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She always taught us that you can often make the diagnosis just by listening to patients, hearing their story, and paying attention to their symptomatology. I’ll never forget how during rounds she’d drill us on what we had learned from patients’ medical histories, and that carried as much, if not more, weight than any other reports. She was a pioneer in her own right, being one of the few females in the field of gastroenterology at that time, and she really helped to break the glass ceiling for future female physicians.”

What are your personal health ambitions? 

“My mantra has always been everything in moderation (except that I’m a bit of a workaholic). My health ambitions are to have the stamina and endurance to travel the world, keep up with my kids (and one day, grandkids!) and I want to avoid developing a chronic disease that could shorten my healthspan or lifespan.  

I prioritize sleep over everything, aiming for seven to eight good quality hours nightly. I also follow a plant-based diet, and meditate regularly to manage my stress. I have a great network of friends that I also invest in which keeps me happy and grounded. I love regular strength training and Pilates but I don’t beat myself up if I can’t get to it on certain days. I’ll do an exercise “snack” instead, or just walk the dog. It takes time to build healthy habits so I reiterate to people that the most important thing is just starting — small changes lead to big results.”

Dr. Renae Thomas

Dr. Renae Thomas, MD, MPH, Lifeforce Physician

Dr. Thomas is an Australia-born, triple board-certified physician in Family Medicine, General Preventive Medicine and Public Health, and Lifestyle Medicine. She was the 12th physician to be recognized as an ACLM Certified Lifestyle Medicine Intensivist. Her residency and Master’s of Public Health were completed in a Blue Zone at Loma Linda University. 

What does Medicine 3.0 mean to you?

“Medicine 3.0 to me represents truly evidence-based, preventive, proactive, and whole person care. It’s diving deep into biomarkers, screening tests, and developing health-promoting personalized plans. The long-term goal of medicine 3.0 is to thrive and feel your best in every way for as long as possible!”

How do you see the future of medicine impacting women?

“There are so many nuances to female health beyond having babies and obvious sex-related differences. Fine-tuning health and lifestyle practices to optimize the quality and quantity of life for women is essential. I see the future of women’s healthcare diving deeper into female hormones and physiology — including monthly, during perimenopause, and beyond — and tailoring nutrition, physical activity, sleep, supplementation, hormone therapies, and stress management to the individual woman so that she can look, feel, and function at her best!”

How do you hope our work at Lifeforce will impact mainstream medicine?

“The biggest thing I hear back from Lifeforce members is, ‘Thank you so much for fully explaining the biomarkers and helping me understand my personal health, and what I can do to improve both my numbers and how I feel.’ I feel like rather than the traditional model of medicine, where patients are largely led by their doctor’s expertise, we are empowering our members to take control of their own health through education and guidance on not only medical interventions, but also supplementation and lifestyle changes. I truly believe this team approach is the future of medicine.”

What are your personal health ambitions?

“Personal health for me is always a journey of trying to do a bit better every day. I am always trying to fine tune my nutrition, get stronger, fitter and more flexible, relax more, sleep more soundly, and be a better partner, friend, doctor, and family member. It’s nothing novel, but consistently working to improve the basics over many years has always been key for me.”

Dr. Kimberly Hartzfeld

Dr. Kimberly Hartzfeld, DO, IFMCP, Lifeforce Physician

Dr. Hartzfeld is a board certified physician with nearly two decades of experience helping women regain health. She earned her medical degree and completed her OB-GYN residency in New York City. After years of treating patients, she became frustrated that conventional medicine fell short in treating the root cause of their debilitating vulvar disorders. She began to explore functional medicine to correct imbalances in her own health, and she realized that a personalized, functional medicine approach would also benefit her patients. She became certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine and founded Peak Functional Medicine to help women restore health and hormone balance.

How do you envision the future of medicine?

“I am hopeful that we will return to focus on the foundations of health and correct the underlying cause instead of reacting to disease. People are turning to functional medicine because they are tired of taking pills. They want to extend their healthspan! It is about getting back to basics with diet, exercise, sleep, community, and stress reduction. With so many great options for wearable technology in the healthcare space, we can now monitor our health on a daily basis and personalize our treatment plan accordingly.”

What medical innovation on the horizon excites you the most?

“Nanotechnology is an exciting field in science and medicine. Nanoparticles are used to direct treatment to the disease site, which can reduce side effects and give promise to therapies for diseases that previously had no cure. I am also happy to see CAR T cell therapy becoming a treatment option in more cancers. With CAR T cell therapy, they reprogram (genetically alter) your own T cells to fight your specific cancer. It essentially instructs your own immune system to target cancer cells. We all know someone who has battled cancer. It is good to see new technologies available to help us win this battle.”

How do you see the future of medicine impacting women?

“Women’s health is now a main area of focus and not an afterthought. We see support for hormone optimization growing, which is a major player in reducing the risk of chronic disease for women in early menopause. There are now multiple virtual options for women that offer hormone support wherever you live, such as Lifeforce. Women no longer have to grin and bear it in menopause. It is a time to feel free, fabulous, and enjoy decades of healthy living!”

Who is a woman in science or medicine that has inspired you?

“In the mid-1800s, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree. As history explains it, she had a hard time finding a job afterwards. She co-founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. Throughout her career, Dr. Blackwell was a strong advocate for women in the field of medicine.”

Dr. Rachael GonzalezDr. Rachael Gonzalez, MD, ABFM, ABOIM, Lifeforce Physician 

Dr. Gonzalez is a first generation American from Mexican and Cuban parents. She has wanted to be a doctor since she was three years old. At an early age, due to multiple health issues, she experienced both the great gifts and shortcomings of our healthcare system. She saw medicine as a perfect marriage of science and service to others. Her journey as a physician led her to functional medicine, which has allowed her to care for people holistically without abandoning the rigor of science and expanded her teachers to include naturopaths, ayurvedic medicine, and TCM specialists.

What does Medicine 3.0 mean to you?

“Medicine 3.0 has been said by many to mean an evolution of the practice of medicine away from rote treatment of disease to the prevention of disease and the extension of healthspan using individualized approaches for each and every patient. I feel it is fundamentally what functional medicine has always been about — combining the very best of ancient traditional medicine with advances in treatment, methods of pre-disease detection, nutrigenomics while focusing also on the patient’s story and values. For me, Medicine 3.0 is the perfect antidote for physician burnout because it requires connection to our patients, to our purpose, and in so doing, it empowers not only patients but the healthcare providers as well.”

How do you see the future of medicine impacting women?

“Women are going to be most impacted by a paradigm shift in medicine because while they may statistically live longer, they carry a heavier burden of the chronic diseases that are becoming epidemic, such as autoimmunity and dementia. Women are also the sentinels of toxicity. Medicine 3.0 recognizes the nexus of environmental health and the health of every living organism.”

What is one piece of advice you wish every woman knew about her health?

“Your body has all the wisdom of generations of women before you. Your health is the natural consequence of your connection between you, your body, and your community. Health is a birthright and should be defended with the same tenacity we would give to anything we value.”

Dr. Kathryn Rexrode

Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, MD, Lifeforce Clinical Advisor 

Dr. Kathryn Rexrode is the Chief of the Division of Women’s Health in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rexrode has broad and deep research experience in women’s health, with particular expertise in cardiovascular disease in women. She leads multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health and is the author of more than 300 research publications. Dr. Rexrode practices as a primary care physician at the Gretchen and Edward Fish Center for Women’s Health at BWH.

How do you hope our work at Lifeforce will impact mainstream medicine?

“I hope that the work at Lifeforce can empower women to lead healthier lives.”

How do you see the future of medicine impacting women specifically?

“I look forward to a future in medicine where all care is informed with a sex and gender-specific lens based on science and data.”

Dr. Leah Johansen

Dr. Leah Johansen, MD, ABFM, Lifeforce Physician

Dr. Johansen is a board certified family and community medicine physician with a strong emphasis on functional medicine, preventative medicine, and mind-body medicine that characterizes the relationship between our mind, hormones, neuropeptides, and immune system. 

How do you envision the future of medicine?

“I envision the future of medicine to be based on individual variability and emotional intelligence. Chronic disease is highly correlated to emotional disease, and it is well known that the common traumas happen before the age of 18. Teaching our youth about mind-body medicine (psychoneuroimmunology) is the most important thing we can do to prevent chronic disease and live truly empowered lives. For the future of medicine outside of earth (Space or Aerospace Medicine is already happening), understanding our unique genetic variability as well as our microbiome diversity will hopefully lead to successful survival.”

How do you see the future of medicine impacting women specifically?

“I see more women, as a feminine expression, empowered to live authentically and take control of their health by understanding their own unique needs, at the same time as recognizing our relationship toward each other, toward the community. Medicine is a community effort. Our emotional and spiritual health and mental well-being are just as important, if not more important, than our physical health. Technology will advance, epigenetic data for individual variability will be utilized, and if we are wise, we will know the answers to the deepest questions humans consciously or unconsciously commonly ask: ‘Do I belong?’ ‘Will I be rejected or accepted?’ ‘Am I loved?’ If the energy of the feminine can believe that they belong, they are accepted, and they are loved, then they will have the freedom to live authentically empowered lives.”

Who is a woman in science or medicine who has inspired you? 

“Dr. Candace Pert, PhD, neuroscientist and pharmacologist, author of Molecules of Emotion, is considered as "The Mother of Psychoneuroimmunology" who helped bring forward the understanding of mind-body medicine. She helped bridge the gap between our thoughts, our emotions, our minds, and the interrelated neuropeptides and immune related cytokines that communicate and create function within the body. I love this woman!”

What is one piece of advice you wish every woman knew about her health?

“She is enough — meaning she is worthy, she is forgiven, she is loved, she is admired, she belongs, and she is accepted. If we all understand our value as being a unique, individual, beautiful soul, then the health of each one our cells would follow. You cannot treat the body without understanding the mind and how the mind treats the self.”

This article was medically reviewed by Vinita Tandon, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

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