Editor's Note: Meet Pita Navarro, Evvy’s Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer. Pita is a whip-smart pioneer of all science research at Evvy. She spends her time leading Evvy’s research arm to better understand the vaginal microbiome and how it relates to clinical conditions while leveraging insights to discover female biomarkers.
Pita identifies as Mexican-American and Hispanic and for Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked her to share how her family and experiences growing up in Mexico shaped her worldview and inspired her to revolutionize vaginal healthcare.
On women’s health…..
“Empowering women and people with vaginas starts with providing them access to proper healthcare and education about their own bodies.
Growing up in Juarez, Mexico, I saw firsthand how a lack of resources can have a detrimental impact not only on a woman’s physical health but also on her socioeconomic mobility.
In Mexico, especially in communities with limited financial resources, there is very little access to education about family planning or birth control and a taboo exists around topics related to sexual health, including menstruation. During my years volunteering at hospitals in Juarez, I observed the ways that Mexico’s strong machismo culture can often hinder many women from seeking help for health concerns, especially relevant when women are dealing with issues related to their breast and vaginal health. Some men just don’t feel comfortable letting their daughters and wives visit the doctor for routine checkups, especially when the doctor is male. Consequently, a lot of the time, women won’t go to the doctor until their symptoms are severe or it’s too late to get the care they need.
It devastates me because many women in Mexico play the role of caregiver to so many people yet many of them don’t get the care they need.”
On choosing Evvy…..
“My mission has always been to lift women through health and education. I want to increase access to proper health care so that women feel empowered to live their lives with dignity, opportunity, and prosperity. I don’t think healthcare has ever existed without sexism. And because of that, very little health care specifically designed for female bodies exists. So I was really excited and inspired by the research-centric approach that Evvy is taking.”
On carrying on a legacy in women’s health…..
“I grew up with a lot of strong women in my family. After all, I wouldn’t be at Evvy today if it weren’t for my grandmother, Guadalupe, who has served as my role model for working in and expanding access to healthcare.
I'm incredibly inspired by my grandma. She has been working in the communities in Mexico, specifically in Juarez, for over 40 years now and the clinics she developed offer free medical care to anyone in need.
She started by providing women with just a simple, sterile place to go and have their babies. The need for these places came from observing that women in Juarez often gave birth in houses or sometimes literally on the side of the road without pain management or proper access to infection prevention. So she built small, one-room clinics where women could go have their babies and ask any questions they may have related to their health and the health of their child. Giving birth with all the support we have in American hospitals (especially in wealthy cities) is no joke, so you have to imagine how challenging it must be to do it with quite literally no medical or postpartum resources. Her goal was to foster a place where babies were born healthy and placed in the arms of a strong, healthy, mother who felt educated and empowered.
Then she started realizing there were many other, longer-term needs. Most of the women who would go and have their babies were anywhere from 13 to 16 years old and then the 18 to 20-year-olds she would meet were already having their second child.
So, she opened up clinics focused on family planning education called Federación Mexicana de Asociaciones y Empresas Privadas (FEMAP or Federation of Private Family Planning Associations). Then, when she realized education alone wasn’t enough, she began providing birth control. This was revolutionary for Mexico at the time, given it is a very Catholic country without much historical support for reproductive rights. In just five years, the clinics increased the number of Mexican women using birth control from 50,000 to 360,000—and that was back in the 80’s! FEMAP also included mobile clinics to support the women who lived far away from the hospital and provided screening services in their rural communities.
What made my grandmother unique is that she believed in meeting women where they are. Her clinics became magical places where you could see what a massive impact education and healthcare can have on someone’s life long term. It’s been so inspiring to learn from my grandmother and see that when you support a woman’s health journey, you can make a big difference not just in her life but in society as a whole.”
On meeting women where they are….
“My goal at Evvy is to ensure that our care and research are holistic, intersectional, and inclusive. To me, vaginal symptoms are kind of like the door to everything. For example, you have pain with sex—but what does that actually mean? Yes, you may have an infection but how does that condition impact the rest of your life? By improving someone’s health, we should also be improving their quality of life.
Evvy should be a place where people with vaginas feel comfortable talking about their symptoms without judgment. There is so much confusion about what’s normal and what’s not normal in vaginal health and I believe that we can help answer this and so many more questions through education. I want every person who comes to Evvy to feel hope that they can wake up in the morning and feel in control of their own body.”
On looking up to other women in healthcare…
“I have endless admiration and respect for Dr. Oluwatosin Goje, an OB-GYN at the Cleveland Clinic who also happens to be one of Evvy’s medical advisors. The way she practices is the epitome of patient-centric and she exemplifies what it means to really listen to the patient, validate the patient’s discomfort, and make a decision with the patient rather than just quickly prescribing something based on existing protocol.”
On feeling ambitious…
“I want to reinvent the way we approach vaginal health, from de-stigmatization to personalizing care. I’m working to make a difference in all women’s lives, particularly those in Latino and Black communities. I want to make sure that I am not the last of anything I do in my career and that my (and Evvy’s) efforts are always trailblazing in one way or another—everything we put out into the world should be inclusive of and inspiring to everybody.”