Welcome to the #FeatureFriday where we are
on some of the amazing women in our world!
We started our #FeatureFriday series to highlight some of the amazing women we are honored to know and want the world to know about them too! Our feature this week is Erin Jackson founder and president of the non profit Inspire Sante! I was lucky to meet Erin this year through a common friend!! Immediately we realized we had a LOT in common, so I was super excited to interview Erin and share her story! Erin founded Inspire Santé after recovering from years of chronic pelvic pain. A skilled attorney, inspired public speaker, and health equity advocate, she sought to corral her skills and use them to help others suffering from pain.
Meet Erin 🙂
Tell us a little about Inspire Santé and your mission. How did you come up with the concept and how hard was it to get started?
Inspire Santé literally means Inspire Health (santé is French, and it’s a call-out to the universality of pelvic pain and a significant aspect of my life when my pain began, as I studied French in college). My mission? I want women to know that pelvic pain is common but not normal, I want to give them access to resources, providers, and community that will help them heal. It’s my goal to break down the taboos around pelvic health generally, allowing women to feel more comfortable asking for help, and better positioning healthcare providers to have honest, candid conversations with their patients. Right now, I think that patients and providers blush a little bit when they discuss pelvic health issues, and I don’t think that’s acceptable. I think it pushes women in pain farther from help and deeper into isolation – and those are the women Inspire Santé aims to reach.
1. What was the moment you knew you wanted to start Inspire Santé?
I don’t remember a single moment when I “invented” the idea of Inspire Santé. It was instead an organic idea that formed as I became more involved in patient advocacy and more aware of how many women were suffering with pelvic pain, just like I had, in isolation, fear, and without sufficient access to good healthcare. Having lived with pelvic pain for many years, I felt like I was in a unique position to help these women and change the conversation around pelvic pain. And so I did!
2. What one Inspire Sante post/project/moment are you the most proud of and why?
I wrote a blog post recently (http://inspiresante.org/sante-blog/painchangedme) about how I came to be a pelvic pain advocate after really resisting the idea of doing any pain-related work. I’m an attorney by trade, graduated at the top of my class, and was offered a fantastic job (by attorneys’ standards) downtown Chicago. But it didn’t work for me, because once I was no longer in pain, all I could think about was how to help others avoid living in pain for years.
The post hasn’t been my most popular post or anything like that, but it’s reflective of a turning point in my journey, as it really encapsulates how I’ve integrated my past suffering into my present work. I hate those sayings of “everything happens for a reason,” and I don’t think that my pain was in any way “worth it.” But I do feel like that post explores how I’ve made the best of the fact that pain is an undeniable part of my history, and that’s something I’m proud of. It’s also something that I want other women in pain to understand – their pain can define them only as much or as little as they want it to define them. They’re not obligated to become a pelvic pain advocate just because they’ve been afflicted by this condition, but they’re also not required to turn their back entirely on this experience in order to be truly “healthy.” Priorities change when you’re really sick, and it’s okay to be apprehensive about what that means for your post-pain life.
3. How would you describe a typical day? What’s your morning to evening routine?
My husband and I have our own law firm, plus I run Inspire Santé – but that means I get to set my own hours! I wake up each morning exactly 30 minutes before I need to leave for yoga. I stop at Peet’s for a large iced latte en route to the studio, which I admittedly drink in lieu of water throughout my workout, and then I stop for a smoothie on my drive home. I spend the rest of the day alternating between tasks for my law firm or Inspire Sante, and I occasionally have podcast interviews (most recently an NPR interview!) or other meetings. I also love researching the intersection of women’s health with the law, and I have a 20,000-word article that was just accepted for publication from one of my passion projects – so some days include researching or editing. My husband and I eat dinner together most nights, and I really enjoy cooking. I’ve had a great gardening year and have been able to cook many of my own veggies for dinner, which has been fun. We relax in the evenings, watch TV (I’m a Bachelor / Bachelorette junkie), walk Crosby, and chat about our days. My days are entirely self-structured, and I love it!
4. Describe yourself in 3 words?
Type-A-turned-yogi (does that count as one word since I hyphenated it? 😉)
Confidante-of-my-girlfriends (hope so, I just did it again!)
5. What individuals, celebrities, entrepreneurs, public figures inspire you?
Dr. Jen Gunter, a Canadian gynecologist in San Francisco, is a rockstar. She recently made headlines for challenging the medical accuracy of some of the claims made by Gwyneth Paltrow’s company, goop. I love her no-holds-barred commitment to high-quality health information – plus, she’s hysterical. I aim to be as comfortable speaking my mind and standing by my views as she is.
6. If you could be anything…what would it be?
A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine giving this answer, but here it is: I wouldn’t change anything. I’m doing exactly what I want, and I’m exactly where I want to be. (That sounds crazy, saying it aloud!)
7. You have a free hour, what do you do with your time?
I take a yoga class – it makes me feel strong, able, confident, and happy. As I recovered from excruciating pelvic pain, I gradually integrated yoga into my wellness regimen. It was the first physical activity that felt safe, and it’s become a powerful reminder of how much stronger I am today. Plus, my yoga classmates and teachers have become some of my closest girlfriends, so my yoga studio is my happy place.
8. What’s on your music playlist? What inspires you?
My music tastes are erratic – they oscillate between pop music, country music, Hamilton, and whatever was on the playlist in barre class that day. I’m inspired by the kind of music that makes me sing along, wiggle my hips while I’m cooking, or sweat a little more in class.
9. What’s your guilty pleasure?
I have two of them: pricey yoga pants and pricey iced lattes.
10. Favorite local coffee shop?
Peet’s Coffee in Winnetka – it’s the friendliest group of people, has tons of natural light, and it’s right near my yoga studio. I can work on my laptop there for hours.
11. Food you can’t live without?
12. Wine, beer or cocktail?
My friends always roll their eyes at me, but I usually order iced tea when I’m out. I’m not a big drinker, and a single glass of wine would put me straight to sleep!
13. Favorite motivational quote?
“Because of our routines, we forget that life is an ongoing adventure.” – Maya Angelou
14. If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would you go?
We go to San Diego every chance we get – usually two or three times each year. We’ve found a community around La Jolla that we love, and we have our “regular” coffeeshop, Whole Foods, park, and lunch spot. Plus, I’m a vegan, and Southern Californian vegan food is amazing.
15. What’s next for you and Inspire Sante?
I’m SO excited about the next big project, the Santé Center Healing Week. When I was in pain, I traveled out-of-state for medical care. It was grueling, expensive, lonely, and stressful. Since I started Inspire Santé, women from around the world have contacted me to ask for help finding providers who can help them, and several have expressed an interest in coming to Chicago to be treated by my team. The Santé Center will be a home-like environment – eventually, I’d like to purchase a house for this purpose, but in the interim, it’ll likely be a B&B. I’ll host Healing Week programs there, where women from around the country can travel to Chicago for the week, stay in our Center, and receive an itinerary of appointments for the week. They’ll see a pelvic pain doctor, a pelvic floor physical therapist, a talk therapist, and a nutritionist. The nutritionist is a former chef, and she’ll prepare all of their meals for the week and also offer in-house cooking classes. We’ll have in-house massage, reiki, and yoga. In the evenings, we’ll offer support groups led by a talk therapist who specifically treats pelvic pain issues, and she’ll be available for one-on-one chats with the women too. We’ll do some initial screening before the women arrive in Chicago to ensure that their itinerary is best tailored for their needs, and then they don’t need to worry about anything else – we’ll handle scheduling, we’ll create a single set of intake forms that’ll be used by all of the providers, and we’ll have volunteers drive them between their appointments. It’ll be this wonderful, communal experience of healing, and it’ll make it easier for them to return for future appointments, because they had such a holistic introduction to their providers and to Chicago. When I was in horrible pain, I was in a wheelchair, and traveling for care was excruciatingly difficult. I want to give the Healing Week participants the opposite experience.
If you want to learn more about Erin and Inspire Sante, visit www.inspiresante.org.