As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sigi Marmorstein .
Sigi Marmorstein is a Telehealth Consultant with over 65+ Successful Telehealth Implementation projects. Her role as a Telehealth Consultant is the culmination of a 20-year career in health care spanning employers such as Davita, Kaiser Permanente, USC, Adventist Health and West Coast University. Sigi has years of experience in the health care industry as an emergency room provider, operations manager, project manager, business owner as well as academic. Consistently throughout her diverse career, she remained devoted to finding solutions to improve patient access to care using health technologies and has won several awards for such programs. Her latest venture, BabyLiveAdvice is a social enterprise that was meant to support families and reduce maternal-child morbidity and mortality through education and support.
She is recognized in several publications and a recurring invited speaker on Telehealth at key conferences. She serves on the Nursing advisory board at HRSA, member of the AANP, CANP and the California Action Coalition and still moonlight in ER as a Nurse Practitioner.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
For me, starting a business is very much like raising a baby. It requires dedication, love, and strength. Though painful and upsetting at times, it is a mission that is totally worth it. When I took up the same mission, I was determined to transform the lives of mothers and parents through BabyLiveAdvice (BLA) — a digital platform that is dedicated to support, educate, and empower mothers and parents so they can be confident and knowledgeable about pregnancy, delivery, breast feeding, infant care, and later toddler care. I began my career as a NICU/Pediatric nurse in 1996 at a newborn nursery. I was there at the beginning of new life to hold those tiny hands in mine while I encouraged, educated, and supported new parents. I remember dealing with my pregnancies and motherhood with much anxiety and stress. As a nurse and a nurse practitioner, I later met with moms who were less knowledgeable or fortunate than myself. They struggled with food insecurities, abusive relationships, drug and alcohol addictions, lack of care access, unwanted pregnancies, and more. She was determined to make a difference.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The greatest thing ever to have happened takes place when we observe the transformational growth for a pregnant mother in a bind. We see and hear these terrible stories, where a mum-to-be might have been abused or on drugs or 16 and pregnant — and we want them to pull through the most adverse circumstances. We work hard for these women and our ability to serve them by helping them to achieve these incredible outcomes is what we live for. We have nurtured a father whose wife died while giving birth to her daughter. He ended up single and with a baby, in his 20s to his baby girl Mia. He found us on the internet one day and called to say that he had no idea what to do because he didn’t have boobs. We literally raised the baby with him over a 10 month period. We got invited to her birthday party. The baby is 14 months old now and is starting to wobble and walk. Kyle turned out to be a great dad. Another time, we had two grandparents from Wisconsin who were foster parents to their new grandson. Charlie was 6 months old when they got him. They had to wean him off the breast and didn’t know how to cope with a baby, being in their 70s. For months one year, we planned the escape route for a mum who was in an abusive relationship. We literally prepared her bank accounts, snatched her out of that house and flew her out to a different state.
We go through it with these families, sit with them, intersect in their lives. We address childhood traumas for women who may have been addicted to cocaine who desperately want to bring their baby into the world, clean. People come from difficult socio-economic circumstances. Telehealth advice appears to be basic service but with BabyLiveAdvice, it is the element personality and empathy that we know brings the difference to the table. We go way above and beyond standard medical care.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As an entrepreneur you always make mistakes, that is how you learn, that is how you grow. The biggest ones that I can remember include trusting people that you work with to keep their word. I trust many people and I give them all of my heart. I do this early on and sometimes that happens, but it is important to carefully vet all contacts. I started hiring a lot of nurses when I had no customers. I quickly had to learn now how to staff the company according to the demand. It took a lot of money to hire and certify people and then I find out that I did not need the number of staff that I had contracted, so it was a costly mistake to learn from. Pricing contracts is also very difficult. There are no models to look at and none exist. When you are innovating around an idea, there are no business models to follow. You don’t know how to market it. We never had COVID in pregnancy or in infancy. How do you learn from that? We make mistakes and think to ourselves, ok I won’t make that blunder again!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I can attribute much of my success toDavid, my husband, my co-parent and my co-pilot in life. David is an attorney. This is my 3rd startup and it feels exactly like having another baby. When I decided to go for this 3rd startup he was like “god help us”. David writes all of our contracts. Between the NDAs, non compete clauses, the hiring contracts and the legal work associated with a new startup, I can easily assume that we have saved over a million dollars in attorney fees were it not for him. Milton Chan is also hugely influential in my success. Milton is the director of Vsee (the Telehealth platform that we are built on). The technology is worth millions and he gave it to me without asking for anything in return. Having a technology partner is integral to our success.
I read the Alchemist once a month and one of the passages in the book has been my age old mantra: “when you do the right thing, many people will come to your aid”. I believe that the whole world will come to our aid.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
The U.S. is facing a maternal-infant health crisis. Seven million women live in a maternal desert with little or no access to maternal childcare. Half of obstetricians are burned out and leaving the profession, resulting in a shortage of 9,000 obstetricians in the US alone. Moms and babies are at higher risk of injury or death when they are away from medical care postpartum. BabyLiveAdvice providers provide many of the billable services that are required by Medicaid but NOT provided regularly or at all currently by most clinics/providers due to staffing and limited resources which contributes greatly to poor care outcomes in maternal care.
We are here for the empowerment of women. There are not many companies who put the empowerment of women at the forefront of their companies mission. Education and empowerment should be the first thing that we do in healthcare, not the last.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Self reliance is a big one for me. People need to stop relying on others and learn to turn to themselves for the advocacy required to make it through life’s twists and turns.
- Find your inner peace. Finding moments where you can be close to nature is super important. When you live in urban areas it isn’t easy, but find nature and find water. Find joy in family and in meaningful relationships even if they aren’t blood related. These serve to support our health needs.
- Eat well. Feed your body with great food so that it can support your functionality and give you the clarity you need to make good decisions.
- Get inspired through text. I read the Alchemist once a month and one of the passages in the book has been my age old mantra: “when you do the right thing, many people will come to your aid”. I believe that the whole world will come to your aid.
- Find sunshine. Sit in the sunshine where you can find it. We ask our mums while they are pregnant whether they have found sunshine. This simple joy live natural vitamin D brings us back to ourselves.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement to reduce infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates across America has already begun. When we heard that 65% of all births in the U.S. are funded by Medicaid, 33,000
babies are born prematurely annually and that 129 hospitals shut down their maternity services since 2018 costing around 400 million in maternal health complications, we knew our work had to be impactful.
At the heart of the BabyLiveAdvice mission, is the health and safety of women, babies, moms and parents. We provide end-to-end support when and where users need it, from pre-pregnancy through early childhood. Our BabyLiveAdvice platform features easy-to-follow tasks, complete medical records and HIPPA-compliant video/audio and chat. The app puts a wealth of expert care capacity at users’ fingertips. Resources include nurse and nurse practitioner advice, midwife and doula support, lactation support, access to social workers/care coordinators, nutritional support, diabetic education and virtual group education classes.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Mental resilience required! The biggest thing that people don’t tell you is that entrepreneurship is so hard. Its not like having a job. It’s like having another life and you have to immerse yourself in it fully.
2. Fundraising is brutal. They also said that fundraising is hard. Its not just hard, its gut wrenching. I liken it to looking for a baby sitter for your child. Learning the art of financing your company through venture capital to grow and scale is extremely important and is a different process from bootstrapping.
3. Learning whom to align yourself with is exceptionally important. Who to get in bed with, who to partner with as business partners is critical at every juncture.
4. Entrepreneurship must be hard wired. Even when working with nurses who are programmed to take orders from a doctor, in this forum, they must take decisive action wherever it is required. Having that self reliance has been a mental shift for many professionals.
5. Steer your shift. Stay with what you know. Acknowledge what you do not know. Lean on what you think is right and completing your mission is exceptionally important. Follow your gut instinct.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is dearest to me — if you don’t keep yourself to the ground, give yourself water or nourish your body, you will not survive. When I think about those who not survive Covid, to those who just succumbed — if you weren’t strong mentally, you weren’t going to make it. We all want to know that things are going to be ok. Self reliance, resilience takes mental fortitude.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
The best place to find us online is at https://www.babyliveadvice.com/
For LinkedIn find us at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sigi-marmorstein-rn-msn-phn-fnp-bc-a8aa4550/
And on Twitter https://twitter.com/babyliveadvice
Thank you for these fantastic insights!