"Menopause is still a taboo in business" Dr Theodora Kalentzi, GP & Menopause Specialist, Medical Prime
IoD member Dr Theodora Kalentzi is an experienced GP and a British Menopause Society accredited menopause specialist. After a successful career in the NHS, including being a Medical Director, in 2017 she founded Medical Prime – a private clinic in the City of London offering specialist perimenopause and menopause care.
Menopause happens when women are in the prime of their career in their 40s and 50s. This should be a fantastic time for women to flourish professionally but hormones can stop women being the best they can be. This is why it is so important to help women manage this time of their lives – and for employers to understand what they can do to help and at the same time improve retention rates
I first saw my mother suffering menopausal symptoms when I was growing up in Greece. Not all women will experience symptoms but back then, if you did, there weren’t any treatments available. The expectation was to simply endure it.
We lived near a chemist and the assistant used to let me play with empty medicine bottles to ‘treat’ my dolls. Perhaps unsurprisingly I went on to train and qualify as a doctor in Greece; I moved to the UK in 1996.”Being a female with a foreign accent in the NHS in the late 90s was a challenge for some of my patients. I was frequently mistaken for a nurse by patients. I remember being the only doctor on duty in A&E one night and a patient refusing point-blank to be treated by me. I was determined to succeed in my career and not to let obstacles get in my way.
During my years of GP training – which included six months in gynaecology – there was nothing at all on the menopause. When I started to see lots of women patients with menopause symptoms I read and researched the topic myself and soon became known as the ‘Menopause Queen’ among the other GPs in my practice. Later on I trained with the British Menopause Society, which looking back really developed my desire to open a menopause clinic.
For several years I had a portfolio career, juggling four or five medical roles. These included working with Nick Panay, a menopause specialist, at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and completing a Masters in Health Management at Imperial College London. I took on NHS medical director roles and even launched a training organisation supporting GPs and medical teams with the their business management skills.
In 2016 I decided that it was time for me to leave the NHS and move into private practice. After a lot of research, I opened the Medical Prime clinic. I am pleased to say that our patient numbers have, and continue, to grow strongly. Interestingly the pandemic provided us with the opportunity to expand our services to patients all across the UK via video consultations. The team is so pleased to be able to make a positive difference to the lives of so many women.
Menopause is often still a taboo subject in business and, when we opened there was very little awareness or willingness to discuss its impact on women’s lives. Within this, perimenopause (the transition before the menopause) is still a largely unknown and unspoken about topic. I have been championing increasing the volume and depth of the conversation within organisations. Over the years I have delivered sessions within British and multinational companies in various sectors e.g. banking, insurance, technology and retail. The popular title at present for these sessions is ‘The Perimenopause and The Menopause – how it may affect women, men and companies’.
Davina McCall’s documentary ‘Sex, Myths and the Menopause’ made a welcome positive impact, the media picked it up and I am delighted that we are now seeing more and more open discussion around the subject. We all need to work together to maintain the momentum.
Improved knowledge and effective support will advance the health of women, help organisations to retain us, our skills and experience within the work force and contribute to an improvement within society as a whole.
I feel privileged to be able to combine my deep interest in women’s wellbeing with my entrepreneurial drive to further develop and grow the Medical Prime clinic. The IoD’s work regarding diversity and inclusion and its desire to positively influence the business agenda really resonates with me.