Our Imperial / In good health
Meet the alumni committed to delivering a positive future for women’s health.
Interviews: Kat Brown/Lucy Jolin / Photo of Dr Stejskalová: Hailey Millar
Our Imperial alumni
Dr Anna Stejskalová
(PhD Bioengineering 2018), Postdoctoral Researcher at Harvard
What galvanised your interest in women’s health?
A really big factor is just being human. While I was finishing my PhD, I started thinking about having a family. You hear stories from friends about the issues they had through trying to get pregnant – or even just menstruating – and about treatment; there’s a huge mismatch. I felt it was great that I gained all these skills at Imperial and that I can contribute to solving these problems. I wanted to do something in endometriosis specifically because I heard other bioengineers were working on the disease, but there are very few labs specialising in it, which makes it harder for trainees to learn. I found a really nice lab in Germany, but after that, it was hard to find one somewhere my husband and I could both find jobs. Now I’m studying the cervix, which is also under-studied. So little is known about it, which also seems to be the case for women’s health in general.
How did your time at Imperial shape you?
The Department of Bioengineering made sure to hire young principal investigators with diverse backgrounds and also of all genders, which was really refreshing. The department would really make an effort to foster this collaborative atmosphere. It was easy to stay excited because you could see the details of your own research and then the stories of how problems end up being solved.
Currently, I’m focusing on better understanding how the cervix is affected by bad bacteria; how different vaginal infections and other factors might affect preterm birth. I feel like there are many ways that this can be expanded to improve the quality of life for women. For example, a hysteroscopy could be done non-invasively through the cervix if we knew how to modulate how it opens. I’m interested in how many of the procedures that are currently done can be made more precise, less invasive, and generally gentler to the female body.
Dr Anna Stejskalová is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Harvard University and an expert in women’s health. She was awarded Imperial’s Emerging Alumni Leader Award in 2021.
Dr Larisa Corda
(MBBS and BSc Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2017), NHS obstetrician and gynaecologist, ITV’s This Morning’s fertility expert
What attracted you to obstetrics and gynaecology?
When I was a junior doctor, I noticed the disproportionate impact that chronic disease has on women. Women are generally more disadvantaged and discriminated against in society, and that’s also the case in the medical field. I felt a great sense of injustice that someone wouldn’t have the same access to healthcare just because they were female. But I’ve also always found women’s bodies fascinating – this complex symphony of different hormones, and how this shapes health and disease and every part of a woman’s body.
Why did you choose to become a TV fertility expert?
It used to be that women’s health issues weren’t discussed openly. I wanted that to change. It felt that so many women desperately needed help but weren’t necessarily able to access a doctor – or, indeed, any healthcare. When I’m with a patient, I’m only reaching one person. When I’m on TV or social media, I can reach millions. They may only catch a few words but those words might make all the difference. A platform like This Morning is accessible to so many underprivileged people, who might not have the money or time to see a doctor, or prioritise their own health over that of their children or elderly parents. That snippet on the TV could even save a life.
How did your time at Imperial shape your thinking?
These days, I’m thinking more and more about how to bring together Western medicine and Eastern philosophies: treating the whole person. I’ve always felt that Imperial values different approaches. It’s always felt like a cutting-edge place that challenges the norm and the status quo. I first encountered epigenetics at Imperial, for example: now I incorporate elements of that thinking into my practice. If I hadn’t had that Imperial experience, I don’t think I’d be as bold in my approach – and perhaps not even as holistic in the way I view health and wellbeing.
Dr Larisa Corda is a full-time NHS obstetrician and gynaecologist and regularly appears on some of the UK’s biggest TV shows, including This Morning, Lorraine and Loose Women.
Dr Theodora Kalentzi
(MSc International Health Management 2004), Medical Prime Founder and member of the Imperial Entrepreneurs’ Pledge
What drew you to specialise in menopause care?
When I was a medical student in Greece in the late 1990s, I saw my mother suffering from menopausal symptoms. I felt helpless. There wasn’t much in terms of training – menopause was something to put up with. It was the same when I came to the UK for further training. Eventually, I shadowed a specialist who ran a clinic at Queen Charlotte Hospital. Nobody had asked him to do that before.
How did your clinic, Medical Prime, come about?
Between 2007 and 2009 I made a financial case to NHS commissioners that it made sense to set up a community menopause clinic, but it fell on deaf ears. Initially, they said there was no demand, which wasn’t true. It wasn’t a main area like musculoskeletal, dermatology or heart disease, so I set up my clinic privately. It’s interesting now, 15 years later, as the NHS is trying to catch up. I’m very pleased that I’m offering something that has been embraced very positively and I can make some little difference to people’s lives.
How did you become involved in the Imperial Entrepreneurs’ Pledge?
The Master’s was one of the best times of my life and I thought, if I do sell my business, I’d be more than happy to give some of that money back to younger students, or even to older people like myself, because I’m an ‘older-preneur’! If we all contribute, we can help some of the less fortunate students to learn and perhaps even take a risk. I wasn’t a student who had financial support, so I did my full-time Imperial course and three days working as a hospital doctor. I understand the challenges, I understand the finances and if somebody can be helped through this initiative, that’s a good thing.
In 2017, Dr Theodora Kalentzi founded her London clinic, Medical Prime. She is a British Menopause Society accredited menopause specialist and a GP. She is a clinical teaching fellow at Imperial College London and an advisory board member of the Sleep Council.