Sophia Yen ’93, believes the easiest way prevent unplanned pregnancies is by making prescription contraceptives available online.
A year ago, Yen, along with a pharmacist and three other collaborators, founded Pandia Health, an internet-based service that automatically sends refills of three different types of prescription birth control: the pill, the ring, or the patch. The service also provides prescriptions if needed, with no required in-person medical encounter. To qualify, patients must fill out a detailed health questionnaire and submit a blood pressure reading taken at a doctor’s office, during an emergency room visit, or at local pharmacy or grocery store health clinic within the past 365 days.
Yen calls this effort “almost a culmination of my life’s work,” noting that she has been interested in medicine since childhood.
She earned a BS in biology from MIT, where she found a mentor in Mark Goldstein, a former MIT Medical pediatrician. She also participated in what was known as the “contraceptive road show,” visiting MIT’s living groups to share information about birth control with students. After MIT, she earned an MD from the University of California at San Francisco and a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley. She is now a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medical School but devotes much of her time to Pandia Health.
Yen also cofounded SheHeroes, which produces video profiles of female professionals (including MIT professor Angela Belcher) to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Although reproductive health is her passion, Yen is also conversant in fundraising, marketing, and revenue projections. She did the accounting for her parents’ personal accounts starting as a fourth grader, and at MIT she was treasurer for her class as well as for her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.
“I have business in my blood,” she says, noting that her grandfather was an entrepreneur as were her parents, who opened a Silicon Valley company involved with chip manufacturing.
Yen’s background is also evident in the way she accessorizes. “I’m the only startup founder with a uterus necklace around my neck and a beaver ring on my finger,” she says with a laugh.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.