Treat it like a reset — This time can be used to refocus on wellness, stress and sleep management and teach us the importance of prioritizing our health. One important thing that I have realized is that I need to set realistic expectations for myself and my wellness goals. Restructuring to put less pressure on ourselves will help us stay well.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jillian Bridgette Cohen, CEO & Co-Founder of Virtual Health Partners
Jillian is the CEO & Co-founder of Virtual Health Partners, Inc. In May 2015, Jillian launched VHP with the goal of creating an ecosphere of wellness support available anywhere and anytime. With over 15 years of experience in the medical industry, Jillian was responsible for the multi-million-dollar growth of three start-up companies, with a strong focus in the non-invasive weight loss space. Starting her career at Johnson & Johnson, then moving to Novare, ElectroCore and Apollo, Jillian specialized in development, implementation, growth, and marketing for new medical procedures. Jillian received her Bachelor of Science from Rutgers University Business School.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
When I first graduated college I went into corporate finance. I was in AT&T’s Financial Leadership Program. I quickly learned that corporate finance was not my passion and by luck ended up in the field of Medical Device Sales. My first medical sales job was with Johnson & Johnson as a Territory Assistant. Within 6 months, I was promoted to manage my own territory and then shortly thereafter, I was invited to join the Management Development Program. I tremendously enjoyed being in surgeries and seeing less-invasive surgical procedures in the OR start to take off. I spent a lot of time observing gastric bypass, open heart, spine, and orthopedic surgeries, along with the treatment of diabetic and pressure wounds. Many of the patients I saw were overweight or obese, and witnessing firsthand the link between obesity and these major health issues strongly influenced my career path.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
In my mind the most amazing or interesting story that has happened since beginning VHP is the moment when I was looking at an updated org chart, and in black and white saw the amazing team of employees, advisors and board members, that has been assembled to work together at VHP. Many members of our team have been in my life for well over a decade. To see their passion for VHP is a gift that keeps on giving. It is also key to the great success VHP continues to have.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Virtual Health Partners (VHP) is driving lifestyle changes to improve health outcomes.
VHP is a virtual health and wellness company delivering live condition-specific nutrition, fitness and lifestyle modification support to improve health results. Offered exclusively through our network of partners including insurers + employers, health systems, and health product companies including fitness clubs, VHP’s Business-to Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C) model provides a SaaS and PaaS solution that is fully customizable and scalable. Through the privacy compliant, HIPAA compliant platform, VHP provides its partners with a turnkey, comprehensive solution for clients in the areas of weight loss and weight loss procedures, metabolic syndrome, oncology, women’s health, digestive diseases, cardiac rehab, preventive medicine, plastic surgery and general wellness.
The company is now at the forefront of virtual care and uniquely positioned to address the rising demand and challenges that Americans and people across the globe face during and post the coronavirus pandemic, as social distancing is not just going to go away quickly.
Now more than ever being able to provide a fully customized and personalized virtual solution is imperative. Our virtual, live wellness program creates a sense of community using an approach that incorporates small virtual group support led by nutritionists, health coaches, psychologists and social workers, to make clients feel less alone and also to keep them on track with their health goals while working with health experts in person is not an option in our new post COVID-19 world.
VHP is democratizing healthcare by expanding health systems’ and physicians’ reach to users of all socioeconomic status. The platform allows health providers to give support resources well beyond those offered in a regular in-office appointment and makes them readily available at each user’s fingertips. Personalized tools guide patients to eat a healthier, more nutritious diet, while helping manage specific conditions and their symptoms. VHP also provides fitness and lifestyle content to support healthy behaviors.
Many Medicare Advantage plans and other insurers are also working with VHP to help fight social determinants of health issues that have been made even more apparent by COVID-19. VHP can impact poor nutrition, meal preparation limitations, loneliness, fall risk, lack of regular exercise and the need for more continuous support. VHP is able to do this in a very cost-effective and culturally sensitive manner for all of its end-users, and includes support in 11 languages.
We have currently supported over 300,000 users and growing. Now more than ever during COVID-19 the ability to support all age groups in helping them deal with managing stress, healthy eating with limited food sources and ways to stay fit at home is a whole new level of accomplishment.
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?
First and foremost, my husband. He is my best friend, my rock, my love and my partner through it all. My parents are truly my inspiration. They moved to the US, started a medical practice with my mom manning the desk, doing the bookkeeping plus everything in between and my dad building long lasting relationships with patients. My father came from very minimal means and put himself through medical school. He taught us at a young age to respect everyone equally and that all individuals deserved the best that you could give them no matter their socioeconomic background. VHP is able to provide extremely cost-effective support across multiple languages, age groups and countries. I think about how proud my dad would be of both of his daughters and how happy he would be to see what VHP has accomplished by serving people without economic restrictions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
The concept of “let me count the ways” comes to mind immediately with this question. Everything from my 18 month yelling mamma mamma mamma at the top of her lungs every time a zoom call starts, to having to sneak to the bathroom to get an early morning workout in, to having members of your family forget you are working and facing timing in the middle of your zoom calls repeatedly, plus the lack of any boundaries between when the work day starts and ends are at the top of the list for me with why it is so hard to be productive when working at home. I quickly had to create a new balance for myself and find tools like VHPGO that quickly allowed me to adjust to the “new normal” aka bathroom workouts, all meals at home and a lack of accessibility to groceries.
We were not exactly prepared for having two working parents at home for a prolonged period of time in a NYC apartment. We had to establish our own workspace and get creative with materials we had at home because everything was sold out or on back-order. Our workout medicine balls became desk chairs, our folding picnic table my desk and our kitchen counter top my husband’s desk.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Surround yourself with people who you can trust, who motivate you, challenge you, lift you up and who you genuinely enjoy being around — both personally and professionally. I am thankful that I have an awesome business coach, the programming from our platform, and others that I lean on to be able to be a good leader, businessperson, fundraiser and colleague, while staying true to our mission and our brand.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
I wish I had the secret sauce to not feeling mom guilt, but I have ways I work through it. Ironically, I thought that by traveling less due to COVID, I would have less guilt, but it has not changed. When feeling guilty I take a few breaths and go thru a self-created list. First, I remind myself that when I am with our daughter, I am fully dedicated to her, the time that we spend together is quality time. Second, I enjoy working, the challenge that work provides and in turn I believe I am setting a good example for her. I actually have these two items written out on a sticky note and I read them out-loud when I am really feeling down.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Find time for yourself even if it is in a closet or a bathroom. When you take time for yourself everything will function better. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY about it!
Make time for “me” time. It will make you a better mother, partner and human if you take care of your own needs, too. I had to find a way to work out and have ME time. Since gyms closed and I had limited desire to run in the rain with a mask on, I hit the app store. The VHPGO wellness app became my best friend for at home workouts that I could do with limited equipment and space (in my case my bathroom as I live in an apartment with a 1 year old so space is limited and her sleeping is precious). I had not done cardio kickboxing since college and fell in love with it again and who knew band workouts could make arm workouts fun!
Meal prep and food. When was the last time every single meal came out of your kitchen?? Mine would be never! But for 12 straight weeks we made every single meal (we had take-out for the first time a few weeks ago). VHPGO also helped with meal planning and simple healthy recipe ideas that I could do with a limited supply of a lot of our favorite foods.
Sleep is important. If you are that worried or stressed that you are not sleeping, you need to find a way to manage the stress. I used to read my emails even when trying to fall asleep. I now make my to do list before I head to get ready for bed and from that point forward, I do not read work email until I wake up. I also read something that is totally fun, non-political or stressful.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Finding time for my husband and I to have couple time has definitely been one of my biggest challenges as of late. Our relationship is the most important thing to me outside of the health of our family and like all living things it needs to be nourished. Carving out “us” time has made me appreciate how strong our relationship is even more and it is always a wonderful reminder of how much I love him and the life that we have created together.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
I feel like COVID has brought back out my creative side. Things that I loved to do many years ago before life got so busy resurfaced such as crafts and recipe creation. My husband and I chose a protein that we would cook in a different way every Saturday night for date night. We spent our week discussing it, looking at different recipes and watching different cooking videos. Our Saturday night dates took on a collaborative team approach, far different from my Thursday text with what reservations were open on OpenTable or Resy.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- You CAN still grow your business — Since starting VHP I have learned that you cannot be scared to pivot and it is imperative to be nimble based on the needs of your customer. VHP’s team and business model succeeded in doing both which has led to close to over 50 new partnerships and launches within a 10 week period
- Treat it like a reset — This time can be used to refocus on wellness, stress and sleep management and teach us the importance of prioritizing our health. One important thing that I have realized is that I need to set realistic expectations for myself and my wellness goals. Restructuring to put less pressure on ourselves will help us stay well.
- Family is a gift — We had my mom move in with us as we needed help with our daughter and she was all alone. After the passing of my dad and all of the grieving during his illness to post-mortem, we had lost our relationship. Being able to reconnect with my mom myself, my husband getting to know her awesome side and our daughter building such a special relationship with her is truly a gift
- Quality Communication — Picking up the phone or video chatting instead of texting or meeting for a quick drink enabled more meaningful conversations with friends and extended family. It also makes us value how important these people are in lives.
- Combatting Loneliness & other social determinants of health — We all combatted with loneliness at some point during COVID, which is what our elderly population endures daily. Drawing attention to the need for insurers and Medicare to provide accessible programming to combat loneliness and other social determinants of health became much more widely understood.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
During a time when our routine and sense of normalcy are altered — or sense of control is gone — it is important to focus on those items that we can control. Feeling healthy and strong and taking care of ourselves is key to avoiding illness and negatively impacting mental health.
Self-care is an act of self-love. During these trying times, it’s love, not fear that empowers us, day after day, to make the best and healthiest choices for ourselves and our loved ones. That’s essential. Every act self-care we engage in as we face uncertainty can serve to positively redirect and remind us of our inherent worth, strength and resilience, allowing us to feel more grounded and capable of facing the challenges ahead. As a result, we manage our anxieties better, supporting better immune functioning, and allowing us to navigate these tough times and the toll they take on us, with more grace and grit.
This is a time to focus on tasty, healthful foods, as much as they are available. Being creative and trying new things when maybe your go-to staples are sold out or don’t show up with your grocery order. Flexibility but some structure of focusing on protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And especially working on drinking water! To stay healthy, energized, and hydrated.
VHP Go has programming for helping to manage stress specific to COVID, which I was experiencing at a whole new level. The live classes with a psychologist helped gain a sense of community during a very trying time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When you come to a fork in the road take it”.
How can our readers follow you online?