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Unstoppable: How SimpleHealth’s Carrie SiuButt Has Redefined Success While Navigating Society With Dystonia

Avoid feeling sorry for yourself and dwell on your limitations. You should think about how you can use your disability to help others who are not as fortunate. When things don’t go as planned, you must think about what to do next and persevere even when things might be hard.

As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie SiuButt.

Carrie SiuButt is the CEO of SimpleHealth, a telehealth and wellness brand that is nationally recognized for its advancements within the reproductive wellness space. She is a former Wall Street Business executive-turned global wellness leader who uses her journey as a differently-abled woman of color as a key motivator to bring diversity, inclusion and accessibility to healthcare. Under her leadership, the company was recently recognized as one of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and moved to the United States when I was a young adult. At the age of 11, I noticed that I began limping at the onset of puberty. After navigating through the healthcare system, it took about 2–3 years to finally be diagnosed with Dystonia.

Dystonia is a rare movement control disease that affects around 300,000 people. Symptoms include a foot cramp or a tendency for one foot to turn or drag, writer’s cramps, tremors, and involuntary pulls of the neck. It’s often considered a “hidden” disability or an “invisible” illness because it’s so rare and, therefore, difficult to diagnose.

Around the time of my diagnosis, it became difficult for me to write with my dominant right hand, so I taught myself to write with my left. Although my disease progressed throughout college, I graduated and went on to work in an extremely fast-paced environment where I was successful but not in the best health due to the lifestyle that came with being a Wall Street executive.

After I completed my Masters of Business Administration program at Stanford University, my disease became significantly worse, so I decided to seek options for treatment. Since I wasn’t a fan of taking medicine that would increase fatigue, I was presented with another option — deep brain stimulation surgery. Although it was a challenging decision to make at the time, it helped unlock many doors for me, including running my first 10K marathon. My journey with Dystonia is what led me to make the career switch from Wall Street to healthcare after realizing the lack of accessibility and diversity within the industry.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?

As I mentioned earlier in this interview, I was diagnosed at 11. Dystonia can be brought on in many forms. For me, it was a genetic defect with one of my genes. It was a long and complex road from the time I started having symptoms to when I finally had a diagnosis. Given that I got sick in the late ’80s, it took quite a while to get a proper diagnosis without the technology we have today.

I made a conscious decision not to constantly “announce” or talk about the fact that I was disabled until the summer of 2020. Everything that happened that summer was a turning point for me. I then decided to embrace my background and who I really was. I am now proud to say that I am a Black and Chinese disabled woman dedicated to improving healthcare access in America. If I can show other individuals that you can be a woman of color with a disability running a successful company, then I have achieved my purpose. Growing up, there were no women of color leaders, much less disabled CEOs and I am happy I can be a role model for others. At the same time, I can help build a “ramp” for other individuals that do not have easy access to healthcare.

Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness ?

My goal was always to attend an ivy league school. I ended up getting accepted to Stanford University, where I earned my MBA. I also had a goal to end up on Wall Street. From 2005 to 2007, I worked for American Express as a Senior Manager, where I was responsible for the long-term strategy for the Consumer Travel Network.

In 2019, I became one of the founding members of Chief. Chief is a private network built to drive more women into positions of power and how we can keep them there. The network is also designed for senior women leaders to strengthen their journey into the C-suite, cross-pollinate power across industries, and effect change from the top-down.

Ever since I was a young child. I always had a dream of becoming a CEO one day. Although I had more limitations as I grew older, I did not let that stop me. When I joined SimpleHealth in 2020, I increased our revenue by 900% and improved our systems and operations to achieve profitability. Earlier this year, SimpleHealth acquired a contraceptive care company Emme, a HIPAA-compliant smart case and app that helps with birth control adherence and symptom tracking. The acquisition expands SimpleHealth’s birth control prescription delivery and telehealth services while addressing unmet needs in reproductive healthcare through a patient-centered approach.

I was also recently honored by the Women Presidents Organization as the Fast Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies for 2022.

What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?

Don’t let your disability define you — and don’t let other people judge your capabilities before you’ve been able to show them your skills fully.

You never want to be the smartest person in the room. Always surround yourself with individuals that are smarter, because it forces you to learn more and think critically. It may be uncomfortable most of the time, but this is where intellectual growth comes in.

Avoid feeling sorry for yourself and dwell on your limitations. You should think about how you can use your disability to help others who are not as fortunate. When things don’t go as planned, you must think about what to do next and persevere even when things might be hard.

Lastly, how can you help change the world? It does not have to be a significant idea.

By showing people, that differently-abled people don’t need pity, they may need a helping hand at times but not a handout.

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?

My parents. They never had no in their vocabulary regarding my limitations. They were my biggest supporters on my journey–moving from Trinidad, getting diagnosed with Dystonia, undergrad to grad school, and then becoming a CEO.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe I have in two ways. Primarily, by creating a company that is accessible to people born with ovaries and women is one of my proudest moments of running a mission driven company. Second, I just joined the board of Covenant House South Florida, a non-profit agency that serves runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth, including teen parents and their babies.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.

  1. Please don’t stare at disabled people or make a comment — instead, get to know them and then maybe offer to help
  2. Feel free to ask questions if someone opens up about their disability — pretending it’s not there isn’t helpful or comfortable
  3. Don’t assume because someone is disabled that they shouldn’t dream big — people would always tell me why I shouldn’t pursue an endeavor because I am disabled
  4. People with physical disabilities may have very different needs — they may need more sleep or take better care of their bodies. Making fun of their need isn’t necessarily funny
  5. If someone says they can’t do something, trust them, they know their body best

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Let it Be.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

Oprah or Michelle Obama. I would love to discuss their journey with menopause as Black women.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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