Astrid Celebrates International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day,  a day acknowledging how women’s development and economic empowerment are central to a gender equal world. 

While important progress has been made for women, many still have to overcome obstacles to participate equally within communities. The healthcare industry is one that’s always going through radical changes – and as a team led by incredible women in healthcare at Astrid, we’re excited to see more women leaders use innovation to solve more problems in healthcare. 

The IWD theme for 2024 is Count Her In – investing in women and accelerating progress. 

Below we’ve interviewed some of the women leaders at Astrid who share their first-hand experiences in the industry. Learn from their advice for women stepping into healthcare, what it’s like to work with strong women leaders, challenges they’ve faced, and thoughts on the future of women in healthcare. 

Introducing the women leaders of Astrid

Lisa Nguyen

Founder at Astrid Dispensary & Clinic

What do you love about being within a team of women leaders?

Building the Astrid team has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Since day one, I’ve tried to create an environment that fosters innovation, empathy, and a shared commitment to excellence in patient care. To support growth, I think leaders need to create safe and inclusive spaces where every team member feels valued and heard. I’m impressed by each person on our team and I love seeing my team grow – within their roles, personally and sometimes when they leave Astrid.  

My motivation to create a healthy work environment was drawn from the numerous exceptional leaders I’ve met in previous positions and academic settings. They have illuminated the crucial aspects of effective leadership and team nurturing, including valuable lessons – on both the dos and don’ts of guiding a team. This blend of inspiration and constant learning has been pivotal in shaping our approach leadership at Astrid. We place a big emphasis on compassion, resilience, and the pursuit of excellence. 

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in healthcare?

My advice is to embrace the journey with patience, passion and dedication. The path involves rigorous study and practical experience, which are both critical in building a solid foundation in healthcare. We’ve got to be continuously learning. 

Healthcare is not just about science; it’s profoundly about people. 

Take every opportunity to learn, engage with diverse teams, and immerse yourself in different aspects of healthcare. The landscape is evolving, and your curiosity and willingness to adapt will be your greatest assets. In my journey from a clinical pharmacist to the founder of Astrid, I tried to seek out hands-on opportunities and those valuable real-world experiences. 

The landscape of healthcare, especially our industry, is ever-evolving. Each person’s contribution can lead to transformative changes in patient care and the broader healthcare system. Staying curious and adaptable is key to making a meaningful impact.

How do you see the role of women in healthcare evolving in the next decade?

The next decade promises an exciting evolution for women in healthcare. We’re on the cusp of witnessing an unprecedented increase in female representation across all levels, particularly in leadership and decision-making roles. This shift is not just about numbers; it’s about the diverse perspectives and innovative approaches to longstanding challenges that women bring to the table. 

As healthcare continues to face complex challenges, the insights, empathy, and resilience of women will be instrumental in driving forward-thinking solutions, policy reforms, and patient-centred care. The growth of female-led initiatives, like Astrid, exemplifies the shifting dynamics and the potential for women to shape the future of healthcare, particularly in emerging fields like natural medicines and prevention wellness.

The future will see women not only filling these roles but redefining them, ensuring healthcare is more inclusive, equitable, and effective than ever before.

What are your biggest learning moments or challenges you’ve overcome in your career journey?

My career journey, particularly within our industry sector, has been filled with learning moments and challenges. One of the most significant challenges I’ve faced was navigating the complexities of the medicinal cannabis industry from its infancy in Australia. Engaging with pharmacy staff on the frontlines, advocating for patient access, and destigmatizing use required resilience and adaptability. 

Trusting in my vision for Astrid and aiming high were essential. 

Each obstacle, from funding hurdles to changing public perception, reinforced the belief that perseverance and a patient-centred approach can lead to remarkable outcomes. 

When we first launched, I was the pharmacist on the front-line during the pandemic. Since then, we’ve built bigger strategies and systems at Astrid so our patients can benefit from individualised care. I work hard to inspire our staff to see the transformative power of believing in goals and aspirations. 

Dr Shu Ng

Chief Medical Officer at Astrid Clinic

What do you love about being within a team of women leaders?

Being part of a team of women leaders in healthcare is incredibly empowering. It’s been an amazing journey to work so closely with Lisa Nguyen at Astrid. It’s a dynamic environment where quality patient care is the top priority, and there’s a shared understanding of the unique challenges and perspectives we bring to the table. The collective focus on compassion, innovation, and excellence in patient care not only drives positive outcomes but also inspires and motivates me to continually strive for excellence in my own practice.

It’s inspiring to see how others can lead by example, showing that leadership in healthcare is enriched by diversity and a deep commitment to making a difference in patients’ lives. This shared commitment fosters a collaborative and supportive atmosphere, where each leader brings her own strengths and perspectives to the table. 

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in healthcare?

My advice to other women considering a career in healthcare is to follow your curiosity and passion. This field offers a vast array of opportunities to make a significant impact on individual lives and the broader community. 

Embrace the chance to collaborate with various organisations and join member groups; these experiences will enrich your professional journey and expand your network. 

Healthcare is not just about clinical practice; it’s about continuous learning, collaboration, and contributing to the broader community. Your passion and dedication can lead to groundbreaking advancements in patient care and treatment. Seek out experiences that broaden your perspective, deepen your knowledge, and enhance your skills. 

How do you see the role of women in healthcare evolving in the next decade?

In the next decade, I see the role of women in healthcare not only expanding but also becoming more pivotal in shaping the future of medicine. 

As healthcare faces complex challenges and transformations, the diverse perspectives, empathy, and leadership skills that women bring will be crucial in driving innovation, policy, and patient care practices. This shift will not only influence policy and practice but also encourage a more holistic approach to patient care, research, and education. 

I anticipate more women taking on leadership and decision making roles, from clinical settings to healthcare technology and research, further breaking down barriers and fostering a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system. 

The evolution will be marked by a greater emphasis on collaborative, patient-centred care, with women leading the charge in holistic and compassionate approaches to treatment and wellness.

What are your biggest learning moments or challenges you’ve overcome in your career journey?

One of the most significant learning moments in my career was the realisation of the impact our industry really has on patient care, which led me to pivot my focus and become an advocate for its use in palliative and chronic care. Overcoming the challenges associated with research, patient care, and navigating the complexities of the healthcare system has been incredibly rewarding.

Additionally, before I joined Astrid, I personally managed over 2,500 patients and now with 20,000 patients at Astrid, my journey has taught me the importance of individualised care and the power of resilience and adaptability in medicine. Each patient is unique and we strive to stay up to date with the latest innovations while customising each experience. It can be quite the challenge. 

Kady Chemal

Chief Operating Officer at Astrid Dispensary and Clinic

What do you love about being within a team of women leaders?

Women leaders, in my experience, tend to be very collaborative, empathetic, and innovative, which creates a supportive and motivating environment. 

It’s the diversity of thought, resilience, and the unique perspectives that each woman brings to the table that I find most enriching. This synergy not only drives us towards our common goals but also fosters a culture of inclusivity and respect. 

The strength that comes from embracing diversity is something I deeply value and love about being within Astrid’s remarkable group of leaders. Moreover, as a leader, I am privileged with the humbling responsibility of nurturing the growth of other women, and the profound joy it brings me is beyond words.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in healthcare?

To women considering a career in healthcare, my advice is to embrace your interests and let them guide you. The healthcare industry offers a vast landscape of opportunities, and finding your niche, especially in the range of areas available now, can be both challenging and rewarding. 

The path may not always be straightforward, but your unique perspective and contributions are essential in shaping the future of healthcare. 

Remember, resilience, adaptability and your intuition are your greatest assets.

How do you see the role of women in healthcare evolving in the next decade?

In the coming decade, the expanding role of women in healthcare will bring heightened attention to issues that uniquely affect women. As more women assume leadership positions and actively participate in healthcare decision-making, there will be increased focus on addressing women’s health concerns, such as endometriosis.

March, designated as Endometriosis Awareness Month, serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by millions of women worldwide. With greater representation of women in healthcare leadership roles, I anticipate enhanced advocacy efforts, research initiatives, and improved access to care for conditions like endometriosis.

The presence of more women in healthcare leadership positions will not only empower women to take charge of their health, but also will foster a more inclusive and supportive healthcare environment for all.

What are your biggest learning moments or challenges you’ve overcome in your career journey?

This sentiment may resonate with many other women, even those pursuing different career paths- my personal journey involved overcoming deeply ingrained thought patterns inherited from my upbringing. Transitioning from a closed mindset to one of growth demanded intense self-reflection and a confrontation of my own limitations. Though the journey was tough, filled with self-doubt and internal conflict, my determination and commitment to personal development led  me towards a transformative shift in perspective.

Today, I perceive challenges not as obstacles, but as avenues for personal growth and self-improvement. Through this transformation, I’ve learned the invaluable lesson that resilience is an innate quality, cultivated from within. Embracing change and adversity has not only fortified my spirit, it has profoundly enriched my life, infusing every aspect with purpose and meaning.

Olivia Lackman

Senior Nurse Lead at Astrid Clinic

What do you love about being within a team of women leaders?

Being a part of a team of women leaders creates an empowering atmosphere that nurtures personal and professional development, which can be transformative for members of the team.

The diversity of perspectives and approaches not only enriches our collective understanding, but also enhances our ability to innovate and lead with empathy.

There’s also mutual support and encouragement that we share. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie among women leaders who are driven by a shared passion for making a positive impact on people’s lives. This support network is invaluable as it not only propels us forward in our careers but also reinforces our commitment to helping others feel their best in their health and wellness journey.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in healthcare?

For women contemplating a career in healthcare, my advice is to embrace your uniqueness and your strengths. Healthcare is an ever-evolving field, and staying informed and skilled is an essential path. To ensure the best chances of long-term success, it’s important to place emphasis on continual learning and skills development. 

It’s helpful to seek out mentors who embody the qualities and achievements you aspire to. These mentors can offer invaluable guidance and support as you navigate your career changes.

Remember that healthcare offers a vast array of opportunities. If one area doesn’t seem like the right fit, don’t be discouraged. There’s a niche for everyone, and finding yours may just require a bit of exploration.

How do you see the role of women in healthcare evolving in the next decade?

Over the next decade, I anticipate significant shifts in the role of women in healthcare. There will likely be a greater emphasis on achieving work-life balance, with more support systems in place to help women navigate the demands of their professional and personal lives. 

Additionally, I expect to see an increase in women’s representation in leadership positions, reflecting a broader trend towards gender equality in the workplace. Astrid is already leading by example in this regard. 

Another exciting development will be the growing advocacy for women’s health issues. As awareness increases, we’ll see more tailored approaches to addressing these concerns, ensuring that healthcare becomes more inclusive and responsive to the needs of women.

What are your biggest learning moments or challenges you’ve overcome in your career journey?

My career journey has been filled with learning moments and challenges, each offering valuable lessons. In a demanding field like healthcare, taking care of oneself is essential to sustainably caring for others. Also balancing career aspirations with family and personal commitments has taught me the importance of setting priorities and boundaries. I’ve learned to recognise the importance of self-care and self-preservation for the long-term – and I try to encourage all healthcare professionals to take care of themselves too. 

Embracing failure as a learning opportunity has also been transformative. Failures are not setbacks but stepping stones to greater understanding and resilience. 

To start your journey with natural medicine, complete our free pre-screening questionnaire here or follow us on Instagram for more @astrid.dispensary


Endometriosis Awareness Month: The Role of Natural Therapies

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, shedding light on a condition affecting almost 1 million women in Australia – that’s around 1 in 7 women. 

Endometriosis, often a silent yet profound disruptor in the lives of those it touches, warrants attention – not only for its prevalence – but also for the potential relief that unconventional treatments like natural therapies might offer.

Symptoms can occur as early as eight years old and it takes a long time for patients to acquire a diagnosis in Australia and around the world.

Learn more about endometriosis below and how natural therapies play a role in its management.  

Understanding Endometriosis: A Journey of Resilience

When someone has endometriosis, it means that some of their tissue resembling the womb lining ventures beyond its usual boundaries and often spreads to unexpected corners of the body. This is the reality of endometriosis—a disorder not confined to reproductive organs but capable of infiltrating areas as diverse as the bowel, bladder, and even the skin and brain. 

Endometriosis symptoms are diverse and often misunderstood and with an average timeline of diagnosis is 6.5 years in Australia. Six and a half years is also the world average diagnosis length – but there is a wide spectrum across the world with only a 0.5-year delay in Brazil and an incredible 27-year delay in the UK.

Endometriosis in Everyday Life: Pain Management & Symptoms  

For many, the persistent pelvic pain, especially around menstruation, becomes an unwelcome companion, disrupting daily activities and casting shadows over hopes for fertility.

For others, endometriosis symptoms include abdominal pain, pain during or after sex, pain going to the toilet, irregular bleeding, changes in toilet habits, and not being able to get pregnant (infertility). 

The journey to understand endometriosis, seek diagnosis and manage symptoms is a long one. Often it can be the related emotional and mental stress of managing symptoms and seeking the best individual healthcare support that can be the most overwhelming for patients. 

Embracing Natural Therapies: A Path to Empowerment

In the quest for relief, patients and healthcare providers alike are exploring unconventional treatments, and among them, medicinal cannabis stands out. While the research is ongoing and it might not be suitable for everyone, there is growing evidence suggesting its potential in alleviating symptoms associated with endometriosis. 

The cannabis plant, with its compounds like CBD and THC, has been noted for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which could offer respite from the debilitating pain and inflammation characteristic of the condition.

  • In one study which included several hundred people with endometriosis across Australia and New Zealand, participants self-reported to using cannabis to manage symptoms – whether using a prescription or not. 
  • A worldwide survey study with a 1634  participants managing endometriosis showed that 55% of respondents with endometriosis used cannabis specifically for symptom management onlyAnother study showed how cannabis appeared to  be effective for endometriosis associated pelvic pain, gastrointestinal issues and mood, with effectiveness differing based on method of ingestion. 
  • Another survey showed that approximately 1 in 10 women with endometriosis self-managed their symptoms with cannabis. Self-reported effectiveness in pain reduction was high (7.6 of 10), with 56% also able to reduce pharmaceutical medications by at least half. Women reported the greatest improvements in sleep and in nausea and vomiting. Adverse effects were infrequent (10%) and minor.. Management strategies should be personalised for the individual and with some reported to include “heat packs (70%), dietary changes (44%), exercise (42%), yoga or pilates (35%) and cannabis (13%).”
The Astrid Clinic team ready to guide you on your journey with natural medicine
Astrid Clinic are here to guide you on your journey with natural medicine

Looking Ahead: Collaborating for Change around Endometriosis 

As Endometriosis Awareness Month unfolds, it becomes imperative to foster collaboration among patients, healthcare providers, and advocates. 

Organisations such as Endometriosis Australia play a pivotal role in raising awareness, driving research, and advocating for improved understanding and care. 

Initiatives like the EndoCannED study underscore the importance of exploring novel interventions like medicinal cannabis, providing hope to those seeking relief from the burdens imposed by endometriosis.

Joining the Movement: A Call to Action for Endometriosis 

For individuals living with endometriosis, there’s a palpable sense of solidarity and support permeating the atmosphere this March. 

If you’re over 20 and living with endometriosis in Victoria, you have a unique opportunity to participate in the EndoCannED study

In Sydney, the Endo Australia has organised a high tea with inspirational speakers who are paving the way in women’s health and advocacy. 

There are many other local and national groups to join if someone wants to participate and advocate for people living with endometriosis. Management apps like Qendo allow Australians to track their symptoms and record how they’re managing their endometriosis.

Endometriosis Awareness Month serves as a reminder of natural therapies as an option in managing complex conditions like endometriosis. 

Through collaboration, advocacy, and research, we can transform the landscape of endometriosis care, offering hope and empowerment to those affected. 

If you are  interested in learning more about natural therapies and endometriosis, book a free call with one of our Astrid nurses here. The Astrid healthcare team are experts in supporting patients through each individual’s wide ranging health and wellness journey. 


Navigating Chronic Pain and Endometriosis with Medicinal Cannabis

Chronic pain affects 1 in 5 individuals in Australia aged 45 and above, totaling 1.6 million people. 

This persistent discomfort not only affects daily activities but also creates challenges to work and enjoyment. The impact is profound, with the cost of chronic pain in 2018 reaching an estimated $139 billion in Australia, attributing to diminished quality of life and productivity losses. 

Managing chronic pain can be complex, demanding a comprehensive approach that integrates both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical methods. 

In the following blog, we explore the potential of medicinal cannabis as a contributor to the treatment of chronic pain.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond normal healing time after injury or illness, generally lasting 3 to 6 months. It is a common and complex condition, and the pain experienced can be anything from mild to severe. The defining characteristic of chronic pain is that it is ongoing and experienced on most days of the week. 

New analysis in this report shows that compared with people without pain, people with chronic pain are more likely to:  

  • be female and older
  • have long-term conditions
  • stay longer in hospital
  • report limitations to daily activities.

There are two main types of chronic pain:

  • Nociceptive pain: pain is caused by damage to body tissue and usually described as a sharp, aching, or throbbing pain and can be caused by a range of conditions or factors including injury, surgery, arthritis, osteoporosis or musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Neuropathic pain: pain is a type of pain that occurs following damage to the nervous system itself. The sensations associated with this type of pain are described as burning or shooting pains. The skin can be numb, tingling or extremely sensitive.

Chronic pain commonly coexists with insomnia, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders such as opioid and alcohol misuse.

What is the role of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain?

The use of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of pain can be traced back to over 5000 years ago when it was utilised in Chinese medicine to treat pain associated with childbirth, rheumatic pain, malaria, and even constipation.

Today, medicinal cannabis is considered to be an emerging therapy in the treatment of chronic pain as its use is the subject of ongoing research. 

The majority of the studies that have been done on the use of cannabinoids in pain have studied Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or THC-rich extracts. Most studies looked at using cannabinoids as “adjuvant” or “add-on” treatments, used in addition to other pain medicines.

Research up until now has demonstrated a moderate benefit using medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain. There is evidence that medicinal cannabis may help manage comorbidities of chronic pain, such as sleep problems, anxiety, appetite suppression. It may also be effective in managing symptoms in some chronic conditions associated with pain, including HIV, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.

Additionally, there is an interest at present as to whether the use of medicinal cannabis products for chronic pain can result in a reduction of use of strong opioids. 

If this were the case, deaths and incapacity from opioid overdoses could be reduced, given that cannabinoids have fewer adverse outcomes. 

It’s important to note that while some individuals with pain have reported that their use of opioids has been reduced through the use of medicinal cannabis, research is ongoing in this area. 

Astrid Dispensary and Clinic in Byron Bay
Astrid Dispensary and Clinic located in Byron Bay at Habitat Byron Bay

How does Medicinal Cannabis work in the treatment of Chronic Pain? 

Despite robust supportive data from animal models, current clinical trial evidence for THC and CBD efficacy in humans suffering from chronic pain is limited. The therapeutic effects of medicinal cannabis primarily arise from the cannabinoids Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD) that are present in the Cannabis Sativa plant.

 Whilst the complete mechanism of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of pain is not fully understood, it is thought that it is mediated through the effects of THC and CBD on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). 

Is Medicinal Cannabis suitable for all patients with chronic pain?

Current guidelines recommend that chronic pain management should follow a multidisciplinary ‘whole person’ approach to treatment that targets biopsychosocial factors. This means that a range of non-pharmacological as well as pharmacological strategies should be considered as a part of an individualised plan to manage chronic pain. 

Patients diagnosed with chronic pain that is not adequately controlled can talk to their doctor about the suitability of medicinal cannabis as a part of their treatment plan.

It is important to ensure that any measures taken as a part of a treatment plan for chronic pain are effective at reducing pain and positively impacting secondary outcomes such as improving sleep, mood and quality of life.  

It may be of benefit for individuals using medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain to keep a diary, which includes dosing information and monitoring for efficacy, effects on mood and function, and possible side effects. This aims to help slowly titrate cannabis to symptom control, while minimising adverse events. Generally, once individuals using medical cannabis are stabilised on an effective dose they do not require dose escalation over time.

More research is needed Medical Cannabis in the treatment of Chronic pain

The Australian Government’s National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management recognises that the burden of pain in Australia is growing and pain is associated with comorbidities such as mental health and disability. The overarching aim of this plan is to “Improved quality of life for people living with pain and the pain burden for individuals and the community is minimised”.This plan supports the need for ongoing research and clinical guidance on the use of emerging pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions, including medicinal cannabis. This must keep pace with rising consumer expectations and be accompanied by effective communication strategies.

Chronic Pain in Endometriosis: Potential for improved outcomes?

One area of growing interest is in the treatment of Endometriosis. Endometriosis affects roughly 10% (190 million) of reproductive age women and girls globally. It is a chronic disease associated with severe, life-impacting pain during periods, sexual intercourse, bowel movements and/or urination, chronic pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue, and sometimes depression, anxiety, and infertility. There is currently no known cure for endometriosis and treatment is usually aimed at controlling symptoms.

Endometriosis has significant social, public health and economic implications. It can decrease quality of life due to severe pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety and infertility. Some individuals with endometriosis experience debilitating pain that prevents them from going to work or school. Painful sex due to endometriosis can lead to interruption or avoidance of intercourse and affect the sexual health of affected individuals and their partners. Addressing endometriosis will empower those affected by it by supporting their human right to the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health, quality of life and overall well-being.

Women with endometriosis have a four times greater risk of chronic opioid use compared to women without endometriosis. Opioids may be ineffective in managing pain from endometriosis and the tolerance and dependence they are associated with naked opioids unsuitable for the long-term treatment required by those with the condition.

An online survey of women aged 18 to 45, living in Australia, and with surgically confirmed endometriosis sought to determine the prevalence, tolerability, and self-reported effectiveness of cannabis in women with endometriosis.The results indicated that women who utilised cannabis reported good efficacy in reducing pain and other symptoms of endometriosis. Despite this, there is still little evidence supporting its use in this setting and more research is desperately needed.

Currently, the potential use of medicinal cannabis for pain management in people with endometriosis is being explored by Victorian and NSW researchers in a study conducted by Deakin University and Western Sydney University.

To learn more about the role of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain and conditions such as Endometriosis or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries

Sinclair J, Smith CA, Abbott J, Chalmers KJ, Pate DW, Armour M. Cannabis Use, a Self-Management Strategy Among Australian Women With Endometriosis: Results From a National Online Survey. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2019 Nov 7. pii: S1701-2163(19)30808-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2019.08.033. [Epub ahead of print]