A CONVERSATION WITH MINH MERCHANT ABOUT OVARIAN CANCER.
What is your background?
I spent almost a decade at various law firms before moving in-house to the healthcare industry, where I’ve made my career for the last 15 years. When I made that transition, I deliberately chose to focus on healthcare to move the needle in some way for patients. Like so many of us, I have had an up-close and personal experience observing our country’s healthcare system in action. As a result, I have seen the incredible ways patient care is at the forefront of innovation, as well as the significant health gaps and inequities that still exist — especially for underserved populations.
Why did you join Aspira Women’s Health?
While I was delighted to be invited to become a member of the Apsira team, several things tipped the scales and made it an easy decision for me. First, I am grateful to support Aspira’s mission to improve health outcomes for women, starting with ovarian cancer. Second, I’m a minority lawyer where the vast majority of my peers are white men — candidly, it was very important for me to be part of an organization that supports women, and is run by women. In addition to a very deep and talented C-Suite, Aspira has a female Board Executive Chairperson and a female CEO — both of which are rare for a public company. Finally, I’m also a mom. Motherhood is the ultimate equalizer – there’s this strong imperative to protect our kids, to ensure they are safe and healthy and well. Joining Aspira allows me to be a part of the innovation and progress that breaks down racial barriers in our healthcare system, and provides some of that protection to the next generation.
I am mindful every day that there is a patient who is traversing a very scary, very fraught health journey. I want to be a part of making that journey a positive one.
What have you learned about ovarian cancer that you wish more women knew?
We have all heard the drumbeat that early detection is critical for cancer. I have since learned that the stakes are even higher for ovarian cancer. Don’t ignore the symptoms – be an unflinching advocate for yourself, especially where those symptoms might be dismissed as something not serious or not urgent.
What are the most promising developments to watch for in the diagnosis or treatment of ovarian cancer?
The more awareness and training there is around ovarian cancer, and the more innovative tools and therapeutics we can give to the provider. These result in better outcomes for women with ovarian cancer. Aspira is working on launching an initial clinical assessment tool, OvaWatchTM, which would help the healthcare provider track the development of what starts as a benign mass. Early detection is key and having the tools to help aid in that assessment is essential.
Do you have any plans for supporting awareness and advocacy during Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and beyond?
I have contributed financially to organizations that have made cancer the forefront of their mission, including pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.
Minh Merchant is an experienced healthcare attorney and has served as the President of the Vietnamese American Bar Association and one of the inaugural members of the National Conference of Vietnamese American Attorneys. She graduated from UCLA School of Law, and lives in Northern California with her husband, her two children, and a very feisty Bernadoodle, Rosie Ripley Dinosaur. During the pandemic, she checked off all the boxes: Baking? Check. Improved mixology skills? Check, check. Moved out of a City? Check. Adopted a pet? Check. Gained some pounds. Unconfirmed.