Women to Watch: Dr. Mimi Vo and Sarah Glasser of YEN-ology
YEN-ology aspires to bring healthcare and patient education to the forefront of medical marijuana in Missouri. Partners, Dr. Mimi Vo and attorney Sarah Glasser, are the women behind the curtain.
Dr. Mimi Vo attended University of Missouri-Kansas City medical school at the age of 18, and has been practicing as an internal medicine physician in the St. Louis area for over 10 years.
Sarah Glasser is a transplant from Oklahoma, having grown up in Tulsa, she went on to receive an undergraduate degree at Washington University with a B.A. in East Asian Studies. Glasser then returned to Tulsa for law school at The University of Tulsa – College of Law.
Together they represent two of the most important aspects of the cannabis business, healthcare and understanding of legal rights for patients.
They share more than a business practice – Glasser describes herself as, “the mother of three amazing children, wife to an extremely supportive husband, an advocate for Women’s Rights, and a supporter of local arts organizations.”
While Vo says she is, “a BoyMom to 7 a year old and twin 3 year olds,” and that she is passionate about, “healing, the arts, and my community.”
Greenway recently had the opportunity to get to know these brilliant women and learn more about how they see themselves, and their business, in the cannabis community.
GW: How did you both wind up in Missouri?
Glasser: After graduating law school I moved back to St. Louis to practice Family Law. My passion has always been women’s rights, supporting women and children who are victims of domestic and sexual assault and giving back to my community.
Dr. Vo: My husband and I have known each other since high school, when I went to medical school we parted ways. Ten years later we re-connected.
GW: Why cannabis?
Dr. Vo: I became immersed in modern medicine, (my husband) came to understand medical cannabis living on the West Coast.
I was initially very skeptical, as I had only learned about its intoxicating properties. Over the past few years, as I care for patients who have had an opportunity to use cannabis as medicine from other states, I am seeing first-hand the therapeutic benefits of it. I am seeing grandmothers whose arthritis pains are improved, mothers with multiple sclerosis spasms relieved, children with reduced seizures, and patients with incurable cancers in which tumor growth is suppressed by cannabis.
Glasser: I was driven to this industry to help others. I believe cannabis is an unbelievably complex plant with highly medicinal qualities. I have learned in my research and by talking to other people that there are so many unanswered questions and benefits and we are just scratching at the surface. The claims about the use of cannabis in the healthcare realm are exhilarating.
I am so excited to have such a rare opportunity to build a company as a woman with other intelligent women leaders and to create something unique, educational, and life changing in this developing industry. The cannabis industry is about to grow exponentially.
GW: What do you hope to do in medical marijuana?
Glasser: To educate, inspire, empower and connect. Although many people have been using this plant for decades there is still so much unknown. Being able to work closely with a physician to not only educate, but to gather data as this industry is expanding is very exciting. We hope to use this information to provide better avenues for our patients to live happier healthier lives.
This plant is consumed by such a diverse group of people and this is a perfect opportunity to bring together people from all walks of life. There is no reason why people from different social circles, economic backgrounds and cultural backgrounds can’t connect, join together, inspire and empower each other to do great things in this new thriving industry and within our communities.
Dr. Vo: I am very passionate about educating others on cannabis. Education for patients, physicians, care-takers, and the community. I became one of the board members for the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association last year and am their Healthcare and Education Chair. My first order of business, while we await the start of the program, is to educate physicians on cannabis and its use as a medicine. 9 out of 10 physicians I talk to in Missouri do not understand the endocannabinoid system or cannabis. I hope that I can spread enough knowledge that patients can feel comfortable speaking to their physicians about it, and that these Missouri physicians will have a point of reference to understand their patients better. I am also on the board of directors for the Society of Cannabis Clinicians whose mission is to educate and advocate for medical cannabis research and knowledge sharing. As a member of their International Committee, my mission to educate spreads beyond the borders of Missouri to the global stage.
Going forward, because of all that I have learned about cannabis and its use as a medicine, I have decided to pursue licenses for a vertically integrated cannabis company. I have found 3 other women all with talents in compliance, cultivation, and industry experience to join me. I hope to have the chance to bring cannabis to Missouri by manufacturing medical cannabis products that have influences from both Eastern and Western cultures, bringing maximum efficacy to patients needing relief from pain and other ailments.
GW: What inspired your plans?
Dr. Vo: My grandfather was an Eastern Medicine Herbalist physician. He sent my father, at the age of 13 to move to Saigon in Vietnam to pursue western medicine and attend a U.S. led medical school. My father was an emergency medicine physician and became a pediatrician after coming to the United States in 1975. My sister and I were born and raised here in the Midwest and were taught to follow in the healing traditions of our family. We both became doctors and now practice in St. Louis. Knowing my familial history, cultural roots as being healers, and my grandfather’s background in plant and herbal therapies, has helped cement my need to understand cannabis as a medicine. I had to do much probing and self-education on cannabis as there was not one place to find all the information I hoped to seek. The more I learned, the more I became enthralled with the research and case studies that I found. The most amazing part of this journey has been meeting all of the people who are passionate about cannabis and learning from them.
Glasser: My undergraduate degree was in East Asian Studies at Washington University and I spent a semester abroad in China. During that time, I became very interested in alternative forms of medicine, which included acupuncture, acupressure, use of essential oils and herbs to aid in medical care, health and wellness.
(Mimi) a close friend, and now my business partner, is an internal medicine physician. She approached me to see if I had any interest in learning more about cannabis. I had done some research on the benefits of cannabis and at the time I was also looking into learning more about cannabis law because the three initiatives were going to be on the ballot November 2018 and it seemed like Missouri was moving in the direction of finally voting for Medical Marijuana. I wanted to be in the forefront of its transition into Missouri. I am also up for learning new things and I was enthralled with the cannabis legal industry. I went out to San Jose in 2018 and attended my first National Cannabis Industry Association Business Summit. There I met some of the smartest, talented and powerful women from any industry. I was hooked from that moment. I was scared to death about entering an industry that was so new and with regulation and compliance issues changing rapidly was quite overwhelming. However, I love a challenge and competition.
The most amazing part of this journey so far has been meeting so many people who are passionate about cannabis and learning from them.
GW: Why is it important for women to be involved in the cannabis industry?
Dr. Vo: Education on cannabis and its use as a medicine is changing the attitudes of everyone, including women. In the past, women have been slower to embrace cannabis reform than men. Now with more understanding of its use as a therapy, women are instrumental in the normalization of cannabis in our communities and dispelling myths. Women tend to support one another, share information, and want to see each other thrive. This can be instrumental in building the infrastructure for an emerging industry. These traits are also important to help shape the start of Missouri’s cannabis industry in a more equitable way and ensure a safe and compliant program.
Glasser: Together we have more power! This is a very exciting time because as the cannabis industry continues to grow not only on a state-by-state level, but also nationally and globally, this is a perfect opportunity for women to shine. This is a time for women to have executive roles and responsibilities, equal salaries and so many more opportunities that were historically male driven. Women will have a huge impact in redefining the workplace, growing corporations and businesses and will set the tone for future generations, not just in the cannabis industry but well beyond.
I am excited to learn from some of the amazing women who have been pioneers in this industry in other states. We have to stick together and raise each other up.
GW: What is most challenging about the cannabis industry?
Glasser: This is such a new industry and it encompasses many different regulated industries like food, health, retail, law enforcement, and much more. Trying to understand all the unique aspects of the cannabis industry while keeping up with the continuous changes in government regulations and market forces is critical to building a profitable and socially responsible business. This can be a daunting task.
Also in this new market waiting to see how many patients will be certified and figuring out the best ways to support their health and wellness is a big challenge.
Dr. Vo: The negative stigma of cannabis. This stigma forces patients to confront the judgment of friends, family, and the public due to its use. These judgmental attitudes can cause psychological and emotional pain, especially for those already suffering from a serious medical condition. It may even cause the loss of a patient’s support network.
This stigma also hinders medicinal research and has caused physicians to lose job positions as they strive to pursue research. Also, it continues to be in the DEA Schedule 1 classification and this comes with issues regarding taxes, insurance coverage, and research funding.
GW: What motivates you?
Dr. Vo: In medicine, there’s a teaching model my father taught me when I was a child, “see one, do one, teach one.” This concept has stayed with me through life. In medical school, I thrived on continual learning. As a chief resident during my internal medicine training, I loved to educate medical students and residents. As a physician, I believe educating my patients helps them to understand their illness and thus I can better help them heal. Education is at the center of everything that’s good in our world. Without education, we would not have advances in technology, engineering, or other fields. I hope to see advancement in the field of medical cannabis as well. Once the walls of stigma come down and federal laws are changed, I believe the medical community will be able to do more research and bring the full potential of this plant to light.
Glasser: First and foremost my family motivates me. I look at my children and I want them to live their best lives, to not be held back by anything and to know that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. Taking on a new career path later in life is scary, but it motivates me as well. I see this as a huge opportunity to start something from the ground up and not only help the citizens of Missouri, but nationally and globally as well. Being part of a new industry that is continually changing and can have such a positive impact on so many people, how can it not motivate you!
GW: How and why did you get involved with MoCannTrade? How has your involvement influenced your business plans?
Dr. Vo: A year ago, I met a few people starting MoCannTrade and learned about their objective to ensure a safe, compliant, and successful implementation of Missouri’s medical cannabis program. I agreed to serve on the Board of Directors and am glad I made that decision. It has given me a voice to be able to educate physicians and patients at multiple different venues. I have also been given a chance to meet other physicians with passions similar to mine, as well as business operators in the industry, and network with companies offering ancillary services. Through these connections and affiliations, I have come to better understand the upcoming Missouri medical cannabis industry and its patient base. This understanding will allow me to create trusted products that will be the best fit for the Missouri patient.
GW: Where do you see yourself within the industry in a few years?
Glasser: My goal is to be a leader in educating our patients and employees. We want to be an ingrained member of our local business community. We hope to empower our employees to give back to local charities and causes. We hope to have our patients associate our company with not only first-class cannabis but also with community support and involvement.
GW: What is your favorite thing about the cannabis community?
Glasser: The cannabis community encompasses the smartest and most innovative people from every industry. Everyone is so committed to providing the highest quality of service, products, technology, etc. To be around people that are so passionate about what they are doing is inspiring.
GW: Where do you hope to see Missouri’s cannabis industry in 5 years? Where will it be in 10 years?
Dr. Vo: In 5 years, I hope to see more Missouri patients and physicians understanding cannabis in depth, with less fear and stigma. I hope to create a company where we are a trusted operator in the industry and have locations where medical cannabis patients can come to learn. I also hope to be producing products that other dispensaries throughout the state will be proud to sell and find great value in.
Glasser: In 5 years, Missouri is going to be more educated on the uses of this plant and there will be less stigma in using it, especially for medicinal purposes. We hope to see a big change in everyone’s lives from a pharmaceutical driven lifestyle for pain and medical management to a more open-minded, healthy more natural approach to medicine, health and wellness.
Dr. Vo: In 10 years, I hope I will be able to publish research in the field of cannabis by compiling data from Missouri patients who are interested in participating. I also hope that the federal government will have made it federally legal and fix the taxes and banking issues the industry currently faces.
Glasser: In 10 years, I see Missouri having a very strong adult use market and all of us wondering why it was such a big deal to get marijuana legal in the first place!