Stigma Health is the brainchild of a doctor and a restauranteur who share a combined genuine desire to annihilate STIs.
Dr Mitchell Tanner is the principal practitioner of a local practice in Singleton, New South Wales, Australia, who completed his Bachelor of Medicine (BMed) at the University of Newcastle in 2008 and was made a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP) in 2012. He also holds a Certificate for Medical Practitioners in Sexual and Reproductive Health so he knows his stuff when it comes to STIs and sexual health.
As the leading doctor at Stigma Health, Mitchell is committed to reducing the number of STIs in Australia (and then the world), but let’s hear about it from the man himself.
A: STIs are a very underrated health issue by the general public. Personally, I’ve seen many cases of patients who have suffered long term consequences as a direct result of STIs, causing them significant emotional distress and ongoing problems, primarily infertility and HIV/AIDS.
Most frustrating of all, if detected and treated early, these long-term problems would often not occur. Dealing with these issues can be heartbreaking as a doctor, and I can only imagine what it’s like for patients.
A major contributing factor to Australia’s worryingly high rates of STIs is accessibility. For people who are otherwise fit and well with no outward signs of infection, going to the doctor for regular STI testing is too expensive, too time consuming, and to be honest, just too embarrassing for both you and the doctor. Most patients don’t want to tell, and most doctors don’t want to ask.
I wanted to find a way to change this. I wanted to find a way to make STI screening more accessible, easier, and take away the excuses. I wanted to find a way to increase our detection of STIs early and start treatment immediately, reducing the long-term burden of these infections.
Stigma Health breaks down those barriers and hopefully increases STI detection rates, improving the sexual health of Australia as a whole. Most of all, I hope Stigma Health means less people experience the potentially devastating impact STIs can have on their lives.
A: STIs are the perfect starting point for Stigma Health as they are a major problem even though they’re very easy to test for. The Internet has changed the way we do so many everyday things and as a doctor I’m excited to see the potential it holds for healthcare. By making simple medical tests like STI testing easier, it has the ability to ensure people get tested for things they should be, but may not be, more regularly.
STIs are just one example of a medical process that translates perfectly to this medium and as it is such a big issue it was the ideal starting point to explore the difference that can be made with online healthcare services.
Although it is a very new way of doing things, it is undoubtedly the way of the future. I believe so strongly in this that I am proud to put my name to Stigma Health and I’m excited to see where we can take the concept and how we can use the convenience and privacy of the Internet to improve people’s health.
A: The most common misconception about STIs is that they are a minor issue, simply a nuisance that can be treated easily and cause no problems other than an itch, some burning, a drip, and an embarrassing phone call to a recent partner. I’ll be honest, that’s how I used to view STIs when I was younger, in the “at risk” population.
STIs are so much more than that - I mean they have their own dedicated Medical Specialists and Departments within all of Australia’s State health systems.
STIs can directly lead to AIDS, cancer, liver failure, psychosis and many other health problems. Worse still, STIs in pregnant women can cause major illnesses in their unborn children. I cannot think of anything much more serious than that.
A: Cue the clichés, but each one I honestly mean.
With a spectrum of exciting career options to choose from, Medicine attracted me for one key reason. Being a doctor means making a difference to people’s lives everyday. It means my life and actions mean something and contribute positively to people’s lives and to society as a whole.
Every patient encounter is a chance to directly impact a person’s life for the better, a chance to help. Whilst it can be draining in the emotional and family sense, being a doctor means I can advocate for those who cannot.
Stigma Health allows me to encounter patients in a very different way to my usual practice, but it also means I have the opportunity to impact a lot more people’s lives for the better.
A: If I wasn’t a doctor, I would probably be an engineer in the mining industry. Growing up and completing my schooling in a mining town, where I continue to live, this is the career path well trodden by my peers and one I was set to follow. However, I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to look further afield, and who were supportive when I proposed the undoubtedly difficult choice of pursuing Medicine.
Fortunately my application was a success, and I’ve never looked back. I cannot see my life without Medicine; it’s a major part of who I am.
The irony? I married a Mining Engineer whose mother is a doctor, who encouraged her to try something different. Go figure.
A: Do it, and do it now.
If you’ve ever had sex, you’re at risk of having an STI and if it’s found and treated early you will have better outcomes.
What have you got to lose? Best case, you’re in the clear. Worst case, we find something and can start treatment immediately make sure you get the best outcome possible. Either way, it’s a no lose situation.
James is a rugby-playing entrepreneur who started out as a numbers man with a Bachelor in Commerce, but was quickly seduced by the romance of a professional life surrounded by good food and beverages. James quickly built a name for himself as restauranter in and around Newcastle building his own chain of German bier cafes, Das Hund Haus, one of which he still owns. James is currently the national brand manager of Munich Brau Haus, but his far too creative for just numbers brain has never stopped churning out new ideas and one day the idea that is Stigma Health was born.
Ultimately James is passionate about using business to help improve people’s lives and Stigma Health presented the perfect avenue for him to do just that.
Let’s hear all about that burning passion from him.
A: As soon as the idea existed, there was no stopping me. It was a no brainer, STIs are a serious plaguing issue, and actually I found out a particularly large one where I live, but there is a simple solution, a single means to eliminate the barriers between us and regular testing. The Internet has revolutionised so much already, it seemed about time STIs fell victim to its ability to create change.
Stigma Health is the opportunity to cure Australia of STIs, eliminating institutionalised barriers to healthcare including inconvenience, cost and embarrassment.
A: STIs like Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia in particular are issues today that don’t really need to be issues, the testing is easy, the treatment is non invasive and effective so why are they running rampant? I think that should frustrate everyone, not just the doctors of the world. If there’s a bad situation that can be fixed or even vastly improved by simply making something easier and less embarrassing then I think that it’s more than worthwhile someone does it.
A: The most common misconceptions include, "I've been with my partner a long time," or "I've only slept with one person". Get screened people, that is the only way to stay clean.
A: Stigma Health in five years will be well on its way to eliminating stigma’s from healthcare. By providing a hassle free and awkward free way to undergo simple medical tests we will have every Australian getting the regular tests they should be.
I believe we will have taken our healthcare international and will definitely be starting to impact other stigma attracting health issues.
A: When I am not working, I am probably working. My mind rarely drifts from business. I do get downtime on the rugby field, at the beach, reading or spending time with my partner. I also love to eat out - you can find me at a different restaurant 3-4 times a week or having a beer with the boys.
A: Get checked. No ifs. No buts. You owe it to yourself, your partner or potential partners. Don't spread it, check it!
Read about the Stigma Health Mission
Find Out More About The Process
Find Out Who Can & Should Get Tested
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