My favorite food is: Frozen, overcooked chocolate chip cookies The life hack I swear by: White vinegar – it cleans everything
Redesigning the health care system to support the queer and trans community
DRIVEN TO HELP A COMMUNITY IN CRISIS. A.G. Breitenstein considers herself an unrelenting optimist. It's an attitude that has carried her through a 30-plus year career working in the healthcare system and provides the foundation for her enterprise Folx, a virtual-first platform that gives the LGBTQIA+ community access to quality care that's in service of its needs and celebrates their lives.
Coming out in college, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, motivated A.G. to pursue a career in the healthcare industry. "It was very different from today, there was no gay marriage, and queer and trans folks didn't have many rights. It was still very much about activism, saving our lives, and taking care of our bodies."
Having always had a keen desire to make a positive impact on the planet, A.G. initially enlisted in law school, but the pull of the AIDS crisis proved to be overpowering. She moved to Boston and got involved in street activism around HIV, navigating her towards the nonprofit world, working primarily with homeless kids working in the sex trade.
"That was the beginning of my whole entrepreneurial journey because being involved with the health care system taught me how badly broken it was for everybody, particularly our community. We faced a lot of judgment and blame for a pandemic that was affecting us."
Shortly after, A.G. got a degree in Public Health and focused her efforts on data within the health care sector, leading her to found several companies in that space and, in a whirlwind three-month stint, consulted on the relaunch of healthcare.gov under the Obama administration. "Nonprofits were great, but then we had to do the bidding of the state or the federal government. That's when I fell in love with building companies because it was a fast, direct way to make a lot of change."
QUALITY HEALTH CARE WITHOUT JUDGMENT. The ethos of Folx is to be a place where queer and trans community members aren't forced to fit into a health care system that was never designed for them. Folks are supported in how they want to live their life without the judgment that exists in the traditional system. "Early hospitals actually grew out of religious institutions, and that moralism is still deeply baked in. How we want to have sex, our gender identities and our bodies to be in the world, how we make a family, our mental health - all of those things are different from the cis, straight healthcare system."
A.G. says she faced a similar experience when raising capital for the company. "We have an amazing group of investors, but we have talked to hundreds, and a lot of them would get that look on their face and say, 'I'd love to understand it, but I'm not sure I can.'” Folx currently has over 10,000 members and, while still in its early development phase, has established strict protocols around education and respect for the community when it has to interact with the traditional health care system.
"Being part of this community is about freedom in your body, and the healthcare system should support that. We should stop finger-wagging about how people choose to live their lives and tailor healthcare to each person’s needs and desires. With Folx, we have demonstrated the power of this community as a consumer base; people now have to sit up, listen, and take notice."