Point Reyes leader in health care receives honor

12/04/2019

Liza Goldblatt, a Point Reyes Station resident and one of several board members appointed to the Coastal Health Alliance in September, was recently awarded for her work bridging conventional and alternative medical practices nationally and across the globe. “My passion is about building inclusive, collaborative, team-based, patient-centered care—wouldn’t that be a dream?” Dr. Goldblatt told the Light last week. “Back in the ‘80s, I would say ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ and no one would know what I was talking about. Now you say ‘acupuncture’ and there’s some level of familiarity. There has been pretty tremendous growth. But it’s slow: why doesn’t every hospital have these practitioners on staff?” In October, the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine—an organization that unites a membership of health professionals across a variety of disciplines—awarded Dr. Goldblatt its annual change-maker award, which honors the work of those whose “activism, advocacy, policy or politics has accomplished broad change, laws or consciousness shifts that have advanced people-centered medicine and health care for all of us on the planet.” Dr. Goldblatt herself is not a licensed practitioner. She holds a master’s degree in public health administration from Portland State University and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology with a specialty in Tibet from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her first job with explicit ties to medicine was as president of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine; she looks back on it as a critical fork in her path—sparked by personal success in alternative ways of caring for her body as a college student. “Back in college at Mills, where I studied music performance, I was overplaying the piano and got the equivalent of tennis elbow. My Kaiser doctor actually referred me to an acupuncturist and in six treatments my pain was gone,” she recounted. “I had had such success, I wanted to give back.” In 2004, Dr. Goldblatt returned to San Francisco to serve as the vice president of academic affairs at the American College of Traditional Medicine. In 2013, she became the executive director of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, which seeks to strengthen understanding and cooperation among educators, researchers and clinicians across health care disciplines. She now participates in other groups with a similar mission, including a committee under the National Academy of Health and Medicine Division—an operating unit of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine—called the Global Forum for Innovations in Health Professional Education. She explained her philosophy. “I started meditating at age 20, thinking about different approaches, different cultures, and I think that we cannot really separate the body, the mind, the emotions, the spirit. I think many of us feel that [conventional] medicine separates them too much,” she said. The term complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, refers to a host of practices, including five licensed ones recognized by the United States Department of Education: acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic, naturopathy, midwifery and massage therapy. Part of Dr. Goldblatt’s vision is that conventional practitioners will be educated in these areas, and vice versa, so they know what each other’s expertise can offer. Pamela Snider, a founding board member of the academy that honored Dr. Goldblatt this fall, wrote, “Thank you, Liza for holding your light on the big changes we must make—without which the clinical encounter has a weak foothold in returning the sick to health. We honor your heart, brilliant mind and prescient vision in this.” Dr. Goldblatt has recently brought her focus to a local level, joining the board for the Coastal Health Alliance. She spoke highly of the organization, where the longest-termed doctor, Anna O’Malley, has a holistic approach, and there is an acupuncturist on staff. There is always room for improvement, however, said Dr. Goldblatt, who plans to look for ways to increase access for patients in West Marin, especially as the alliance formalizes its merger with the Petaluma Health Center.