Elizabeth “Liza” Goldblatt, PhD, MPA/HA Honored with AIHM’s Change-Maker Award: 8 Leaders Offer Gratitude

Elizabeth “Liza” Goldblatt, PhD, MPA/HA Honored with AIHM’s Change-Maker Award: 8 Leaders Offer Gratitude

How about a research department at an acupuncture and Oriental medicine school? Let’s partner with mainstream academic institutions and go after NIH grants!  Wouldn’t it be terrific to have an organization that could give voice to all the licensed complementary and integrative health professions in dialogues they could not enter alone? Might this be a vehicle to foster interprofessional and inter-institutional relationships between these fields and their better-resourced peers? Might they give voice to the integrative health values and disciplines in multiple dialogues at the National Academy of Medicine and elsewhere to shape US medicine and health? And isn’t it incumbent on us to ensure that social justice is woven into the healthcare dialogue at every possibility? In October 2019, the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine chose to honor with their “Change Maker” award an individual who for a quarter century has been a leader in the charge to open such terrain: Elizabeth A. “Liza” Goldblatt, PhD, MPA/HA. I reached out to a set of her colleagues for comments on Goldblatt’s multiple contributions.

Goldblatt is a classically trained pianist with a PhD in ethnomusicology who came to the integrative health fields via personal values and practices. Her first national role, from her perch as the visionary president of Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, was as chair and principal guide for what would become two decades of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She drove an interprofessional agenda for what was then a fundamentally insular profession. Over the past 15 years, Goldblatt has held a series of leadership positions in the interprofessional consortia and organizations that integrative health field has birthed, most significantly from her positions at what is now the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health. Meantime, on the side, her Buddhist practice moved her into a long-time board position with the Tibetan Nun’s Project, for which the patron is the Dalai Llama.  Liza and I partnered closely for the better part of a decade. I include some of my own comments at the end. When Liza received the award at AIHM, this short video played on the screen as she went to the stage.



Patricia Cuff, MS, MPH, National Academy of Medicine

The second time Goldblatt served on a National Academy of Medicine (NAM) committee (the first is here) was when she was selected by her colleagues at ACIH to represent them at the NAM Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education. The Forum meets for workshops twice a year. Goldblatt has been selected to serve on committees to develop three of these – most recently on The Role of Nonpharmacological Approaches to Pain Management.  The director of the Global Forum – perhaps the globe’s most significant interprofessional health initiative – is Patricia Cuff, MS, MPH, with whom Goldblatt closely collaborated particularly in the area of highlighting the importance of addressing stress and well-being in health professional education and practice.

In 2012, the Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education of the Institute of Medicine, opened its doors to 35 member-sponsors that included an education-scholar representing the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care [now ACIH], Liza Goldblatt. It was part of our initial conversations at the forum where I first heard Liza describe the challenges facing health professionals as part of a “do more with less” present-day culture. Liza intrinsically understood the stress such a mentality places on learners and care providers. She took it upon herself to start a movement that led to possibly the most notable of all the forum workshops. I am not surprised Liza was given the “Change Maker” award. It is very well deserved – congratulation Liza!

Penny Pilgram George, PsyD, Integrative Health Philanthropist

At the AIHM event honoring her, Goldblatt was introduced by the individual who won the award the prior year, Penny Pilgram George, PsyD. The philanthropic investor in integrative medicine and health co-founded the Bravewell Collaborative while driving the development of the nationally-influential integrative program at Allina Health. When I contacted Penny, she spoke of her respect for Goldblatt’s powerfully influential work at the National Academy of Medicine that was honored by the NAM’s Cuff, above. That respect helped stimulate two, inter-related philanthropic partnerships the George Family Foundation has engaged. The Foundation was the lead investor in the NAM initiative on stress and wellbeing that grew in part out of Goldblatt’s work – and on the committee for which Goldblatt served that led to the report “A Design Thinking, Systems Approach to Well-Being Within Education and Practice.”  George shared how that investment deepened subsequently when Goldblatt, as then acting executive director of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, contacted her to explore whether the George Family Foundation might make another investment to support ACIH’s continued participation in the profoundly interprofessional NAM Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education. The Foundation chose to do so. Pictures may be worth a thousand words – the George Family Foundation’s philanthropic partnership says even more for the value placed on Goldblatt’s work. Penny encapsulated her respect for Goldblatt: “Liza’s a gem.”

Richard Hammerschlag, PhD, Acupuncture/Biofield Researcher

One of the most influential scientists globally in the acupuncture and biofield areas is Richard Hammerschlag, PhD. Hammerschlag is a co-founder and long-time leader of the Society for Acupuncture Research, is presently a Senior Fellow at The Institute for Integrative Health and presently one of the founders of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative. The executive editor at JACM-Paradigm, Practice and Policy Advancing Integrative Health (The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine), Hammerschlag was recruited into the field by Goldblatt when, as he describes below, he became the first research director for the first research department at any acupuncture college. If Goldblatt’s entire opus was merely in bringing Hammerschlag into the integrative fold, she had already done a life’s work!

‘Change Maker’ is a wonderfully apt descriptor and well-deserved honor for Dr. Liza Goldblatt. My most memorable experience of being willingly enticed into a Liza vision of change happened 20 years ago when she was president of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and I was on the cusp of a career change from biomedical research. Liza had convinced OCOM’s board of directors that it was time for acupuncture colleges to become active sites of research and that OCOM should be a pioneer in this endeavor. She had also conveyed the insight that a research program would be a major advantage when, in the near future, acupuncture colleges would seek accreditation for doctoral programs. And, Liza had added, she knew the right person to direct such a research department.

So – many thanks Liza, for providing me the opportunity to work with OCOM and the community of acupuncture colleges to strengthen the evidence base for acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine. Your foresight in 1999, and the ripple effects it engendered, contributed in important ways to the changed attitudes toward and acceptance of acupuncture as a contemporary healthcare option.

Margaret Chesney, PhD, Past-Consortium Chair

The sole leader of the integrative health and medicine movement who has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine – though for prior work with HIV-AIDS – is Margaret Chesney, PhD. Chesney is past director of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and past chair of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health (“The Consortium” to ACIH’s ‘The Collaborative” and AIHM’s “The Academy”). When Goldblatt took a position at the the San Francisco-based American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, she and Chesney became geographically and then institutionally and interprofessioinally connected colleagues.

This award is perfect for Liza.  A “change maker” is “one who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resourcesmakes that change happen.”  This reminded me of Senator Robert Kennedy’s statement: “Some see things as they are and ask why, I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”

Getting to know Liza, I realized she not only asks “why not,” but gets this sparkle in her eye and takes the steps to make change a reality.  She is passionate about convening colleagues and promoting team-based, collaborative care that includes all integrative health professionals. Her optimism that effective, integrative care must be multidisciplinary is matched by her infectious energy.  She inspires colleagues, bringing teams together to make change happen and succeeds. It has been my honor to respond to her calls for action to make team-based interprofessional care not just a vision, but a reality.

David O’Bryon, JD, CAE, Past-Collaborative Chair

The lead chiropractor on what is now ACIH since the beginning is David O’Bryon, JD, CAE the executive director of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges.  He is also the past president of the Federation of Associations of Schools of the Allied Health Professions and brings his own strong commitment to interprofessionalism – reaching across the chasm from chiropractic’s insularity as Goldblatt did from the acupuncture profession’s. He served as vice-chair of ACIH with Goldblatt when she was chair then succeeded her in that position.

Liza Goldblatt is and has been a change maker for years.  Her continuous tenacity in expressing her strong values and vision for the future of health care defines change maker.  Liza’s role as an educator has been taken to the next level.  She has the clarity to express her views and move them forward in a crowded field of talented health policy leaders.  Her multi-year commitment and her inclusive contributions are good reasons for being honored with the “Change Maker” award at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine.”

Dan Seitz, JD, EdD, Accreditation and Professional Development Expert

Dan Seitz, JD has held and continues to hold a number of key roles in the evolution of the licensed integrative health disciplines, particularly in leadership positions in accrediting agencies for the acupuncture and naturopathic medicine fields, and more recently as an adviser to the International Association of Yoga Therapists in multiple areas of its development. He was president of what was then the New England School of Acupuncture when Goldblatt was president of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.

I’ve known Liza since the early 1990s, when we both served on the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as presidents representing our respective colleges. The things that have most impressed me about Liza—in no particular order—are her integrity as an educator, her ability to discern what’s essential in complex situations, her dedication and persistence in strategically promoting mainstream acceptance of integrative/holistic/complementary healthcare fields, her willingness to speak honestly and frankly, her incisive intellect, and her aspiration to grow in wisdom as a human being.

Pamela Snider, ND, IHPC, ACIH and AIHM Co-Founder

The founding director of ACIH was Pamela Snider, ND, who was also a co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium and a founding board member of the AIHM. When Snider was doing ACIH’s basic organizing work, no ongoing interprofessional educational organization dedicated to linking the licensed integrative health fields existed. Snider began by interviewing leaders of the fields about what such an organization might have at its mission, and what it might set as its goals.  Goldblatt was at the time the chair of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Here is Snider, with some edits.

Dr. Liza Goldblatt is a long-time leader, change agent and champion who well deserves this AIHM award.  I can think of no better way to honor my respected comrade in “the fields of the daily we have been given to plow,” than to recall her powerful words when I interviewed her in 2004 as part of co-founding the visionary Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) now the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH).

Her vision then and now is one of transformative change. Big change, change far beyond the clinical encounter, to a healthier world; change through unprecedented collaboration among all health professions in creating health; change which she envisioned would, at the core, succeed by leveraging the deep knowledge among and roots of world healing professions and systems to transform environmental health. Her vision in 2004 was prescient given the state of our ecosystem and, its ill-health, now, an urgent fire burning for attention. In her interview, she began with the power and timeliness of a shared vision among “CAM” academics: “Need [ACIH]? absolutely. It is time that the different medical education colleges meet and create a shared vision and mission as well as set some goals to accomplish in the next several decades.” She followed this with a clarion call for the planet’s health, a deep concern in the CAM communities, in her bright, riveting voice:

“ACCAHC ideally will adopt a vision/mission that addresses the enormous public health conditions/problems like environmental medicine and health promotion, that are currently being virtually ignored. This is one area in which we can make a tremendous impact. It would be brilliant if we put together model curricula to integrate environmental medicine and public health including AANMC, Nursing colleges, allied health care programs, etc.”

“It would be a wonderful day if the AMA came out with a strong statement that so many of the diseases have strong environmental components and our country must address the environmental toxin issue. There have to be strong efforts of the consortia (CAM and CM) to address this environmental health issue among all the disciplines.”

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. Thank you for holding this light, and calling us forward while building critical stepping-stones to cross these great waters together. And if we are very lucky, to succeed, on the other bank, in setting our devastated ecosystem to rights.

John Weeks, The Integrator Blog/JACM

The fellow at this keyboard, John Weeks, worked with Goldblatt on multiple projects over the past two decades most notably in founding ACIH and then an 8.5 year period from 2007-2015 in which Goldblatt served most of the time as board chair and Weeks continuously as executive director. They were a tag-team representing ACIH at the NAM Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, with Goldblatt serving as the ACIH member and Weeks as a fully participating “alternate” during the first 4 years of the Forum (2012-2015).

I knew of Liza before I first worked with her. Her reputation preceded her as the leading warrior for strong academic standards in the emerging licensed acupuncture field. She coupled this with a strong instinct, a fundamentally interprofessional instinct that acupuncture needles were not owned by a single guild. Liza took tremendous heat from many in the licensed acupuncture profession for the position, and withstood these criticisms through firm conviction of the rectitude of each of her positions. I agreed with her and marveled at her ability to stand her ground.

We connected on a first project in roughly 1997 when I was invited into Portland by the then dominant health food store there, Nature’s, to help organize a visionary community center at a new natural health supermarket they were planning. The prospective partners Nature’s wanted to link were the School of Public Health at Oregon Health Sciences University and leaders of the acupuncture, naturopathic medicine and chiropractic colleges in Portland. Liza immediately stepped up with both the interprofessional and public health vision for what was to be a not-for-profit community-based wellness center. At the time, Liza was on the verge of hiring Hammerschlag (above) and engaging OCOM in NIH-funded research projects with OHSU and Kaiser Northwest Permanente. The Nature’s center was never built yet she and I had a taste of what would be ahead for us.

Little did I know that Liza and I would end up so closely partnered for nearly a decade of professional growth and friendship. Her work on the board of the Tibetan Nun’s Project (TNP), for which the Dalai Llama is the patron, brought her regularly to my city of Seattle. I learned that the long-time Buddhist likes a shot of good vodka, neat, from time to time at the end of a day of hard work. We enjoyed a few of those, as well as Sunday brunch meetings post her TNP board meetings, and dinner with my spouse and daughter at our home. Her passion for social justice and love of the earth move in her deeply.  I was impressed by, and cheered on by, how outspoken Liza was at the National Academy of Medicine regarding the way the capitalist impulse and financial structure fouls efforts to create health. Somebody needed to name the barrier and Liza often was the one who first would.

We were a good tag team. When we functioned well, as we did most of the time, we complemented each other wonderfully. Her were roots in the academy and mine in organizing. She had her academic’s respect for process and top-down organization and I had the activist’s impatience and fundamentally chaordic grassroots impulse. When we didn’t see eye to eye, it could be tough on each of us. We knew that somehow each of us were furiously shadow-boxing amidst untamed specters from a prior generation: her hard-pressing father, a powerful radical political figure in the Bay area, and my hard-pressing mother, herself an outspoken and front-line activist for multiple progressive causes in the Seattle area. I recall us laughing together in recognition as we imagined the combustion that would have erupted had those two ever been in the same room together.

The recruiting and organizing of these comments has been a pleasure, Liza, reflecting on the whole of your contributions, on what an unswerving beam of tenacity, commitment and change making – inside the acupuncture profession, for the integrative health and medicine field, and for the broader field of healthcare itself – have flowed from your convictions and values through these decades. Thank you Liza!

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