Erica Goode, M.D., MPH
[Originally published in CPMC’s community newsletter Beyond Medicine, May 2011]
These days Erica Goode, MD, MPH, has just a bit more time to reflect on her career as she resigns from three decades of practicing internal medicine to focus her efforts on affecting fundamental policy change in our nation’s nutrition crisis. Looking back, it is clear that her success – as a public health nutritionist, physician, and pioneer in treating obesity and eating disorders – has been honed by a consistent theme: adversity.
At 29, as Dr. Goode emerged from a harrowing first marriage while working as a public health nutritionist in Washington DC, her beloved younger sister died at age 28 of a brain tumor. Her sister’s death, hastened by “overzealous” doses of chemotherapy, ultimately inspired Dr. Goode to apply to medical school.
“I knew people could practice medicine more thoughtfully in terms of what dosage is given and whether the delivery of treatment is caring,” she recalls.
At 34, after enduring two rounds of MCATs and applications, she entered medical school at UCSF as one of 23 women in a class of 146. During her residency and medical practice, which began in 1980, Dr. Goode taught nutrition and exercise groups for overweight patients. Throughout her career, she taught noontime nutrition conferences for CPMC medical residents, and she was an associate clinical professor at UCSF during her decades of work with UCSF medical students. Local physicians began referring patients, many with anorexia, bulimia, and complex metabolic disorders. With characteristic fervor, she learned best practices from Stanford and UCLA treatment centers, was invited to give talks locally and statewide, and was asked by CPMC to open an Eating Disorders Unit.
Meanwhile, Dr. Goode had remarried during medical school, and she and Barry, her attorney husband, were raising two small boys. He traveled frequently, and her 70-hour work weeks (combined with the rise of HMOs that constricted her personal approach to medicine while increasing administrative loads) left Dr. Goode little time for patients or her family. The Eating Disorders Unit was ceded to another physician and ultimately closed.
This freed Dr. Goode, though, to join the Program in Medicine and Philosophy in 1996. Led by William Stewart, MD, that program evolved into CPMC’s Institute for Health and Healing (IHH) and now includes outpatient nutrition, massage, acupuncture, Feldenkrais, massage, guided imagery, yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Kung as adjuncts to traditional Western medicine.
“The IHH model is spreading as more physicians realize that their patients want more personal care and face time with modalities designed specifically to their needs, which today’s mainstream medical practices in our nation cannot deliver,” Dr. Goode says. “Plus, the ineffable qualities that IHH consciously provides – love, empathy, and insight – often catalyze the most healing.”
On March 6, 2011, Dr. Goode’s work came full circle when she spoke along with Michael Pollan, MA, at the IHH’s “Celebrating Science & Soul: An Evening Honoring Pioneers in Integrative Medicine.” Pollan, a major advocate of the links between the health of our planet and our food supply, is one of Dr. Goode’s heroes, and her family has lived according to his approach for decades.
In addition to her investment of heart, soul, intelligence and time, Dr. Goode has been an annual donor – she’s made more than 100 gifts over the years to CPMC – and she recently established a charitable gift annuity for the IHH as part of her estate plan, qualifying her for membership in CPMC Foundation’s honorary Legacy Society.
“Dr. Goode has the insight of a philanthropist-physician—she envisions integrative health care as the norm and backs it with her own personal resources,” says Gary Ogburn, Director of Gift Planning for CPMC Foundation. “Her understanding that her charitable gifts will help sustain her life’s work for future physicians and patients sets a powerful example for her peers.”
By Kimberly Carlisle. Photography by Freeman Sai-Ho Ko.
“The ineffable qualities that CPMC’s Institute for Health & Healing consciously provides—love, empathy and insight—often catalyze the most healing.”–Legacy Society member since 2010