As an educator, television and radio person¬ ality, AIDS specialist, editor, and author, Aliza Lifshitz is not a typical physician. Following the examples set by her compassionate parents, Lifshitz has dedicated herself and her practice to the betterment of public health and educa¬ tion for poor and Hispanic communities.
Lifshitz was born to Mexican Jewish parents, both of whom, she says, were “always commit¬ ted to helping people.” Educated as a young girl in private Jewish schools in Mexico City, Lifshitz eventually came to the United States to complete her medical training. She attended Tulane University and the University of California at San Diego.
She then entered the medical profession in southern California as a private practicing physician who specialized in internal medicine, clinical pharmacology, and endocrinology.When Lifshitz opened her daily practice, she began to offer free and low-cost treatment to low-income and indigent patients in the Hispanic community.
Later, she worked with community-based organizations to expand these services.During the 1980s, Lifshitz became con¬ cerned about the spread of AIDS in the Hispanic community, particularly the undocu¬ mented segment of that community. She became an AIDS activist, devoting about one- third of her practice in Los Angeles to the treatment of patients who had tested positive for HIV.
Lifshitz became one of the first Latina physicians to get involved in the treatment of AIDS. She also appeared in public service tele¬ vision ads sponsored by the American Medical Association, delivering humanitarian messages about AIDS patients.
Recognizing that, in her words, “Hispanics don’t have access to the health information that they need,” Lifshitz has successfully tapped into the mass media market as a way to convey her message and educate a larger audience. In 1986, she broadcast her first live call-in pro¬ gram on a southern California television station.
After the program, Lifshitz received hundreds of calls and spent her entire weekend answering mail. The experience showed her how hungry people are for information.She began to appear regularly as a health commen¬ tator for the Spanish-language television station Univision and to produce prime-time specials on health-related topics.
Lifshitz also began to reach out to her audience through the print media. She became the editor-in-chief of the magazine Hispanic- Physician, and the medical editor of Mas, a national Spanish-language magazine.
Lifshitz believes strongly that women’s health issues will become more prominent as more women enter the medical profession. To assist young Latina mothers, she has also written the book Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby, the first bilingual book on prenatal care.