Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine and six other books, is a former OB/GYN physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for doctors and therapists, radical remission researcher, and founder of the non-profit Heal At Last. After leaving her job in conventional medicine in 2007, Lissa began experimenting in her integrative medicine practice with what really helps resolve symptoms in people with chronic illness who have failed to improve with either conventional medicine or alternative medicine. All roads led to the same conclusion: People who are not responding to other treatments often have untreated, unhealed trauma, and treating that trauma can sometimes lead to seemingly miraculous radical remissions.
Upon realizing this epiphany, Lissa became a passionate ambassador for raising awareness about the importance of treating trauma as both preventive medicine and medical treatment for hard-to-treat mental and physical illnesses. As someone who was taking seven drugs for a variety of medical ailments by the time she was 33, and as someone who had managed to get off all of them after leaving the hospital, she began to question everything she had been so certain of after studying in the ivory towers of her medical training at Duke University, the University of South Florida, and Northwestern University. No matter what path she explored regarding the next health fad du jour, all roads continued to take her to the same disruptive and unconventional conclusion: When other treatments fail to help, assume the patient needs trauma treatment.
Because old school psychoanalysis (talk therapy) does not effectively treat trauma, and because medication, surgeries, and even most alternative medicine or spiritual healing techniques, such as acupuncture, meditation, or energy healing, only treat the symptoms of trauma, Lissa became a devoted student of many forms of trauma therapy, including Asha Clinton, Ph.D.’s Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT,) Richard Schwartz, Ph.D.’s Internal Family Systems (IFS), Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, and Gary Craig’s Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), among others. She is currently co-writing a book about Advanced Integrative Therapy with AIT founder Asha Clinton and has been co-teaching with IFS founder Richard Schwartz about IFS as Medical Treatment.
For over a decade now, Lissa has been a staunch and vocal public advocate for the importance of looking beyond only drugs, surgeries, or even food, exercise, meditation, alternative health, and good health habits when it comes to treating recalcitrant physical and mental illnesses. She took the internet by storm with her 2011 TEDx talk “The Shocking Truth About Your Health,” which has been viewed 2.5 million times. Her 2012 TEDx talk “Is There Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself?” also got 2.5 million views. She debuted these ideas in 2013 with Mind Over Medicine, which was made into a successful National Public Television special Heal Yourself: Mind Over Medicine. Her next book, The Fear Cure, was also made into a National Public Television special, also titled The Fear Cure.
Because Lissa had closed her integrative medical practice in 2010 to focus on her role in educating the public about the ways in which doctors don’t typically support optimal patient wellbeing, demand among patients was rising for doctors who share Lissa’s medical point of view and style of practice. To train medical doctors and therapists about what she had learned, Lissa founded the Whole Health Medicine Institute in 2012, a hybrid in-person/ online learning program that includes a team of luminary faculty physicians, therapists, and scientists and involves trauma healing for the students themselves, because so many health care providers are trauma survivors themselves.
In 2014, Lissa became interested in addressing the trauma of loneliness as a public health issue in collaboration with Kitchen Table Wisdom author and The Healer’s Art founder Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. In 2016, she delivered another TEDx talk about the health impacts of loneliness- “The #1 Public Health Issue Your Doctor Isn’t Talking About.” But after it got a lukewarm response (160,000 views), she realized that people felt shame about admitting their loneliness. Lissa began scheming with Dr. Remen (and Dr. Remen was scheming with her former student Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD) about how to address this issue at the level of public health.
This public health concern, in addition to Lissa’s social justice concerns that effective trauma healing tends to elude the oppressed and marginalized who need it most, led Lissa to spearhead her latest project, Heal At Last, a non-profit organization modeled after 12 Step programs, which aims to eliminate the public health epidemic of loneliness while bringing effective trauma healing methods and other “Sacred Medicines” out of their current status as luxury goods mostly for privileged elites, offering these trauma treatments to anyone who needs them, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or gender identity. Heal At Last, which was only just now granted non-profit status in January 2021, is currently in its pilot start-up phase and has been granted two $100,000 grants as seed funding before fundraising has even begun.
In addition to her public health advocacy and health care reform activism, Lissa sometimes leads workshops, both online and at retreat centers like Esalen, 1440, Omega, and Kripalu. Lissa is currently in collaboration with Esalen Institute to bring trauma healing and recovery to front-line Covid doctors and nurses after the ravages of the pandemic. Along with trained therapists, Lissa will be developing and leading programs at Esalen (and online through Esalen) to service these acutely traumatized heroes, bring trauma healing and other Sacred Medicine methods to a population in great need of healing.
During the pandemic, Lissa played a public role in debunking “Conspirituality,” the Covid denialism, anti-vaccination propaganda, and conspiracy theories promoted by many wellness, yoga, mind-body medicine, alternative medicine, and spirituality influencers who got “red-pilled” during 2020. This shakeout anchored her platform as a physician influencer to trust who is grounded in science, open to the mystical, spiritually aware, and trauma-informed. Lissa was featured on the popular 2020-2021 podcast Conspirituality.
Lissa’s seventh book, Sacred Medicine, will be published in Spring 2022 with Sounds True. Her other books include Encaustic Art (Random House, 2010), What’s Up Down There? (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), Mind Over Medicine (Hay House, 2013), The Fear Cure (Hay House, 2014), The Anatomy of a Calling (Rodale, 2015), and The Daily Flame (Sounds True, 2019.) Her work has been featured in O Magazine, Shape, Health, Woman’s Day, CNN Health, Dr. Oz, National Public Television, Mind Body Green, Psychology Today, Care2, Medium, and Positively Positive.