Christina Kaba, MD, has two children, aged 10 months and three years, and she had both of them while in the UCLA Internal Medicine residency program.
“I had no idea how I was going to breastfeed or pump at work: Was it going to be impossible? Was it something that was important to me?” she says. “The conversation around breastmilk versus formula is really charged! Parents end up feeling stigmatized either way.”
Lactation medicine is usually left to doctors who practice Pediatrics, Family Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology, but Dr. Kaba’s personal experience as a working mother helped her see how Internal Medicine physicians could also contribute to this care.
“There wasn’t a lot of focus on the lactating partner’s health in that first year raising a newborn. There’s so much you have to cover around the baby — some of that is around feeding, but there’s not much time for other concerns.”
Dr. Kaba is now board certified and practicing at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Northgate, where she’s excited to collaborate with colleagues in Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Obstetrics to help cover all aspects of patients’ lives. That could mean scheduling appointments for parent and child back-to-back, or arranging a virtual visit when the newborn is (hopefully) napping.
Keys to a healthy lifestyle at any age
“Fed is first,” a mantra in newborn nutrition, aims to reduce stigma around breastmilk and formula, by emphasizing that feeding the baby is most important. Dr. Kaba applies a similar approach to nutrition and fitness in her adult patients.
“The best exercise is whatever you think you can do regularly,” she says. “And if we can change your daily diet to something sustainable for you, that’s the foundation for so much of our health.”
Dr. Kaba became more interested in the specifics of clinical nutrition during her UCLA residency, studying data and goal-setting strategies to care for common diseases like hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes through lifestyle changes.
“The path to a healthy lifestyle is different for everyone. I ask my patients about their background, their work and living situation, their income level and medical conditions. There’s a lot of stigma around weight, and that can be really demoralizing,” she says. “Pharmaceutical treatments are also part of the conversation, whether that’s to treat the disease or to help with weight loss.”
With chronic diseases, it can take time to find all the contributing factors to chronic diseases. Sometimes these concerns are addressed in an annual physical exam, but Dr. Kaba is also happy to schedule extra appointments with her patients to go into more depth.
“Since starting my practice on October 1 I’ve already had patients come in for a first visit, and then schedule a follow-up to talk about nutrition once we discover it’s a shared priority for both of us.”