Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Diversity and Inclusion

Alumni Column: Carla Hightower, ’87 MD, ‘91 GME, ‘02 MBA

I deeply appreciate the education and training I received during my years as an Honors Program in Medical Education student at Northwestern. I was fortunate to be in an environment where the faculty were committed to the success of each student. The program was truly intense. I was amazed how much pop culture escaped me during that time. Becoming a doctor tends to be all-consuming. Nevertheless, I received a great education and formed life-long friendships during medical school.

After graduating, I remained at Northwestern for my residency in anesthesiology. The program was special because it emphasized the importance of developing good judgment. My former anesthesiology department chairman Edward Brunner, MD, PhD, often shared memorable advice that applied to every area of life. For example, he said that our success was simply a measure of our degree of preparation.

Overall, the Feinberg faculty were excellent teachers, sincerely invested in preparing physicians for the real world. When I finished and started practicing anesthesiology as an attending, I was sincerely grateful for my training and ability to handle tough cases.

After 20 years in practice, I reached a point when it was time to learn something new, to grow in a different direction. So, I turned to the holistic side of medicine. I have always been particularly fascinated by nutrition. The medical literature has opened my eyes to the impact of diet and lifestyle and how food possesses the remarkable ability to trigger or reverse disease.

Eventually, I left traditional medicine, and now I operate a health coaching practice, Living Health Works, located in Chicago. I focus on teaching people how to use food as medicine. I offer telehealth services to provide clients with greater access to my practice. My purpose is to uncover the root cause of a person’s problem and to empower people to restore their health through better dietary and lifestyle choices. I provide health coaching services for people experiencing the most prevalent chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, inflammatory diseases, autoimmune disorders and chronic pain.

In the process, I have discovered that people can change at any age. For example, one of my clients is an 81-year-old man who came to me with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes and polymyalgia rheumatica. When we met, he was struggling with fatigue and uncontrolled blood sugar to such an extent that he rarely left home. After eight weeks, he improved to the point that he no longer required insulin or other diabetes medications. Since then he has been traveling, playing golf and doing other activities that he once enjoyed. I’m thrilled with his results. I’m convinced that people can change when they receive the right support and are willing to put forth the effort.

During medical school, I recall reading Hippocrates’ famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” At the time, I did not fully appreciate the value of these words, but now I have come full circle. Previously, I provided care for patients experiencing invasive procedures, and my new mission helps make those experiences less common. I am excited about this new chapter in my career. I am thankful for my education, which helped me develop sound judgment, a love of learning and great problem-solving skills. My Northwestern experience was invaluable, and I look forward to maintaining our warm relationship.
Carla Hightower, MD
Carla Hightower, ’87 MD, ‘91 GME, ‘02 MBA
President, Living Health Works