Barbara L. Kornblau is the Executive Director of the Society for Participatory Medicine and CEO of the Coalition for Disability Health Equity. She is both a Certified Pain Educator and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Pain Educators. At PAINWeek 2012, Ms. Kornblau presented Pain and Autism and Lifestyle Redesign®: A Successful Tool for Pain Management.
What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
My mother took me to work with her long before we started to observe "Take Your Daughter to Work Day." My mother worked in a nursing home. That led me to become a candy striper and work at a camp with children with cerebral palsy. I wanted to help people live better lives.
Why did you focus on pain management?
I have experienced chronic pain most of my life. Focusing on pain management began as shameless selfishness. I needed to know what the options were for my own life since most healthcare providers I saw did not know how to help me. I realized many other people were in the same situation with the lack of knowledgeable providers.
Who were your mentors?
I have been lucky to have had many mentors along the way. Three stand out. My father, Sol Kornblau. Dr. Judith Leavitt, a professor of History of Medicine and Public Health and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And Dr. Reba Anderson, an occupational therapy colleague.
My father instilled in me the values of social justice in remarkable ways. We worked together on many causes, the last one when in honor of his 90th birthday.
I took courses from Dr. Leavitt and I babysat for her children. She was an incredible role model as a professional woman and a great mother. She allowed me to take upper level courses as a sophomore, encouraged high academic standards, and taught me to write. She also taught me to do qualitative research before such a thing formally existed, and she instilled confidence in me. She helped me develop my love of history as the context for the study of health. She also showed me how to be a good mother.
Dr. Anderson convinced me that I needed to teach. I'd never planned to teach. She convinced me that I could do anything professionally. I credit her for many of the things I ended up doing.
If you weren't a healthcare provider, what would you be?
I am a healthcare provider and a lawyer. I've also been a professor. To me they go hand in hand. I can't imagine being one without the other. I suppose if I were not a healthcare provider, I would be just a lawyer or just a professor.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My passion. When I am passionate about a cause, no one can stop me.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I came to Washington, DC, as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow. We were told not to expect to change the world. After my fellowship, I put together a blueprint to include people with disabilities in the Affordable Care Act every place that race and ethnicity appeared. This included health disparities, cultural competence, public health data collection, training of health professionals, and other areas, with the ultimate goal of improving the health of people with disabilities. I put a coalition together, and led the coalition to successfully include these provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
What is your favorite language?
Sign language. I used to run a pro bono legal clinic for the deaf. I learned sign language early in my career.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
The film would be The Wizard of Oz to remind me "There's no place like home." The book would be Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe. This book provides me with spiritual guidance and meaning to life. The music would be Vivaldi's Four Seasons. It's calming, and it keeps me on task.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I saw things that were unjust and tried to change them. I made a difference in improving the world for people with disabilities.
What is your motto?
Success is the best revenge! Too many people in my life have told me I would never be able to do something. That has always motivated me to succeed at whatever that "something" was.