“I try to help my patients live their lives and improve the quality of their lives even when I can't cure them.”
Adam B. Schiff
“DEDICATED NEUROLOGIST AND CAREGIVER”
Ilena Blicker grew up in a family committed to community involvement. Her parents owned a small store and believed firmly in taking an active role in the social and political welfare of their community. "My parents always said that if you are not involved you can't change things, so get involved and help," she remembers.
When she was 10 years old, she broke her leg while visiting a cousin in California and her dream of becoming a ballerina was sidetracked. Shortly after, she decided, "If I can't be a ballerina, fine. I'll be a doctor."
Following through on this new ambition, Blicker has become one of the country's top neurologists, treating patients suffering from some of the most intractable illnesses and disabilities, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and autism.
A neurology specialist for more than 25 years, she remains passionate about her core belief in treating patients. "One of the most rewarding parts of my job is following patients over many years and helping them to cope with whatever condition they have. I can't always cure people, but I can and do try to help them live within the confines of their disability."
Nominated as a Local Legend of Medicine by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA-29), Blicker has been affiliated with Glendale Memorial Hospital since 1974. In 1993 she served as Chief of Staff and currently chairs the hospital's Bioethics Committee.
Her journey to Local Legend status was somewhat circuitous because as an undergraduate at Temple University, she majored in and went on to do post-graduate work in English before studying to become a doctor. "I knew I'd be in science all my life," she explained, "so why not do English Lit, become well-rounded and learn how to write."
In medical school, she was part of that generation of women physicians who began to break through the barriers to women in medicine which existed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "It never occurred to me I couldn't be a physician," Blicker said recently. "But when I actually started applying for medical school I'd have interviewers tell me that most women never finished and that's why they limited how many were admitted."
She began her career with an internship, residency and fellowship at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, which also is where her interest in neurology blossomed. She has been a member of the Los Angeles County Medical Association since 1974, serving on the Board of Trustees since 1997 and as President in 2001.
Recently, after a patient of hers who had been suffering for many years died, she was approached by the patient's son, who presented her with a box of chocolates and a note that said simply, "Thanks for helping. You made a big difference for the better in how his life ended."
"I guess that's my greatest accomplishment," Blicker said. "I try to help families and their loved ones deal with stress and illness, and I try to help patients live the best possible lives right up to the end."
Joins staff of Glendale Memorial Hospital & Health Center, Glendale, CA
Becomes Chief of Staff, Glendale Memorial Hospital & Health Center
Elected President, Los Angeles County Medical Association, Los Angeles
Elected Chair, Bioethics Committee, Glendale Memorial Hospital & Health Center
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania (now the Drexel School of Medicine), Philadelphia, PA