Salpi Salibian spreads awareness on maternal pelvic and mental health at the integrated Hoag for Her Center for Wellness

By Orange County Register

June 3, 2019

Salpi Salibian freely talks about the misfortunes of her past. They helped shape the person she is today.

Salibian, a physician assistant and director of clinical operations for several women’s health programs at Hoag Hospital, grew up in Beirut. From 1975 to 1990, civil war ravaged Lebanon; the fighting claimed tens of thousands of lives.

When she was 7, in 1976, as she slept in her bed in her family’s apartment, a rocket hit the railing of the balcony outside her window. Her father entered the room, among the debris and broken glass, and picked her up. Only then did she wake up, unharmed.

Three years later, armed men from a militia came and took him away. It was the last time his family saw him alive. “His body was returned to us, so we were able to bury him,” she says. When Salibian was 18, her family was able to leave the country for the U.S. Her mother later returned to Lebanon but died of heart disease.

“It was just tragedy after tragedy,” she says. “But that’s how life is, and you can’t lose focus. You just have to keep focusing on all that’s positive around you, and keep going after your goals.”

Her grit and compassion – studying by candlelight, caring for neighbors at a shelter – served her well. She got into Harvard and earned a liberal arts degree, then a master’s from a physician assistant program in Boston.

She started working at Hoag in 2015, and the next year the hospital opened its integrated Hoag for Her Center for Wellness. The center offers programs for maternal pelvic and mental health and includes integrated therapies, nutrition education, counseling on sexual health, and meditation and yoga. Salibian’s work focuses on pelvic floor disorders, bladder and bowel issues, postpartum depression and sexual dysfunction.

“These are things women don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about, because they’re embarrassed,” Salibian says. “To have a safe haven where people can be treated for those conditions and feel supported is so rewarding.”