Dr. Tanya Altmann ’94 combines media, medicine to educate about children’s health

Two weeks after giving birth to her second child, Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann ’94 was heading to New York to appear on Today for the first time. The California-based pediatrician was boarding the plane (breast pump in bag) when a producer called to say they changed the topic for her segment—to a study being released the next morning that she didn’t know much about. “I thought about saying no, but I knew it was my big chance,” said Altmann. As soon as the plane landed, she began researching—and continued well into the night. Altmann arrived on set before dawn the next morning, groggy but prepared.


ALUMNI HONORS

Dr. Tanya Altmann ’94, recipient of the Pamela B. Gann Leadership Award, will be the keynote speaker at Alumni Weekend from April 25-28. See the full list of 2019 honorees from the Claremont McKenna College Alumni Association.

That spot, 11 years ago, led to dozens more. For the next two years, Altmann appeared monthly on Today, often making the cross-country trip in one day so she’d be back home in Calabasas before her kids’ bedtimes. Dr. Tanya—as she’s known to her fans—has become a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News, and shows including Live with Kelly and Ryan, The Doctors, and KTLA 5 Morning News in Los Angeles. “Nothing makes me nervous anymore,” said Altmann, the mother of three boys, ages 4, 11, and 13. “Now it is just part of what I do to help educate people about children’s health.”

Altmann lives at high speed. This month, she opened Calabasas Pediatric Wellness Center, where she and her staff offer medical care as well as guidance on nutrition, lactation, and other subjects to help parents raise healthy kids. Altmann’s first book in 2008, Mommy Calls, grew from the notes she took while answering frantic parents’ calls while a resident at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. She’s written four more, including the top-selling What to Feed Your Baby and the just-released Baby and Toddler Basics. Altmann is often quoted in publications from USA Today to Newsweek, and she consults with companies on the design and marketing of products for children. It’s no surprise that as an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson, Altmann helps train other doctors to speak at events and in the media.

“It is just what CMCers do,” she said of her breakneck schedule. “We are hard workers. We have diverse interests. My CMC friends are living all over the world, running companies, doing amazing things. I think we are all trying to make a difference in the world in our own way.”

Altmann grew up in Claremont—her father, Donald Remer, is Oliver C. Field Emeritus Professor of Engineering Economics and Management at Harvey Mudd College and her mother, Louise Remer, was professor of engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. She expected to attend college in another state. But when the time came, she knew CMC was the best choice for her.

“I was strong in math and science and knew I wanted to become a doctor, but I wanted to attend a liberal arts school,” said Altmann. “I thought it would help me learn and grow as a person, and it did. CMC is where I learned to write and communicate well.” Still, the math and biochemistry dual major admits she told her parents “to pretend I was in school on the East Coast.”

A self-described news junkie, Altmann squeezed in a few broadcast journalism classes while in residency at UCLA. A local station offered her a job as a health reporter, and while it was tempting, Altmann stayed committed to her dream of pediatrics. But she’d been bitten by the media bug. “My passion is for all of us to raise healthy children, and through the media I can share what I know with so many more parents,” she said.

Four years ago, Altmann started her own practice, motivated largely by the goal of having more control over her schedule. “I wanted my office, my house, and my kids’ schools to be within a mile of each other,” she said. As she’s grown increasingly interested in integrative medicine and preventing illnesses as well as healing them, Altmann opened the wellness center to bring together practitioners in a range of disciplines to address physical and mental health needs.

Juggling it all would be impossible without the help of her husband, Philip Altmann, an entertainment attorney with Universal Pictures, and the support of their extended families. But as she tells other doctors when they ask how they might also get on TV, balancing medicine and media comes down to a whole lot of hustle.

“I tell them it means getting up at 3 a.m., and they usually change their minds,” she said, laughing. “I love working with kids and families every day, but it also means a lot when I hear from a parent who says reading my book kept them from rushing to the ER or that their toddler is no longer a picky eater. I just love being out there helping families raise healthy, happy kids.”

—Susan Price