East-West Fusion Under the Golden Gate

“I approach health with a 360 degree view,” explained Bradley Jacobs, MD (or Dr. Brad, as he’s affectionately known to staff and patients), as we strolled the grounds of Cavallo Point, the stanchions of San Francisco’s famous bridge visible in the distance. “My goal is to be the nexus between the worlds of Western and Eastern medicine by looking at all the options available to my patients.”

Just a tad over four years old, the uniquely appointed resort and spa is tucked away in Horseshoe Cove, just north of the bridge on land that was once part of Fort Baker.

“This is an incredible place to practice healing,” Brad continued. “And there is a long history of it here, starting with the coastal Miwok tribe.”

The waiting area at the healing arts center. Inviting, right?  (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)
The waiting area at the healing arts center. Inviting, right? (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)

Taking patients out for walks reveals a lot about their health that they might not reveal in an exam room. “People often think they’re pretty fit, and will tell me so, but when they’re huffing and puffing up a small hill, I know better,” he said.

He creates an integrated wellness plan for each patient by identifying deficiencies in what he calls the “six pillars of health” — active living, healthy relationship with food, restorative sleep, stress awareness and reduction, relational connection, and finding passion and purpose — then works with the center’s dozens of practitioners to carry them out.

The “medi-spa” concept on display at Cavallo Point is relatively new. Over the past ten years, the approach has been catching on as spas work to cater to clients seeking a more comprehensive path to wellness. And who can dispute the fact that being ushered into the calming ambiance of a spa is more enjoyable than a sterile old doctor’s office?

As we continued walking, I told him about my main health concerns: not getting enough sleep and periodically being overcome with anxiety, especially in the evening when tasks for the next day insist on running through the hamster wheel of my brain (apparently these issues fall into pillars four and five).

Dr. Brad suggested that I institute a “no blue-screen rule” 90 minutes before sleeping, citing studies that show cortisol levels (a hormone that keeps you awake) increase for prolonged periods of time after a person interacts with things like a computer, TV, or smart phone.

Guests practicing yoga on the lawn. (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)
Guests practicing yoga on the lawn. (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)

And he has the credentials to back up his advice. Just take a look at his bio: MD from Stanford; Master’s in public health from Berkeley. In case that wasn’t enough, he went on to do “5-element” acupuncture training based on Chinese medicine and has studied martial arts since he was 8 years old (something he says “opened [his] mind to the idea of an energetic body”).

Inspired by his grandmother, he began practicing yoga for chronic back pain, and found that it was the only thing that consistently helped. Now he’s a firm believer in its ability to reduce physical, emotional, and mental stress. Which is why he prescribed it for me in addition to the “no blue-screen rule.”

Just before I was to leave for a relaxing treatment at the spa — doctor’s orders — I asked Brad about telomere genomics, the idea that by looking at telomeres (the “bow-ties at the end of our DNA strand” in his words), we can predict a person’s longevity. If the telomeres are ragged and short, it doesn’t bode well. Now, tests are being developed to assess telomere “health” — something one of Dr. Brad’s colleagues, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, is pioneering at her new company.

Once a person has a snapshot of what their telomeres look like, they can work to improve their health — mainly by managing stress perception. At least, that’s the goal. But when Dr. Brad suggested doing the test on my telomeres and getting me on a comprehensive less-stress-and-more-sleep program to see if it would have a positive effect on my little bow-ties, I shuddered to think what that would cost.

While I experienced an abbreviated version of the resort’s “integrated wellness program,” Cavallo Point offers themed immersion packages and retreats that focus on things like brain fitness, weight loss, and how to flourish. But even after my short time with Dr.Brad, I felt poised to tackle health from a whole different angle: by chilling out. In fact, I got started right away…with an oxygen facial followed by a soak in the spa’s heated salt pool.

The Curious Traveler is driving a Ford C-MAX Hybrid on her Road to Wellness tour.


  1. Tessa
    Carlsbad CA
    April 25, 2013, 12:19 pm

    I’m so glad you shared Dr. Brad’s, “no blue screen rule”. I’m absolutely going to try this!

  2. h. r. laxmivenkatesh
    Mumbai, India
    April 24, 2013, 8:54 pm

    The Golden Gate Bridge was one of the amazing things we saw at Francisco city. We toured that great city in 2008

  3. Dr Brad
    Cavallo Point Lodge
    April 18, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Hi Shannon- So glad that you enjoyed the experience with us at Cavallo Point.

    Wanted to highlight that those blue LED lights from computers, smart phones etc. lower your melatonin levels (50%) which makes it difficult to fall asleep for the next 90 minutes; and as you correctly surmised, doing work late at night can increase cortisol (stress) levels…. a hefty recipe for disaster for those with problems getting to sleep at night..hence my recommendation to set your alarm to go to sleep, yep to GO TO SLEEP, 90 minutes before bedtime….UNPLUG… that combined with abit of yoga and/or relaxation time with yourself, loved ones, or pets… really does the trick!

    For those with an interest in telomeres…. check out Telome Health. ..http://www.telomehealth.com/ . It’s a fantastic way to track your rate of aging… the good news is that you’ll find you can change the rate by living a healthy vibrant lifestyle. For those interested, they are running a clinical study and you get the testing done without charge :)

    Look forward to following your adventure and travel…

    Dr Brad

    • Shannon Switzer
      April 18, 2013, 6:57 pm

      Hi Dr. Brad- Yes, really enjoyed both Cavallo and our consultation. Thank you for the extra information…how could I forget the alarm clock!? I might just have to sign up for that clinical study!

  4. Monica Wisnieski
    April 18, 2013, 9:04 am

    Love the image of yoga on parade grounds. I can feel the air and smell the eucalyptus just looking at these images. I can’t wait to be there again in May!

  5. alan
    April 17, 2013, 9:57 pm

    Hi Shannon: I am a little biased, but I must say I love your writing. My telomeres are feeling a bit frayed so I think i’ll take a break and chill out as you and the good doctor suggest!

    Keep on ‘truckin, Alan