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Women Physicians: Support and Encourage

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The San Joaquin Women Physicians Group was the thoughtful idea of Dr. Dora Ames Lee. She was born in Arizona around 1914, graduating from UC San Francisco School of Medicine in 1937. At that time there were very few women in medicine; it appears there were about four in the class of 1940. Dr. Lee practiced medicine in Stockton from 1939 until she retired in 1981. Around 1982, it is believed, she began to gather with other “lady doctors” for lunch. This group of women, the first and second generation of female physicians in a small city like Stockton, needed love, understanding and support from each other as they raised their children while balancing professional, religious, community and family responsibilities.

there are too many other members of the early group to mention, but they included Dr. Ingeburg Kultzen, Lodi’s first pediatrician, who moved here from Germany in 1956 and practiced for 42 years. Dr. Graciela Barzaga, who practiced physical medicine and rehabilitation for over 55 years, was also an early member. The group continued to grow, and by early 2000, the group of lady doctors included Dr. Norma Espiritu, Dr. Margarita Nosce, Dr. Helen Reyes, Dr. Harjit Sud, Dr. Patricia Hatton, Dr. Linh Nguyen and Dr. Carol Cahill. Currently there are more than 40 members.
“From these ‘lady doctors,’ I learned grace and dignity under pressure, and I marvel every time we meet at the shared bonds of understanding among diverse medical specialties, different religions, cultures and personalities,” said Linda Kawaguchi, who in 2005 took over the duty of organizing these gatherings. “We have grown from a small group of women singing holiday carols at each other’s homes into a larger, sometimes boisterous, always warm and welcoming group of women who laugh and cry and tell stories together.”

These amazing women physicians come from near and far, some from Tracy, Manteca, Lodi, the East Bay and Elk Grove, some who have lived and practiced here for many decades. Some are relatively new to the area, while others are just starting their medical residency training here in Stockton.

Dr. Manreet Basra, the first woman cardiologist in San Joaquin County, summed up the importance of this camaraderie. “This group makes one feel very accomplished in our lives, while keeping us grounded at the same time, as we all understand how tough it is to balance our professional and personal lives, especially while raising our kids to become well learned and responsible individuals.”

With no agenda, political or professional, the Women’s Physicians Group exists to “just be there for each other.” Other social opportunities do exist for networking, referrals, continuing medical education and volunteer work, but no other group is quite like this one.