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Celebrating women in healthcare
Jeffrey Lewis

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the incredible women in our lives who often risk their own survival for ours. Some argue that holidays such as Mother’s Day have simply morphed into more shopping days, but others still believe that it is the one day of the year (other than birthdays) when women are recognized for being the successful chaos managers of our lives, regardless of how old or young we may be.

Some writers use Mother’s Day to declare their love and respect for mom. I can’t.  My mother and mother-in-law are with God. Yes, I could honor my wife for the incredible and amazing person that she is, but that I try to do every day of my life -- reminding her how much I simply love her.

Today, I want to honor women in healthcare – those providing direct patient care and others who, though they may not be licensed care providers, nonetheless help make the lives of people of all ages better.

Mother’s Day is not about a Hallmark card or a text message with a Mother’s Day emoji.  It is really about saying “thank you.”  It is a time to remind women who have touched thousands of others with a stethoscope, a conversation, a caring hand, or a simply amazing hug, that we know how incredibly special they are, and appreciate the value they bring each day to their communities, their families – even to the lives of strangers.

As I have traveled across Merced and Stanislaus Counties, I have met many of the women described below,  but not all.  To compile this special list, I reached out to others in the community for recommendations as well and came up with the names of a dozen amazing women in healthcare. I want to both say thank you and honor them by telling community members what amazing women they are.

Rebecca Alvarez recently earned her bachelor’s in healthcare administration and now works full time as Supervisor of the Covenant Care Home and Hospice billing department. She is very involved with her three adorable little girls who love to play soccer and softball. Becky is doing a phenomenal job balancing work, home, children and family. She is both tenacious and caring, committed to finding creative solutions to solve local problems.


Dr. Nina Barr specializes in Podiatric Medicine at Golden Valley Health Centers.  As the mom of two young girls, she balances life as a mom and doctor.  Patients know her as a caring, compassionate and listening doctor – not someone in a rush.  Most important, she is an amazing person and professional. 


KC Ferreria is a full-time, stay-at-home mom with two young children with autism.  Her passion and love for her children are only matched by her desire to help other families. KC founded the Turlock Autism Group, a group of parents which meets regularly to provide help and support to families facing the challenges of parenting children with autism. Because of KC, other moms know that they are part of a larger community dedicated and focused on ensuring that their children get a hand up, not a handout.  With her husband at her side and cheering her on, KC is simply wonderful. 


Many know Kristina Hacker as the editor of the Turlock Journal. What they don’t know about her is how she balances her full-time job at a busy news organization with her role as a daughter, mother, and grandmother.  Today, she and her husband share a home with Kristina’s mom, daughter, and grandson.  They’re not the Brady Bunch, just a family helping each other succeed and survive each day, relying on an underlying commitment of faith and love – attributes that make Kristina such a special person and a healthcare hero in the community.


Romina Kiryakous is the founder and CEO of Genesis Behavior Centers, a program dedicated to treating children with autism.  Founded more than 18 years ago, the Centers celebrate many success stories.  Romina and her sister, Linda Micha, the chief operating officer of Genesis, have created a healthcare solution that has grown across the Central Valley.  The two women work tirelessly for children with autism and their families, taking calls from across California, the U.S., and the globe from parents seeking help. An average 80-90-hour work week for these sisters is not unusual. The two never forget what matters – caring for children in need (including Linda’s teenage daughter, whom she homeschools). Their caring and compassion are infectious; their determination to change the status quo even more.


Dr. Kaci Kuykendall is a dentist here in Turlock. Dr. Kaci is beloved by the community and her patients. After purchasing her practice in recent years, Dr. Kaci has invested in technology and has proven to be an innovative practicing dentist here in town. Dr. Kaci is a mom to three small children. Kaci is every patient’s dream dentist particularly for men, like me, who are simply afraid of dentists.


Dr. Marilou Ostrea is a pediatrician at Sutter here in Turlock.  As a mother of a young doctor, she has become the “go to” pediatrician because she is very smart, kind and gives every parent a sense of comfort.  Thorough in her examinations, parents leave fully informed knowing they have a doctor that they can trust.


Dr. Alisha Pratt is a mom of two who works at Family Medical Group, where she is a family practitioner, treating patients of all ages. She regularly volunteers at Sacred Heart Catholic School, which her daughters attend. Alisha is a valued member of the community in Hilmar, where she was born and raised. She is the kind of person who never says no when asked to help. Fluent in at least two languages and guided by faith and family, Alisha is simply an amazing gift to the community. She deserves to be recognized and thanked every day as one of our premiere primary care providers.


Dr. Lisa Romeo embodies caring, compassion, courage and brilliance. A full-time physician raising two teenage children, she works 50-60 hours per week but still finds time for her son, family and the community as a volunteer when anyone asks.  Through her practice, Lisa teaches patients the value of preventive care and the steps they can take to maintain good health. Her gentle demeanor provides patients a true sense of comfort even when they are being scolded. 


Lillian Sanchez-Ramos is a Community Educator at Merced Medical Center, where her husband is also a provider. As part of Dignity Health, she provides multiple formats of health education, community outreach and direct education regarding health topics. She’s also on the Board of Livingston Community Health. A single mother for many years, Lillian is an advocate for culturally appropriate healthcare and isn’t afraid to get down to grassroots business.


Dr. Sunita Saini-Patel is a mom of four who works full time as a pediatrician for the Stanislaus Health Services Agency. As a member of Scenic Faculty Medical Group, she also helps mold today’s residents into tomorrow’s healthcare providers. An active and committed PTA member, Sunita speaks to children during Red Ribbon Week and volunteers with youth music and sports organizations throughout Turlock.


Linda Stuhmer is the CEO of EMC Health.  But in reality, she is so much more than that.  She works as general counsel for the Covenant Ministries of Benevolence, is Chair of the Turlock Christian School Board, and is raising a teenage son. She is never one to seek recognition for her work, which keeps her busy 70 or more hours every week. Linda has a heart as big as the sky above, skillfully balancing home life and an active teenager while reinvesting in the community. She is a super mom and an exceptional person and professional.


Griselda Vasquez works at Livingston Community Health is a shining example of someone who is giving back to the town she lives in, both through her work and through her commitments.   This mother of two daughters finds time in her busy life to volunteer for Livingston Girls Leadership Conference, Empower Me and several other events in Merced County.


Dr. Susie Wenstrup has built a practice caring for Medi-Cal patients.   Her tireless efforts over the past 22 years have helped ensure that no Turlock resident is ever left behind.  When she started practicing medicine in 1998, she may have been one of only two female primary care doctors.  Besides being a phenomenal primary care physician, Susie has been teaching physician residents for 22 years while also raising a family and never saying no to anyone in need of healthcare.  Susie Wenstrup is an exceptional doctor, a wonderful person and a heart bigger than the sky.


We have a community exploding with women working directly or indirectly in healthcare.  If there is someone you believe deserves to be called a healthcare hero, please email me at


Happy Mother’s Day.