Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 30, 2001 - Issue 39



Fulfilling a Need and a Dream


 by Brenda Gazzar Appeal-Democrat - June 17, 2001


photo by Sharon Steinmann/Appeal-Democrat

Dr. Gladys Wyles of Oroville - photo by Sharon Steinmann/Appeal-DemocratAccording to the well-known Native American legend, good dreams can be caught in the air and passed on to the sleeper by hanging a webbed dream catcher on the wall.

Dr. Gladys Wyles of Oroville, a Native American of Cherokee descent, has caught her dream and is fulfilling it.

On June 8, as a medical resident at the University of California, Davis, Wyles was the first to graduate from the Rural Tract Family Practice Residency Program at Fremont-Rideout Health Group.

After completing her second and third year residency at FRHG, Wyles has been hired at Feather River Tribal Health Inc. in Oroville where she will continue to practice rural medicine. Wyles chose to become a doctor, in part, so she could work at the same health clinic where her parents have been treated.

"My parents received care there all during my childhood," she said. "In five years, my mother has had several physicians," she said, adding that she hopes to stay in the area and recruit physicians to stay so there is less turnover.

"It's really hard for patients who have a physician and learn to trust them to have to change physicians," she said, explaining that her mother has had a difficult time adjusting to new doctors after establishing relationships with others.

Feather River Tribal Health in Oroville, a walk-in medical, dental and behavior health clinic supported by government funding, third-party billing and grants, serves about 3,000 Native Americans living in Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties, said the clinic's Executive Director Maria Hunzeker. The clinic, which has a satellite facility in Yuba City, is also open to the general public.

While doctors of Native American descent have worked at the clinic in the past, Wyles will be the only Native American doctor to be working when she starts July 23, Hunzeker said.

Because of her background, Wyles said she hopes to offer something unique to the clinic.

"I understand what (the Native American patients) are going through and the things they've been through in the past," she said.

"All during medical school, it seemed easier to speak to someone they could identify with. I sought them out myself," she said.

Wyles said she is eager to help Native Americans with diabetes, which is common in the community.

"A lot of the diabetes is adult-onset, so we need to work with the young population trying to get diet under control and exercise to hopefully stop it before it starts."

Wyles, who said she gained some valuable experience as a resident, went through several different rotations at Fremont Medical Center and Rideout Memorial Hospital and worked with multiple doctors in private practice as well.

In addition, she worked two half-days a week at the Peach Tree Clinic during her second year of residency, and three half-days during her third year.

The Fremont-Rideout Rural Tract Family Residency Program, which was established to train physicians to become family practice specialists, is a joint venture between UC Davis Medical School and Fremont-Rideout Health Group.

"We find her to be just a very delightful lady to work with," said Dr. Michael Kinnison, medical director of the Peach Tree Clinic which is managed and operated by Fremont-Rideout Health Group. "She's very goal-oriented ... She really takes care of her patients well and that's nice to see."

Rural medicine not only has to do with the size of the community that is served, but usually refers to a medical system that is supported and sponsored by grants and tax money, Kinnison said.

"We're not in the fee-for-service practice, which is more common," he said. "Our clinic tries to provide care for everyone, regardless of their abilities to pay for it."

Wyles, who was born and raised in Oroville, said she prefers living and working in a smaller town where the quality of life is better.

She added that she also wanted to pursue a career in rural medicine because she enjoys working with underserved populations. While working in the area, she had the opportunity to treat patients who were largely uninsured or on Medi-Cal, lived in poverty, had no health care and who were homeless, she said.

"A lot of people who are homeless do not have access to health care," Wyles said. "They have to worry about where they are going to live and eat. We only see them when (a health problem) interferes with their existence, and at that point, it's usually pretty extensive. Instead of having a little cold, it's bronchitis or pneumonia."

Serving a rural community, however, does offer some unique challenges in the field of medicine.

"There are not many specialists available first hand," Wyles said. "In family practice, we are trying to manage all aspects of health care and we refer them out when it's beyond our scope and knowledge."

She added that in some instances, specialists can be reached via teleconferences so patients don't have to be sent out of the area.

In addition, patients often have to wait several days to receive authorization from the state for those medicines or procedures that are not covered by Medi-Cal. In one case, the staff at the Peach Tree Clinic had to wait two months for a patient to get authorization for an MRI.

"It's frustrating because we really want to do the best we can as quickly as possible, but we keep hitting these stumbling blocks .... I'm working on my patience," she said.

Wyles graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1998, and did her first year of residency at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento before continuing her second and third years of residency at the Fremont-Rideout Health Group in July 1999. Last Saturday, she was one of 10 doctors that graduated from the UC Davis Family Practice Residency Program.

Wyles, who lives in Oroville, said she is excited to continue practicing rural medicine at Feather River Tribal Health.

"When I went away to medical school, and all during residency, that's something I wanted," Wyles said. "I had planned to come back and work in the area, especially in this clinic." she said.

"Health care is something I have truly been interested in my entire life."

Map - Oroville, CA

Maps by Travel


Feather River Indian Health Clinic
The Feather River Tribal HealthOrganization(FRTHO)has been providing health care services to Native Americans in three California counties (Butte, Yuba and Sutter) since 1993.


Association of American Indian Physicians
AAIP mission is to pursue excellence in Native American health care by promoting education in the medical disciplines, honoring traditional healing practices and restoring the balance of mind, body, and spirit.




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