Longtime residents of Southern Humboldt may have noticed a familiar face in town lately. Dr. Mylene Rucker, who practiced at Redwoods Rural Health Clinic nearly 30 years ago, has recently joined SHCHD’s team as Medical Director of our Southern Humboldt Community Clinic in Garberville.
Dr. Rucker grew up in Los Angeles. In the late 1970s, as part of a cultural exchange program between Watts and Garberville, she visited here and fell in love with the redwoods and the community.
In 1989 when she saw and applied for a physician opening at Redwoods Rural Health Center (RRHC), she was pleased to find that Allan Katz, whom she’d met on her first visit to Garberville, was Executive Director of the bustling clinic. Though she only stayed a year due to the challenges of juggling her full-time position with homestead life as a single mother far from family, she has maintained friendships with local residents through the years.
For Dr. Rucker, coming back to Garberville provides her with a perfect opportunity to use her varied experiences in healthcare and community development to provide compassionate care in an area facing uncertain times. She sees our aging rural population, limited local healthcare services, homelessness, and isolation as challenges that must be met holistically. She was glad to learn that the District sponsors wellness activities, that the Family Resource Center is a District program, and that we are actively seeking ways to collaborate with RRHC and all our local health-related organizations to help SoHum become the healthiest community possible. She is also delighted to be working with our other three Clinic providers Linda Candiotti, PA-C, Barbara Hayes, FNP-C, and Sarah Beach, FNP-BC, all of whom she describes as “very accomplished.”
Dr. Rucker’s lifelong passion for travel and exposure to other cultures began in her youth when, as an undergraduate at University of Kansas, she spent a year in Ghana. She has since traveled to China twice, to several European countries, and back to Ghana, usually to aid in healthcare-related community development or as part of cultural exchange programs.
Her post-graduate education having been interrupted by marriage and the births of her two children, Dr. Rucker was a Certified Physician’s Assistant for several years before completing her medical education at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University, where she also earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health.
Following her stint at RRHC, Dr. Rucker moved back to Los Angeles. In 1998, she settled in Visalia, CA, where she was affiliated with two local hospitals and practiced in existing Visalia clinics before opening her own, Dr. Rucker’s Wellness Center, in 2001. Having built it to a thriving practice with 3,000 patients, she sold the Wellness Center in 2016 to focus on her own health concerns.
Throughout her wide-ranging practice, Dr. Rucker has treated people from all walks of life, from delivering babies to treating elderly patients. She has also witnessed the devastating health impacts of homelessness. In treating this wide variety of patients, she has become concerned about the dangers associated with uninformed opioid use, and she is eager to counsel patients on using opioids safely and appropriately.
Limitations of rural healthcare
Dr. Rucker has also particularly enjoyed pediatric and perinatal care, as well as having personally delivered a number of babies, and she shares her long-time friend (and local midwife) Lorraine Carolan’s concern about the lack of labor and delivery services here. While our local ER does occasionally deliver babies, generally transferring them and their mothers, as soon as they are stable, to a hospital with a higher level of post-natal care than we can provide here, both women understand that we cannot provide regular labor and delivery services here.
Labor and delivery programs require 24/7 on-call access to doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and midwives with experience in perinatal care. Dedicated labor and delivery rooms as well as access to a surgical suite suitably equipped for Cesarean deliveries are also required. Even if affordable, serious staffing shortages in these professions exist nationwide. Hospitals around the country have closed because they tried for too long to maintain services that were draining their hospitals of the funds needed to survive.
That being said, Dr. Rucker is glad SoHum healthcare providers are well-trained in pediatric and perinatal care, and she looks forward to finding ways to expand our services in those areas. She also shares a longer term goal with Lorraine to work toward developing a birthing center staffed by local midwives.
Dr. Rucker looks forward to meeting more SoHum community members. She invites you to call for an appointment at 707-923-3921, ext. 221 and “Join me on the journey to wellness.”
Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District
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