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Women in Healthcare: The Empathy and Care of Female Providers


Healthcare providers have long been predominantly male, but that number is changing — nearly 40 percent of physicians in California are women. In fact, in 2021, 13.5 million women were reported to work in healthcare.

And in Butte and Tehama counties, more than 60 percent of Adventist Health providers are women. This includes dermatology physician assistant Renee Christenson, PA-C, primary care physician assistant Tracy Rychtera, PA-C, and family medicine physician Victoria Ota, DO. They share what they bring to the medical field and how they advocate for better healthcare for the community.

How to Pursue a Medical Career

Christenson knew she wanted to pursue a medical career after hearing her mother’s stories of her work as a hospital nursing assistant. But when she was told her place in medicine was to be a nurse, she disagreed. “I wanted more, even when others questioned my choice,” she says.

Rychtera also decided on a career in medicine at a young age. “I’ve always been interested in science and medicine and how you can help the body function to its maximum potential,” she says.

Dr. Ota worked as a dermatology medical assistant for several years before deciding as a single mother to go back to school to become a doctor. “I didn’t think I could do it, but the thought was always in the back of my mind,” she recalls. “I thought I should try to make a better life for my son, so I worked toward medical school.”

Advocates for better health

Today, Dr. Ota is a physician at Corning Health Center, where she works with people to promote better health. “I have seen the disparities in healthcare and the research showing the care that men and women receive,” she says. “I encourage women to take care of themselves through regular exams and lifestyle maintenance.”

Rychtera, who also practices in Corning, says she loves the close-knit community. “It’s great to get to know people and help them through all of life’s journeys,” she says. “I love being able to educate people and encourage them to help in the medical decision-making process. I feel that this empowers them to be able to take a leading role in their health.”

For Christenson, who has worked in Paradise for over 12 years, it’s important that her services are available to everyone in the community. “I am happy to be helping those who have no other local options for dermatology due to insurance restrictions,” she says. “As a medical provider, I have a duty to provide care for the whole community, not just those with better-paying insurance.”

A listening ear

When she meets with patients, Dr. Ota says, one of the best things she can bring to the exam room is a willingness not just to hear them but also to really understand them. “I find it helpful to just listen to them,” she says, adding that female patients, in particular, like the extra time. “Women tend to be more verbal than men and seem to appreciate the time that I take to hear what is really going on.”

Rychtera says she is proud to be able to listen to patients, too, even if English is not their first language. “I am bilingual in English and Spanish,” she notes. “I really try to advocate for my Spanish-speaking patients who feel like they have not been heard or understood by other medical professionals.”

Furthering medical education

Christenson says that, outside of caring for people, one of the most gratifying aspects of her career is helping colleagues through their education. “I have trained many physician assistants, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and premedical students throughout my career,” she says. “I hope to inspire the pre-med students, in particular, to persevere and stop at nothing to reach their goals.”