Dr. Nancy Mutoro was looking for a place to practice medicine, she considered the importance of working for a facility that treats people like individuals, rather than a number. With that philosophy driving her, she found Lompoc Valley Medical Center.
Dr. Mutoro is now treating Internal Medicine patients at Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Physician Services. Patients might also see her occasionally when she fills in on the hospitalist rotation in the acute hospital. She and her husband were living in Texas and were considering a move when she starting investigating hospitals in California.
After she met CEO Jim Raggio, Medical Staff Liaison Dr. Randall Michel, and Chief Operations Officer Naishadh Buch, she was convinced it was the place for her. “They’re out for my interests and I can look out for theirs,” she said. I got a feeling of respect and camaraderie and I felt it would be a good group to work with.”
She also felt at home in Lompoc. A native of Kenya, East Africa, Dr. Mutoro was born in a rural area. She wanted the same for her toddler daughter. “A smaller community makes more sense,” Dr. Mutoro said. “In small towns, people know each other. People are a little bit nicer than in the hurried big towns.” The medical care is the same regardless of population, she notes.
“Patients are the same,” she explained. “If they have diabetes, they have diabetes. If they have complications, they’ll have it wherever they are. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city or a small city.” Dr. Mutoro’s journey from Kenya to the U.S. began in her final year of high school. She was being educated in a boarding school, and her parents decided to move to Texas. Her father was a high school calculus teacher and her mother taught geography at a university in Kenya.
“The first three months were the hardest to adjust,” she recalled. “But then I realized we weren’t going back. I straightened out and decided this was going to be my home.” After high school, she considered studying computer sciences at the University of Texas. But when she attended one class, she realized the students already knew programming – and she’d grown up without computers in her home.
She thought about medicine but had friends who were premed students and they would talk to her about how long it would take to become a physician. “I used to make fun of them and say, ‘Who in their right mind would do such a thing?’ I was going to get a job, start my life, get married, have a family.”
Because she had a deep interest in biology, she began taking biology courses and eventually earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington. After six months of working as a nurse, she started having second thoughts.
“Is this what I wanted to do?” she recalls wondering. “I started questioning myself. What if I can challenge myself to do something more? That’s how I started thinking about medical school.”
She worked for two more years as a nurse and began taking pre-med classes. She worked three days a week and attended classes and studied on the other days. When she took the Medical College Admission Test, she didn’t think there was any way she’d pass. But she ended up doing “very well,” and applied to medical school programs throughout Texas.
She eventually opted to attend the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. “I knew I wanted to challenge myself,” she said. “The classes were much harder. I knew I wanted to do more, but I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But every time I got a result back, it seemed to be working.”
After earning her medical degree in 2013, she had an internship in internal medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Choosing a specialty was not easy, but she knew she didn’t want to be a surgeon.
“I enjoy talking to people, getting to listen to stories, seeing how to help them,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do something that would allow that. I was thinking OB or Internal Medicine.” Practicing Internal Medicine, she said, came naturally and she felt more at ease working with adults.
“I felt more comfortable,” she said. “I could relate more with the personalities of Internal Medicine doctors.” She has not regretted the choice.
“I get to practice and treat the problems I actually went to medical school for,” Dr. Mutoro said. “I can apply myself. I can treat gastrointestinal issues, infectious diseases, pulmonary problems. It’s just a huge variety of processes that keep it interesting and keep me on my feet.”