MCHC Health Centers is pleased to announce the arrival of Dr. German Cuadra, an obstetrician and gynecologist who is excited to serve patients here in Mendocino County. As a newly trained OB/GYN, he had his pick of where to practice, but when he met the team at MCHC, he said the choice was easy.
“Dr. Smith is amazing. Have you ever talked to her? Do you know all the things she has done?” he asked enthusiastically. “The whole team is great. They communicate well and they don’t compete with each other… I had offers in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Colorado, but this is where I want to be.” He explained that when providers compete, it gets in the way of their ability to improve, but when they work together, everyone learns from everyone else’s experiences.
Originally from Chile, Dr. Cuadra was brought up “surrounded by women,” including his maternal grandmother who instilled in him a strong work ethic and a rejection of gender stereotypes. “She did not believe in macho culture. She had me kneading bread and helping around the house from a young age–I learned early that everyone is equal,” he said. So, working with a team of highly capable women at MCHC (all the medical providers in the Women’s Health Department “Care for Her” are women) will be nothing new for him.
Dr. Cuadra always wanted to be a doctor, even though he is the first in his family to do so. From the time he was a child, he imagined himself working as a rural doctor, “getting paid in chickens.” As he grew up, he realized it is hard to pay the bills with chickens, but he says he volunteers when he can and he continues to value time over money.
Though he knew he would go into medicine, he did not have a clear picture of which specialty he would pursue until his wife had an emergency cesarean section (which resulted in the healthy birth of his eldest daughter). While he was overjoyed with the happy ending, that was not the only factor that helped him decide to become an OB/GYN. It was the whole experience–the urgency, the relief, and the surgery itself. He knew he would be very happy contributing to the health of moms and babies, and that he would also love working in an operating room.
So, after medical school at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri, he completed his residency at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, New York, where he worked in fast-paced hospitals on high-risk cases and got plenty of time in the operating room.
He loves performing surgery, but he did not want to keep living in a big city where “it takes an hour to drive to Target.” And, while surgery is sometimes necessary, he believes it should rarely be the first option. He was drawn to MCHC because of its rural, Northern California location, but also because it is a federally qualified health center that is structured with a team approach.
“Having a multi-disciplinary team–that’s the way to practice,” he said. “My philosophy is to care for patients’ minds, bodies, and spirits. It is foolish to think that any single provider can know everything…People with different training see different things and this helps us take care of the whole person. I can’t believe I found a place with social workers on site–we didn’t have that in New York.”
Dr. Cuadra says he approaches each patient as if they were a family member, regardless of their circumstances. He said, “Like when I’m doing contraceptive counseling, I let patients know, ‘If you were my sister, I’d say this.’” He tries to make everyone feel comfortable sharing information, and says it all starts with careful listening.
“My goal is always to support a safe and healthy mom and baby. That’s what matters,” he said. Dr. Cuadra’s practice philosophy is an excellent fit for MCHC, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Swain, who said, “We are excited to welcome new teammates to expand our services to the community.”
When he is not caring for patients, he enjoys spending time with his wife, whom he credits with supporting him so he could become a doctor, and their three daughters, ages 8, 11, and 14.
MCHC Health Centers includes Hillside Health Center and Dora Street Health Center in Ukiah, Little Lake Health Center in Willits, and Lakeview Health Center in Lakeport. It is a community-based and patient-directed organization that provides comprehensive primary healthcare services as well as supportive services such as education and translation that promote access to healthcare.