Sonoma welcomes new female pediatrician


When a little boy rode into her medical office on a tricycle recently, Christina Sullivan saw the smile on his face and knew all her years of study to become a pediatrician had been worth it.

Everyday she is “beyond grateful” to be able to help keep kids healthy, and she is pretty sure Sonoma is the best place in the world to live and work.

“The big story here is how lucky I am to have found this community,” she said, sipping a sparkling water, her smile sparkling in kind.

Sullivan, 32, moved to the Valley six months ago, accepting a position at Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, practicing three days a week there and two days at the pediatric offices of Charles De Torres, M.D., on Andrieux Street. She works more than full time at the medical offices and then spends many of her evening hours charting at home. She is also on call one night a week at Sonoma Valley Hospital. She couldn’t be happier.

When she finished her residency at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, she applied for openings in community health care in Santa Rosa, Richmond, Oakland and here. After she interviewed at the Sonoma health center she said her constant thoughts were: “I hope I get that job, I hope I get that job.”

The minute she was offered the Sonoma position she accepted.

Sullivan was born and raised in Oakland and attended Wellesley College back east, where she also played soccer, but never felt comfortable at the prestigious Massachusetts school.

She returned to the Bay Area and finished her studies at Mills College, then completed medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She again returned to the Bay Area for her internship and residency, splitting her time between Kaiser and Children’s Hospital Oakland. She’s wanted to be a doctor since age 8, when she visited her uncle’s medical practice in Oregon.

From then on, she knew she wanted to be a doctor.

She appreciates having great mentors here in doctors De Torres and, at the health center, Jerome Smith. “They have a combined 50 years of experience,” she points out. She also works two shifts a month at the Kaiser Oakland infant intensive care unit, “to keep my skills up,” she said.

“With help from parents,” Sullivan and her partner Jean were able to buy a home in the Springs. “It’s a little house on a lot of land,” is how she described their quarter acre lot where they are learning to love gardening. They feel so welcomed.

“The first time I went to the Fruit Basket, Omar gave me a free bag of cherries,” she said, referring to the local produce market. Then a neighbor welcomed them with a handmade planter box.

“Everyone is so nice, so relatable. It’s nice to live in a small town for the first time in my life,” she said.

“Now that I’ve lived here and know a peaceful life I don’t think I could go back,” she said of urban living.

Sullivan cannot say anything about her patients, of course, but can’t resist saying how “adorable” the children are and that “the babies are so cute.” It must be hard to see children who are sick or in pain, but how great that Dr. Sullivan has moved to town to help them.