Public health chief retires

January 15, 2003 11:00 pm

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Linda Parker wanted to wear medical whites for as long as she can remember.

And while she wasn't quite born with a stethoscope around her neck, she got her first medical kit at age 5.

Included in the wooden box was a stethoscope, Band-Aids, a plastic thermometer, wrist watch and, of course, a white cap bearing a red cross.

The gift was prophetic.

"I loved the white uniform," said Parker, a registered nurse and public health nurse who retired Monday from her post as director of the Calaveras County Department of Public Health. "Other girls wanted to be ballerinas or princesses. I wanted to wear a white uniform."

She got her wish.

Parker, 58, has worked as a registered nurse in both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. She has worked for Calaveras County for the past 21 years, starting when she was hired to administer immunization shots at health clinics in West Point.

Parker's career has been a long, upward climb.

She took her first steps in that direction in 1961, when she graduated from Calaveras High School. She said goodbye to her friends — including Terry Parker, a classmate with whom she also attended grade school — and left for Sacramento State University.

Her mother wanted her to be a teacher.

She wanted to be a nurse, but then raised the bar and set her sights on medical school to become a pediatrician.

"Perhaps it was more glamorous?" Parker wondered aloud over why she first chose pre-med courses over nursing. "I thought I'd really like to take care of kids, and I'd do a better job if I could be a pediatrician."

The stress of pre-med classes — chemistry and physics included — took their toll. Adding to the crunch was her shoestring budget earned summers in the business office at Mark Twain Hospital in San Andreas.

So, Parker returned to nursing — her first dream — during her sophomore year and never looked back.

"I never regretted it," Parker said. "I felt relieved because I didn't have to take so many undergraduate pre-med classes."