Be the Change: Dr. James Wood – Empowering Children & Parents


Pediatrician Dr. James Wood of Chico says, “I am a physician by occupation. My mission in life, though, is empowerment. I empower children to be the best they can be and parents to be the best parents they can be.”

How does he do this? He knows that young children take great pride in their physical strength, so he says to them, “Show me your muscles.” Girls and boys alike want to flex their arms to show off their biceps. “We talk about their strong bodies and how to stay strong. Then we talk about strong brains and how eating lots of veggies makes for strong brains.” He asks school age children about their report cards and what their job aspirations are. If they don’t know, he offers some suggestions.

Flynn and his mother Danielle visit with Dr. Wood.

Flynn and his mother Danielle visit with Dr. Wood.

Dr. Wood believes that many parents today want to be their child’s best friend, when instead they should be their child’s best parent. Parents who are misdirected in their role may feel a need to prevent their children from crying, when “many important learning experiences in life may be associated with some crying,” he explains. He offers parents information about techniques that can help with difficult situations, including handouts they can refer to.

From the time he was in kindergarten, Dr. Wood wanted to be a physician, and he never wavered from that path. He did, however, change what he thought would be his specialty; initially he wanted to be a surgeon. He has never regretted changing focus. “I love my work,” he says.

Office manager Loretta Pence greets everyone with a smile.

Office manager Loretta Pence greets everyone with a smile.

Office manager Loretta Pence has worked with Dr. Wood for over 19 years. She knows how much he loves his work. “He’s the only doctor I know who will call the parents of very sick children to see how they’re getting along,” she says. “He is a very compassionate doctor.”

Dr. Wood has not made the move to computerized medical records like many physicians use and sees himself as unique in that respect. “I fit my approach to the individual child,” he says. “That can’t be done with computerized templates.” His records include report cards and childhood drawings. He plans to hold out for as long as possible before making the change, which will soon be required by law.

In addition to his private practice, Dr. Wood serves as medical director for Northern Valley Indian Health Children’s Health Center, formerly Enloe Children’s Health Center. He spearheaded the clinic, which opened in October 1993 and provides primary health care for low-income patients. “The practitioners do an incredible job,” he says. All pediatricians in Chico support the clinic, and Dr. Wood believes this is one of the reasons it has been so successful.

For his 50th class reunion from Stanford University, Dr. Wood prepared a bio in which he wrote, “I spend a considerable portion of my time with the underserved and with special needs children.” For this work, in 2005 his colleagues recognized him as a Legacy Physician. This is not his only award. When in the Navy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dr. Wood received an Outstanding Performance award at US Naval Auxiliary Landing Field in Monterey. He garnered the Resiliency Role Model – Healthy Chico Kids award in 1996 and 2000.

Outside the office, Dr. Wood has a rich and varied life. He spends family time with his wife Leslie, his four adult children, and his eight grandchildren. He and Leslie run for fitness. An avid gardener, he tends over 300 roses bushes. He sings in two chorales, is a photographer, and loves to hike in the High Sierras.

In recent years, Dr Wood has embarked on increasing his professional and personal writing. His topics include “Thoughts on Preventing ADD,” which has been published in a Chico periodical; “Technocancer,” a treatise on the intrusion of technology into everyday life, with guidelines for parents; and “Resiliency in Children,” a piece for parents to assist them in fostering resiliency in their children. Dr. Wood’s JBW’s Memoirs currently has 82 chapters with enticing titles such as “Peacocks and Belly Buttons.”

“God gave me a big plate,” he reveals. “For that I am most grateful, and I have purposefully kept it as full as possible. I want to do as much as I can while I can still do it.” In fulfilling this desire, he lives by the maxim, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”   

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Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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