When her parents wanted a special picture to commemorate Cafferata’s graduation from medical school, she chose to have the portrait done in the Chico State Rose Garden. Photo by Tina Mickelson
Chico to Chicago to Kenya—and Back
by Elizabeth Renfro
From early childhood, Lindsey Cafferata wanted to be a doctor. She has also always had a spirit of adventure. The result? As an obstetrician, she has treated patients on four continents. But when it came time to set up practice as an ob-gyn in 2010, Cafferata (BS, Biological Sciences, ’01) came back to her hometown.
Love of Chico—and of Chico State—is a Cafferata family tradition. Both Dr. Cafferata’s mother, Gail (Credential, ’76), and older sister, Melissa (BA, Anthropology, ’00; MA, History, ’03), earned degrees from Chico State. Cafferata’s own first memories of the campus were built when she was 10 and tagging along as her father, Michael (BA, Psychology, ’75; BS, Nursing, ’91), registered for classes in Acker Gym. She remembered being wide-eyed at “the excitement, the huge crowds of students lined up all over the place, and all the people handing out flyers.”
Eight years later, Cafferata herself enrolled at Chico State. Once there, biology classes with Professor Robert Thomas prepared her for the challenges she’d later face in medical school. “He was beyond tough,” she recalls. “He pushed you to learn for yourself, and he taught me things I use even now.”
Cafferata thrived at Chico State, winning a 2000 Floyd L. English Natural Sciences Scholarship. She also remembers Professor Diana Flannery (“what a firecracker!”) and the Women’s Health class she took “just for G.E.,” little thinking it might presage her future.
“I always thought I’d be a pediatrician,” says Cafferata. But then, in her third year of med school at Chicago’s Rosalind Franklin University, came the obstetrics/gynecology rotation. “I absolutely loved it. Thanksgiving vacation came, and we were all supposed to be off, but that would have meant I’d miss a week of this rotation, and there was no way I wanted that. I stayed.”
Cafferata adds: “Ob-gyn is so special because it lets you be part of women’s entire lifespan. In one day I can see a 12-year-old girl, a woman expecting her first baby, a grandmother—women at all stages of their lives.”
Cafferata’s adventurousness and her desire to serve have taken her to back-country clinics in Kenya and Ecuador. Working with neither running water nor electricity, she’s done everything from stitching up wounds to delivering babies and performing surgery. Most recently, both Cafferata and her father, an emergency room nurse at Chico’s Enloe Medical Center, spent several weeks at a clinic in the Philippines.
While Cafferata plans to continue volunteering around the globe, home will remain Chico. Two years ago, when invited to join a practice on the Esplanade, she was thrilled—and not just because she would become the only female obstetrician in town. “There’s just no place like Chico for me,” Cafferata says. “It’s where I’ve always known I wanted to be.”
Elizabeth Renfro (BA, English and German, ’72; MA, English, ’75) taught for 35 years at CSU, Chico in English, Honors, and Multicultural and Gender Studies.