Pediatrician who specializes in serving low-income kids teaches clinical practice to medical students

Pediatrician Stephanie Walton © Dr. Stephanie Walton
Physician Stephanie Walton has been called an "excellent educator, pediatrician and mentor" by her students. 

Posted Feb. 24, 2010

Stephanie A. Walton spent several years as a pediatric emergency physician, but these days she’s attending to a practice that is no less urgent than the demands of a pediatric emergency department.

Now in private practice in Sacramento, Walton caters to urban patients whose access to medical care has been inconsistent or previously lacking. Her father, Dr. Vernon Walton — the first African-American pediatrician in Sacramento — established Walton Pediatrics in the 1960s. Stephanie oversees the practice’s business operations and sees patients, yet finds time to also serve as a volunteer clinical faculty member for UC Davis Health System.

Raised in Sacramento, she obtained her M.D. degree from Howard University College of Medicine. She eventually became an assistant professor in pediatrics and served as the director of ambulatory pediatrics at Howard University Hospital, where she completed her pediatric residency. Walton then moved to Children’s Hospital of Oakland, where she completed fellowship training in pediatric emergency medicine.

Walton served as an attending pediatric emergency physician at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, Oakland Children’s Hospital and Maricopa County Hospital in Phoenix. Her plans changed in 1998, however, when Vernon asked Stephanie to join him following the death of his practice partner.

"I derive the greatest sense of satisfaction from caring for the underserved. It is so rewarding watching our kids grow and thrive."
— Pediatrician Stephanie Walton

In addition to practicing alongside her father, she also works with her mother, Velma Walton, a registered nurse who serves as nurse manager of Walton Pediatrics. Stephanie is the practice’s medical director now that Vernon is semi-retired. Walton Pediatrics has 20 employees, including two other pediatricians and a pediatric nurse practitioner.

The general pediatric practice has two offices — on East Southgate Drive in South Sacramento and on Scripps Drive near CSU in Sacramento. Patients include more than 4,000 Medi-Cal recipients. Walton intends to open an additional location in the former Urban League Building at 3501 Broadway in Oak Park, following an eventual renovation of that structure.

“Low-income kids come with a different set of problems than those patients of affluence,” she explained. “They often receive less preventive care than other kids; we see children who have poor dentition because they lack proper dental care, or kids who are obese because of a poor, high-fat diet. Many mothers are single, young and uneducated.”

Walton knows her patients and their parents well, and talks about them with deep fondness.

UC Davis Children's Hospital

UC Davis Children's Hospital © 2009 UC Regents

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only comprehensive hospital for children. From primary-care offices to specialty- and intensive-care clinics, pediatric experts provide compassionate care to more than 100,000 children each year and conduct research on causes and improved treatments for conditions such as autism, asthma, obesity, cancer and birth defects.

For more information, visit the UC Davis Children's Hospital Web site.

“One foster mom already had adopted two boys with medical problems. Shortly after she came in with three more foster kids — siblings who she took into her home because she didn’t want to break them up. The kids had been homeless on the street with their parents, who were schizophrenic. She eventually adopted the additional three kids. Another foster mom adopted a blond drug-addicted baby, two Hispanic kids with special needs and one African-American kid.

“I derive the greatest sense of satisfaction from caring for the underserved. It is so rewarding watching our kids grow and thrive,” Walton said.

Despite the caseload, Walton accepted an invitation to serve as a clinical instructor for the UC Davis School of Medicine. Walton serves as a preceptor for third-year medical students, who work side-by-side with her in her clinic. The experience exposes them to a variety of pediatric conditions, patients and well checks.

“I really enjoy having the teaching role while working in private practice,” she said.

UC Davis pediatric nephrologist Lavjay Butani, co-instructor of record for the third-year pediatric clerkship, said students tell him that Walton embodies selflessness and dedication to the community. Butani said students have described her as “compassionate, warm and approachable,” as “very inspirational” and as an “excellent educator, pediatrician and mentor.”

Walton Pediatrics runs the St. HOPE Student Health Center at Sacramento Charter High School, in cooperation with Health-Net of California.

“Most of these kids are also underserved,” Walton said. “In cooperation with the UC Davis Department of Family Practice, we started a series of health-education student lectures focusing on reproductive health, drugs, alcohol, violence and nutrition.”

Walton is also co-owner of Pediatric Urgent Care of Sacramento, an after-hours pediatric medical clinic with two locations — one in south Sacramento and the other in Rancho Cordova.

“I once specialized in emergency medicine,” Walton said. "Now, serving the underserved, low-income child is my specialty.”