Gulzar Singh Johl
Dr. Gulzar Singh Johl (born June 28, 1923) was the first medical doctor of Sikh, Punjabi and South Asian heritage to practice medicine in the Yuba City area. He is the son of Tuly Singh Johl, one of the first Punjabi pioneers who arrived in Sutter County in 1906. Dr. Johl was born in the village of Jandiala in the district of Jalandhar, Punjab in British India.
Honoring his father’s wish, Dr Johl immigrated to the US to join his father in the Yuba City area, arriving on January 30, 1948. Dr Johl met his father for the first time as an adult in California after a 23-year separation. When his father left India in 1923, Dr Johl was only one year old. The pattern of family separation would be repeated — when Dr Johl left India, he left behind his wife and two sons for ten years until they were able to join him in Yuba City in 1958.
Dr Johl completed his medical education at the University of California, Irvine in 1957. He pursued further medical training in an internship at the Civic Center Hospital in Oakland and at the Dupont Eye Clinic in Los Angeles, specializing in ophthalmology. Afterwards, he completed training at the Gandhi Eye Hospital in India where he performed 100 eye operations. In 1961, he opened his eye clinic at 2042 Live Oak Blvd in Marysville, CA. During his professional career, he also maintained his farming operations throughout his life. In a Sacramento Bee feature on the “Sutter Sikhs,” Dr Johl was accurately described as a “peach grower and eye specialist” — in that order. He sees himself first and foremost as a farmer. He and his family own hundreds of acres of peach, walnut, and almond orchards, as well as other businesses. Dr Johl explained the importance of farming in his life: “We’ve been farmers ever since the earth was created. Even after coming from thousands of miles away, we are farmers. We don’t change trades like people do here.”
Brar, Balwant Singh. “The East Indians in Sutter County,” Sutter County Historical Society News Bulletin, Part 2, April 1978, Yuba City Library.
Interviews with Dr Gulzar Singh Johl by Nicole Ranganath, June 9 & July 15, 2016, Marysville, CA.
“Sutter Sikhs,” Sacramento Bee, November 5, 1965.
Gulzar Johl, Yuba City, early 1950s.