Angie Gerrard

Angie Gerrard stands in her office at the Malheur County Health Department in Ontario on Friday afternoon.

ONTARIO — She did not quite make it back to her first Peace Corps assignment in Bolivia, but Angie Gerrard, Malheur County Health Nurse, came close, serving year in Ecuador, again with the Peace Corps.

Gerrard first went to South America in 2001, but this was before obtaining her nursing degree.

“I did a lot social work and education programs,” she sad, but all related to health care.

Upon returning to the states Gerrard went to nursing school and got her degree, going to work at Providence Portland Medical Center for three years, but then began looking for a change, as she wanted more than a hospital based setting.

Then wanting to get out of a hospital setting into a more clinical setting, Gerrard saw an opening in the Malheur County Health Department, for which she applied and was hired by then director Penny Walters. The move also brought her closer to family living in Emmett.

Gerrard worked at the county department for eight years, eventually moving up to director, but in the meantime she began to think about South America again and if there was more she could do, now that she had a nursing degree.

Checking the Peace Corps website, she found there was an opening in Ecuador, which as in line with her training and expertise and went for it, resigning her position with the county.

“I already knew the language,” Gerrard said. Working the Treasure Valley she had been able to keep her Spanish skills up to a reasonable level from when she had been in Bolivia.

She left for Ecuador in May 2018, spending three months in capital of Quito, before going to her longterm assignment in Guayaquil, the nation’s largest city.

Gerrard said she was assigned to health centers, which are a part of the nation’s public health system, which covers the country, although there are private clinics and hospitals.

Although she was still mainly involved with heath education, Gerrard as a nurse could pitch in if needed with more medical issues, she said, including giving vaccines.

She also did home visits and wellness checks, she said.

The main difference between there and the U.S., is a lack of resources, which could be seen in the technology which has not arrived yet, Gerrard said, with access to medical care more limited in the more remote areas.

Working in a very poor area, she said one clinic was without electricity for half the day and there was no water. Many of the buildings were delapidated

“It was great,” Gerrard said of the experience, commenting she still keeps in contact with families she stayed.

“I highly recommend Ecuadorian Food,” she said,

Although she plans to stay put for a while, Gerrard does not rule out going again on some Peace Corps Assignment.

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