Health center work a labor of love for patient providers
By MOLLY WALKER
Of the News-Register
For two of the patient providers at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in McMinnville - Eleanor Sims, M.D., and Linda Wheeler, C.N.M. - their positions are a labor of love.
Originally from the Philippines, where she attended medical school, Sims completed her residency in Yakima where she became interested in the farmworkers community clinic in that area. As she was approaching the end of her career she began seeking a position that was a combination of volunteering and salary which continued in the medical field.
Her husband, originally from Oregon, was interested in the wine industry. That led them to discover the McMinnville clinic in the heart of Oregon's wine country.
"I got my job and a mission close to my heart and he got to pursue his interest in wine," said Sims, who feels she will stay with the clinic until retirement.
Sims enjoys the challenges her family practice position offers.
"We're not just dealing with uninsured patients - there are a lot of social issues," Sims said. "The kind of patients we serve are underserved. It's rewarding to help them."
Sims said that Virginia Garcia has an agreement with the Willamette Valley Medical Center to provide prenatal care for the uninsured population of McMinnville and outlying area that she is very involved with.
She's seen the clinic grow dramatically since she began in 2003. At that time there were only four providers - now there are 10. Sims feels the center's growth has been healthy.
"It's a difficult practice, but at the end of the day it's what you want to do," said Sims.
Wheeler has spent the past seven years as a nurse midwife for Virginia Garcia. After retiring from Oregon Health & Science University, Wheeler realized that she didn't want to totally stop being a midwife.
She had taken multiple trips to Mexico and Guatemala.
"I love the culture and speaking Spanish," she said.
Her favorite part of her two 10 hour days of work are seeing the families and the opportunities to watch them grow.
"It's great fun - but it's also challenging," she said. "We're dealing with people who have almost no financial resources."
Transportation and the cost of hospital bills are always issues, Wheeler said.
The center receives support from the community's obstetricians, who Wheeler describes as "incredibly kind, generous and compassionate."
"I love the patients - I love my colleagues," said Wheeler.