|The West Custer County Hospital District (WCCHD) has announced the new medical providers that have joined the team. Dr. Gayle Riley, MD, who will serve as the medical director and Julie Klaker, FNP. Both are very passionate about serving the patients in rural clinics and providing top-notch care.
Dr. Riley comes with a wealth of experience. Dr. Riley was the regional medical director at Valley-Wide Health Systems in Canon City before she learned of the open position for medical director at the WCCHD. Dr. Riley served at another rural health clinic similar to ours in New Mexico. She stated that that clinic was also an hour away from the closest hospital. They also had their own EMS, which was attached to their clinic. “The concern isn’t so much what you do with the day-to day patients,” she says, “but what you do in emergency situations.” Dr. Riley expressed that the challenge is often what patients do you send out and which do you keep in. Dr. Riley believes that patients in rural clinics expect and deserve the same level of care as those in larger cities.
Dr. Riley went to medical school in San Antonio, Texas. Previous to that, she was a Physician’s Assistant (PA). One of the specialties she was serving in was diabetes care. Dr. Riley expressed that diabetes care is one of the areas in which she has a strong interest and is highly trained. Dr. Riley had her own private practice in Austin, TX for many years, as well.
She decided to come to southern Colorado and settle here because she heard of groups that “were doing wonderful things with rural healthcare.”
Dr. Riley enjoys to garden and to cook. She is also getting certified in culinary medicine. Culinary medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine.
She wants the community to know, “I am here because I am interested in what they’re doing.”
Dr. Riley will commute to Westcliffe from Colorado Springs a few Tuesdays each month. She wants to be a consult for the nurse practitioners and will assist on more complex cases.
Julie Klaker is the new nurse practitioner to join the WCCHD. She presently lives in Red Wing, in Huerfano County, and will commute to Westcliffe Monday-Wednesday each week and could increase later.
Klaker earned her Master’s degree from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (UCCS) in 2005. She served patients at a rural clinic on the Western Slope very similar to Westcliffe. She has cared for patients in emergency care and primary care. Klaker is also studying psychiatric nursing for her post-graduate training through UCCS.
She decided to enter rural medicine while she lived in Alaska. “It’s always what I wanted to do.” She gained a lot of “on-the-job training” while working rurally and while at a Hopi, Navajo, and Dakota clinic. “I’ve always liked the rural lifestyle better, I don’t like big cities.”
Klaker heard about the position at the WCCHD through Charlotte Stark, another terrific nurse practioner at the clinic. “Charlotte and I worked together at Button Family Practice in Canon City.” Stark told Klaker that it was a “good time to make a change, so I jumped on it.” The commute to Westcliffe is closer to her home in Red Wing and better than to other areas.
Klaker expressed what a great clinic WCCHD is. “I like the way the clinic is right now, it’s much different than it used to be. I like the walk-in availability here for acute needs.”
She continued, “I love the Westcliffe community. I would often come up to go to dinner and hike the mountains, and enjoy it very much.
“My biggest interests are internal medicine, chronic disease. I like the mix of acute and walk-in patients. I see a whole spectrum from newborns on through every stage of life. I’ve also treated diabetes, hypertension patients, and COPD, and I’ll also be expanding in psychiatric care.”
Klaker enjoys hiking and gardening in her spare time. She has three dogs and they all love to get out in the mountains. “I love to hike to the high-mountain lakes.”
The WCCHD is located at 704 Edwards Ave. in Westcliffe. To schedule an appointment with one of the top-notch providers, please call 783-2380.
– Tracy Ballard