Ellen Heinitz, Clatsop County's community health project manager, finished her last day in the role on Friday before returning to Guatemala for a yearlong medical service trip.

The naturopathic doctor practiced primary care in Grants Pass and Medford for 14 years before volunteering in Guatemala in 2017 through Casa Colibri, a humanitarian organization serving indigenous Mayan villagers in the country’s northwestern region. 

She has been in her role for Clatsop County since 2018, and played a leading part in the county's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I have really appreciated working for Clatsop County Public Health during this unprecedented time," Heinitz said in an email. "The team here is full of compassionate, fearless, dedicated folks who have tirelessly worked to support their community through this pandemic. They will continue to do their amazing work. I am honored to have been part of this team."

Heinitz oversaw virus case investigation and helped organize mass testing of workers during outbreaks at seafood processors.

She also oversaw the setup of the drive-thru community testing service at the county’s household hazardous waste facility in Astoria.

"We will miss Dr. Heinitz’s leadership, knowledge, skills and camaraderie," Michael McNickle, the county's public health director, said in a statement. "She was an integral part of our COVID response efforts. Even though she is leaving us, we will strive to continue to meet the high standards she set for our public health efforts to deal with the pandemic and other programs she led."

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.