stmarysvpSister Gerard Earls, an advocate for Long Beach’s underserved population for more than 16 years, was honored by the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday, December 15, for her contributions to the health and welfare of the community, St. Mary Medical Center announced last week.

“Sister Gerard is an inspiration, and the embodiment of service and devotion to community,” said Mayor Robert Garcia, as quoted in the release. “I’m grateful to be able to recognize and honor her contributions to our city.”

As Vice-President of Mission Integration for Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center since 1999, Gerard has overseen the organization’s community benefit program, which, in fiscal year 2015, provided over $35,000,000 in patient financial assistance, community health improvement services and unreimbursed costs of caring for patients, according to the medical center.

“Sister Gerard’s kindness and caring for everyone she encounters make it very easy for us in the City of Long Beach to honor her,” said District Six Councilman Dee Andrews in a statement. “She is truly a God-sent individual and a blessing to us all.”

Gerard forged Dignity Health’s commitment to combating human trafficking, which included hosting the area’s first educational seminar on the issue last year. She is also known for her hard work with “Helping Hands,” a holiday program she has led since her start at the hospital, a program that collects food, presents and toys for families-in-need to enable them to have a truly “Merry Christmas.” 255 families were served this year.

Nominated by Andrews, Gerard was honored in January 2015 by the city as one of six recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Maker Awards, which “acknowledges the legacy of the civil rights leader by paying tribute to community members who promote engagement, nonviolence and unity,” according to the release. Gerard was also recognized in 2014 as one of the Press-Telegram’s “Amazing Women.”

“Sister Gerard has been a true treasure for us at St. Mary Medical Center and also for the community of Long Beach,” said Joel Yuhas, President/CEO of Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center, in a statement. “Her passion for the hospital’s mission and her leadership as an advocate for those less fortunate has been an inspiration for all of us at St. Mary. Everyone at Dignity Health—and the City of Long Beach—appreciates her energy, enthusiasm and sheer presence.”

According to the announcement, the Ireland-native earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Nursing at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Pastoral Counseling at Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts. Before joining St. Mary Medical Center in 1999, she spent the first 17 years of her nursing career in Oncology, leading units at St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and St. Michael Health Care in Texarkana, Texas.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].