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Health Director of Central Shenandoah Health District set to retire this week

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 5:24 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Health Director of the Central Shenandoah Health District is set to retire at the end of this week.

Dr. Laura Kornegay stepped into her role in 2015. Before that, she practiced internal medicine in Lexington, which is where her fascination with public health began.

“I got interested in public health interacting with patients who bore the burden of chronic disease, and I was really interested in taking a preventative tact to some of these disease processes that affect our populations,” Kornegay said.

Kornegay said the Virginia Department of Health trains for pandemics, and COVID-19 became the most memorable part of her career.

“While everyone was aware of the threat of a pandemic, but it really kind of slaps you in the face when it appears in real life,” Kornegay said.

As a health professional, she saw positives and negatives in her career. She said the hardest thing in her career came at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like many districts and, really, around the state and around the nation, we faced large outbreaks amongst our older populations in nursing homes, and it was horrific to see the impact,” Kornegay said.

Dealing with the pandemic was often very difficult, she said, but it also provided them the space to communicate widely with the community.

“It did kind of take public health out of the background and kind of put it into the forefront. A lot more interest in what we’re doing, a lot more recognition of the important role public health plays in our communities,” Kornegay said.

If able to go back and change something in her career, Kornegay said she’d try to address vaccine hesitancy.

“The one magic wand power I wish I’d had was to encourage folks who haven’t been vaccinated to take advantage of the safe and effective vaccines we have available for COVID-19,” she said.

For now, Kornegay said she’s going to focus on her loved ones. Her professional future remains undecided.

“It’s been, for everyone, a very difficult two years where we’ve had less time to devote to family for a variety of reasons, so I’m excited to have more time to spend with my loved ones,” Kornegay said.

Kornegay said community partners and the CSHD team have been devoted to public health, and she thanked them for their work.

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