By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
LEXINGTON — As a child, Dr. Laura Kornegay loved reading and writing. She thought she would major in English some day in college.
But, a Psychobiology course at UVA put her on the path toward medicine.
“I just thought it was very cool,” she said.
On December 17, Kornegay will retire from public health service.
Kornegay attended middle school and high school in northern Virginia before undergraduate and medical school at UVA.
She served in the U.S. Navy at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, followed by a stint at Parris Island with the U.S. Marine Corps.
She worked at Norfolk Eastern Virginia School before moving to Lexington to work in private practice in 1999. She still lives in Lexington with her husband, Keith. Their daughter, Katelyn, 19, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech.
“I always liked primary care and internal medicine,” Kornegay said. She enjoyed the diagnostic aspect of primary care. “I always liked kind of figuring out and what the diagnosis is and getting people to feel better.”
Kornegay said she also worked with the elderly and enjoyed helping them. She handled chronic disease management in primary care.
“A lot of the times [chronic disease] can be prevented, and I became interested in public health,” she said. She wanted to help the public at large with preventative measures to disease.
She earned her master’s degree in public health. In July 2015, she became director of the Central Shenandoah Health District.
When she looks back on her career, Kornegay said that one of her biggest accomplishments was helping patients “in their time of biggest need,” when they were at the end of life.
“So, hopefully, I helped people in their time of need,” she said.
Of her time in public health, Kornegay is most proud of her team, who responded to the long-term responsibilities of leading the public through a global pandemic.
She said she will miss her co-workers at CSHD “who worked tirelessly to get through the pandemic.”
“Having some tools to combat COVID has been such a blessing,” Kornegay said.
The silver lining of the pandemic, according to Kornegay, has been “the increased recognition of public health’s contribution,” and the “incredible strengthening of partnerships” for almost two years between the health department, local municipalities and school systems to focus on combatting COVID-19.
“These partnerships will last well past the pandemic,” she said.
If she could have done anything differently during her career, Kornegay said, as many health officials might agree, that a lot could have been done differently in combatting the pandemic.
“The challenge to a novel pathogen is you’re kind of writing the script as you go along,” Kornegay said.
Kornegay’s last day will be Dec. 17, but she will be available into the new year to assist the health district with the transition of a new director.
“I don’t have any immediate plans,” Kornegay said of retirement, except spending time with her family.
She might get a part-time job, but something non-medical.
“Medicine has been a tremendous career, but I’m ready to move on to the next chapter,” she said.