|Dr. Rachel Wood with her husband|
Last December, Thurston County got a new Health Officer - Dr. Rachel Wood. This new role is familiar for Dr. Wood since in the past she would step in when our former Health Officer, Dr. Yu, was unavailable. She also continues to serve as Lewis County‘s Health Officer; a position she’s held since 2007.
It is a Washington State law for counties or districts to have a local Health Officer. The Health Officer is required to be a legally qualified physician and they serve their district by enforcing the state-wide public health statutes and other local regulations and ordinances.
The position comes with specific powers and duties, that include:
- Control and prevent the spread of infectious disease
- Examine local public water and waste water systems for health concerns
- Promote public health to the community.
Dr. Wood was born and raised in New Mexico. She went to college in Colorado; got her Master’s in Public Health in Texas, and returned to Colorado for medical school, where she met her husband. Dr. Wood has a diverse background in practicing medicine and public health. She has worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, practiced clinical medicine as a family practitioner, and when she moved to Olympia served for 12 years as the physician at the Student Health Center at The Evergreen State College.
When her children were in high school, Dr. Wood turned her focus back to public health, becoming Lewis County’s Health Officer. One of the reasons she enjoys working in public health is that people work together with shared goals. When she learned that Dr. Yu would be retiring, she became interested in adding the role of Thurston County Health Officer to her official duties. Dr. Wood feels happier in her work than she’s ever been. She says her job is fun because it is so interesting and there is always more to learn.
“Many factors contribute to a person’s health,” Dr. Wood says. “Environmental Health is an extremely important pillar that supports overall health and wellness. If your living and working environments are not healthy or safe, it makes it difficult to be healthy.”
When the community faces a natural disaster or an epidemic, Dr. Wood works with county employees to ensure that infectious diseases and exposure to hazardous materials are under control and to take action as needed to protect the health of Thurston County residents. In times of disaster and throughout daily work, her position requires working with county employees, other agencies and organizations, and the public. Working with others to support community health is another reason Dr. Wood loves her work and why she supports the Thurston Thrives! initiative.
“I look forward to making new partnerships, maintaining old ones, and making ties with people who care about our community’s overall health and well-being. That is what Thurston Thrives! is about – working together as a community, from different sectors, and aligning our efforts to improve health.”