Keeping our community healthy
Published 6:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Rhonda Pruitt is quick to say she doesn’t view herself as a superhero, but many would disagree.
Although she is regularly tucked away from the world in her small office, Pruitt makes a huge difference in the community as the senior epidemiologist of the Piedmont Health District.
Born and raised in Danville, Pruitt studied business and economics as an undergraduate at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina before beginning what would be a lengthy career in the health field.
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Over the years, she’s worked in both financial and administrative health care jobs, including surgical ophthalmology, gastrointestinal surgery, lab services and home health. After returning to school, Pruitt obtained her master’s in public health with a concentration in community health and epidemiology and in 2011 began working as a district epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
The Code of Virginia provides a list of Virginia reportable diseases. As an epidemiologist, Pruitt’s job is to follow up with labs and medical providers who have reported any of the diseases on this list in order to gather clinical information, speak to patients, track exposure and prevent those diseases from spreading in our community.
As one can imagine, the pandemic flipped Pruitt’s job on its head.
For nearly a year and a half, Pruitt’s entire job became consumed with COVID-19. Every hour was dedicated to tracking cases and outbreaks and working with medical and community partners to address concerns, determine possible exposures and implement appropriate quarantine measures.
Although it’s been a crazy experience, Pruitt said things are thankfully returning to normal. As part of her job, Pruitt is on call 24/7. She’s now spending more time investigating non-COVID diseases than coronavirus cases, a sign things are returning to normal and mitigation and vaccination efforts are working.
Pruitt loves to learn and research new things, and research never stops at the health department. Although she’s played a big role helping protect the community from the coronavirus, she’s quick to point out some of her biggest heroes are the frontline caregivers and medical workers who have braved the virus each day to protect the community. She also thinks the world of the other health district workers whose group efforts combined have helped the fight against COVID-19.
When trying to find free time, Pruitt loves to spend time with family. She’s also passionate about art and baking and hopes one day to take pastry chef classes.
In looking to the future, she hopes more citizens will heed the messages from the medical community and take measures to protect themselves and loved ones by getting vaccinated.
To see the full A Salute to Community Heroes edition click here.