About 40 people attended a special recognition ceremony at the Thurston County Board of Health meeting Tuesday to pay tribute to retiring health officer Dr. Diana Yu.
“It’s hard to imagine public health in Thurston County without you,” said County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, who chairs the Board of Health.
Yu, 59, has served as what one of her colleagues described as “our own surgeon general” for almost 24 years.
“She understands the science,” said Sherri McDonald, former director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services. “She can explain the science to people.”
Yu’s colleagues put together a slideshow of her work over the years, which included photographs and video clips of her participation in community vaccination clinics, the county’s response during an anthrax scare after 9/11, her free Zumba fitness classes at local parks and other efforts. The slides also featured some pages of her popular health column in The Olympian.
Don Sloma, department director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, described Yu as a teacher and the hub of medical information for the area.
He said her legacy includes the Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps — a volunteer program that allows health professionals to contribute their skills and expertise during a health emergency or disaster —smoke-free public buildings and the county’s emergency disaster preparedness plan.
“For over 23 years, she has been the heart, soul and brain of public health,” Sloma said.
Steve Romines, director of Thurston County Emergency Services/Medic One, described Yu as action-orientated.
“She rolls up her sleeves and gets involved,” he said.
Even though Yu is retiring from her position at the county, she told the commissioners that she plans to stay in touch.
“I’m still going to be citizen Yu,” she said. “I’m still going to be a Thurston County resident and I’m probably going to bug the heck out of you.”
In addition, Yu said she plans to continue leading Zumba classes in the area, serve on the state Board of Health and volunteer with other efforts close to her heart, such as the Washington State Senior Games.
“I’ll still be working as the public health officer in Mason County one day a week,” she added.
Dr. Rachel Wood will assume Yu’s role at Thurston County beginning Dec. 3. She has been the Lewis County health officer for six years, and will remain at that post part time.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org @Lisa_Pemberton