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Brown to take over as first female health commissioner

If someone asked Laura Brown a year ago where she would be now, she probably would not have said the Ironton Health Department.

A career nurse who has worked at most of the hospitals in the area, Brown had spent eight years as floor nurse at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

“I never thought I would like public health nursing,” Brown said. “I never thought it was something for me until I came here.”

Brown has been working at the health department since September when she came on as a part-time nurse. She has been working as interim health commissioner since December and will officially takeover the position on a full-time basis beginning in April.

Brown is the first female health commissioner for the city.

“I think it’s opening doors for women,” Brown said.

She admits, though, that there have been challenges. Like when she introduces herself as a representative from the health department and the person says they want to talk to the health commissioner.

She usually responds that she is the health commissioner, much to the surprise of the person who asked, who stares wide-eyed back at her.

“I think that women get the short end of the stick at first but then they’re admired when they don’t cry about everything,” Brown said.

She credits her husband for being her support system.

“He’s my rock,” she said. “This has been an eye-opening job. But it’s been the most satisfying job I’ve ever had.”

Brown’s position has three main sets of responsibilities. She works as a nurse there, helps with health inspections and works as an administrator for the office.

The department currently offers immunizations, hearing and vision clinics, pregnancy tests, flu testing, blood pressure checks, hepatitis tests, TB testing and lead and hemoglobin tests as well providing educational materials.

The Rock Hill graduate and Ironton resident said she would like to add new programs such as a clinic for elderly people.

She would also like to start a clinic in the evening for people who cannot make it in to the department during the daytime.

“Sometimes 8 to 4 is hard to do,” she said.

The department is also planning to offer home visits and flu shots to elderly people in the fall and is considering offering sports physicals.

Brown is leading an effort to get the health department more involved with the community. To that end, employees have been making presentations at civic clubs and governmental meetings.

The department also competed in the Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities Chili Fest and plans to team up with the Lawrence County Health Department for a float in the Memorial Day Parade.

Brown credits the department’s staff members for their efforts.

“If it wasn’t for all these people there’s nothing I could do,” Brown said. “Every one of these people are good people. It’s a small staff but it’s still a good staff.”

Brown’s appreciation is mutual.

“It’s been great,” Bonnie Holmes, a registered nurse at the health department, said of Brown’s time so far as commissioner. “She’s very supportive and very excited about her new position because she feels that her role is very, very important to the City of Ironton.

“She came with great ideas and lots of energy. She thinks it through and follows it with lots of action. She’s just a great boss.”