Retiring Snyder has seen many health changes in 32 years

Loujane Johns
Lauren Snyder

On Dec. 31, Yates County Public Health Director Lauren Snyder is retiring.  In her 32 and a half year career she has seen many changes in the department and in the world of health care.

As a life-long resident of the community, she has used her knowledge and leadership in the field of pubic health, nursing and public administration to bring Yates County into the next century of care.

After receiving a nursing degree from the University of Buffalo, the Penn Yan Academy graduate returned to Yates County. 

She joined the Yates County Public Health Department in 1976 and became acting director in 1981.  Snyder earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Brockport, later  in her career.

Since 1976, she has seen the staff grow from only three nurses and one secretary to over 40 employees on staff and many contractors. 

The late Emily Seager was supervisor when Snyder began.

Moving from the cramped, old jail building five years ago when the new county complex was built was exciting Snyder said.  She is pleased with the office space and meeting rooms available in the new building.

Talking about the many changes, she said home health care has been greatly expanded in the county.  People are able to stay in their homes longer before going to a care facility, thanks to home health aides.  “A large part of the population in Yates County is elderly,” she said.

“There is a lot more emphasis on prevention and control of diseases since I started my career.”  She said there has been major progress on services for children with special needs.  At one time, these children only received home health care.  Now there are programs available throughout the county.

When asked about her proudest accomplishments she named her staff first.  “I think I would have to say I am proudest about assembling such a wonderful work force.  They are an absolutely devoted, hard working and committed staff of people,”   she said.

She said some of the home health aides have worked there for 25 years.  Deb Snyder has worked in the department almost the same number of years as Snyder.

“I hear stories from other counties and I am glad I work here,” she adds, explaining the network of agencies within the county works very well together.  There is a great deal of interaction between public health, social services, law enforcement and many other agencies.

Events on 9/11 brought a new set of challenges to public health, Snyder said.  She never thought she would be dealing with homeland security, terrorism and preparation for attack in Yates County.  Training through Homeland Security has become an ongoing thing.

Snyder can remember when raccoon rabies was a really big deal and the employees were on the phone almost hourly, taking calls from worried citizens.  Tuberculosis and polio were focus diseases when she began her work.  New diseases evolved causing great concern in the field of public health, including H.I.V., West Nile and SARS (Severe Acute Repiratory Syndrome). 

During her career, Snyder says the biggest challenge has been how to accomplish  public health for the community with the least amount of funding.  She says her motto has been, “Dream it up first and then look for funding.”  She looks at what is needed and then sets out to figure out how to get it.

Unfortunately, disappointments go with every job.  She says her frustration is “I have never been able to help Dundee to get fluoride in their water system.  We could never find the money.”  She has always believed in the importance of oral health.

She may still have an opportunity to work on the Dundee water after she retires.  She has just begun working on a health plan grant in Starkey, Barrington and Dundee through a S2AY grant.  She is proud to say she helped create the S2AY network, which provides services in seven rural counties.

After years of reading up on new diseases, going over medical alert bulletins and piles of other health related material, Snyder is looking forward to reading just for pleasure. 

Spending more time with her family is also on her list.  Her husband Alan (Herbie) retired last April from Cargill. 

The couple have two grown daughters.

Jennie lives in Penn Yan and works at ARC and Bethany lives in Rochester and is a instructional designer at Gillespie Associates.

“It has been a privilege to be a public servant and I have truly enjoyed working for the people of Yates County,” says Snyder.