CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The new year brings a fresh start for a public health district serving Virginia. January 1, 2021 marks the Thomas Jefferson Health District officially changing its name to the Blue Ridge Health District.
“Names often communicate values or a culture of an organization and Thomas Jefferson is a very controversial figure for lots of very good reasons,” said Rebecca Schmidt, the district’s director of partnerships and strategic initiatives.
For years, the district was the only one in the commonwealth named after a person, instead of the region it serves.
“It’s been interesting going to national meetings and even state-wide meetings and saying you work for the Thomas Jefferson Health District and people wonder where that’s located in the state because Thomas Jefferson is a name and not kind of that regional geography,” Schmidt said.
She said the district’s name change is reflective of its goal of safety and inclusivity.
“If you eat in a restaurant, clearly with COVID-19, if you’ve been tested for COVID-19 or have a family member who has tested positive, we touch everyone in our district, and we want to make sure our name reflects the inclusive nature of our health district,” Schmidt said.
Out of several regional suggestions, Schmidt said the name “Blue Ridge” seemed to align well with other agencies in the area, like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
Over the next several weeks, the district’s website will be updated to reflect the change, but its goal of helping promote health and safety remains the same.
”We’re really committed to doing hard work for a long time, in terms of, again, expanding our services to meet community priorities and new threats like COVID-19, and to support our staff and bring new people on board,” Schmidt said.