An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer
By Ali E.
During these past few weeks at my internship, I’ve met a handful of different environmental health officers (EHOs) who all have varying interests, backgrounds, and stories. I’ve learned the different ways they ended up within the Office of Environmental Health in the Indian Health Service, and where they see themselves going in the future. Of all these people, there was one in particular who had a really interesting career path and who participated in an informational interview with me.
I met Kate a few weeks into my internship because she’s the EHO within our district with the most experience with pools. Because my project for the summer dealt with pools, I was able to go visit her field office for a few days. I learned the ins and outs of pool surveys, including debriefing with the pool operators, checking safety equipment, testing pool chemical levels, checking equipment maintenance, checking for proper documentation and chemical use, and above all how to give recommendations on how to improve the facility. Aside from learning how to properly and thoroughly conduct a pool survey, I learned a lot about Kate’s history that led her to where she is today.
Kate got her bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science because she was an athlete and loved sports and considered becoming an OT. She signed up for a Master of Public Administration program, but after a year changed to environmental health. Like me, she kind of stumbled unknowingly into environmental health because she liked the electives it offered.
The interesting part of Kate’s educational background is that she did an online master’s program that she spread out over the course of six years, which allowed her to travel around the world and work in various jobs while completing her degree. Prior to this summer, I hadn’t met a lot of people who had done their master’s degrees online, but I learned about the many advantages, as well as disadvantages, to going the online route. Kate is currently looking at getting a graduate certificate in epidemiology because her long-term goal is to get her doctorate and to work abroad, potentially with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing environmental health work. I didn’t know that certificates existed before meeting Kate, and she showed me that there are a multitude of ways to go about education at the graduate level, and that there is plenty of time to do so. I personally want to take some time off before pursuing a master’s to work in different settings to find my niche. Kate showed me that it isn’t necessary to rush through your education just to get a degree, but that it’s more valuable to take time to find what you’re really passionate about.