Student Profiles

Keewan Kim

Mentor/Advisor: Michael S. Bloom
Degree/Concentration: PhD, Enviornmental and Occupational Health Track
Year in program: 5

Why did you choose the EHS department at the School of Public Health?

I started my career with the School of Public Health in the Epidemiology department where I earned my MPH. As part of MPH internship, I worked with my current advisor, Dr. Michael Bloom from the EHS department who gave me the opportunity to experience environmental/reproductive epidemiology. After my internship experience, I realized that this subject area was of great interest to me and I decided to continue my academic career in the Environmental and Occupational Health track in the EHS department.

What types of experiences has being in the EHS program exposed you to/what opportunities have you had because you’re in EHS?

In Environmental and Occupational Health track, I study how to investigate the associations between environmental contaminants and adverse health outcomes mostly. Although my research area is focused on epidemiology, I was able to learn how environmental contaminants are actually analyzed in the laboratories. Such direct experience was available through collaboration with laboratories within the department and laboratory rotations which might be a unique feature in the EHS program.

What do you like most about the department/program?

Excellent faculties, friendly staffs, and wonderful students.

Would you recommend EHS to other? Why?

Yes. There is a wide variety of opportunities for EHS students during/after graduation. Students receive the preparation they need to be part of environmental health research programs, academia, state/local health departments, or any other environmental health related agencies through the EHS program and the opportunities and experiences it offers.

Austin Roberts

Mentor/Advisor: Dr. Patrick Parsons
Degree/Concentration: PhD, Environmental Chemistry Track
Year in program: 1

Why did you choose the EHS department at the School of Public Health?

I was interested in becoming a PH worker as well as a researcher. The location is very affordable, and I wanted to obtain PhD at institution that was in a location that was significantly different from where I obtain my Undergraduate degree.

What types of experiences has being in the EHS program exposed you to/what opportunities have you had because you’re in EHS?

  • The ability to learn/work alongside researchers that are on the frontlines of increasing awareness to Environmental issues as well as conducting research to help improve our Environmental conditions.
  • Exposure to ideas and project from a wide range of professionals.

What do you like most about the department/program?

  • Close knit community of students and faculty.
  • Wonderful course selections
  • Amazing opportunities to work in the PH sector as a consequence of being closely tied with NYDOH

Would you recommend EHS to other? Why?

Definitely. If you are passionate about making changes and want the opportunity to learn from faculty who are deeply involved in the fight to make the world a better/healthier place then EHS department is for you.

Xiaoyu Fan

Mentor/Advisor: Dr. Qing-Yu Zhang
Degree/Concentration: PhD Molecular Toxicology Track
Year in program: 2

Why did you choose the EHS department at the School of Public Health?

EHS is a joint program between DOH and SUNY, which provides more opportunities from both sides. The course arrangement is reasonable and effective for us to prepare for the career in the Public Health. The faculty and staff here are great, and are always willing to help, and we have full access to the facilities. EHS contains three tracks, and provide us the communication opportunities with other tracks.

What types of experiences has being in the EHS program exposed you to/what opportunities have you had because you’re in EHS?

From my experience, the academic advisor and thesis committee members are highly supportive in my academic study, and they have abundant experience training student in research. In addition, the seminars from both students and Wadsworth Center give us more opportunities to learn about the Environmental Health.

What do you like most about the department/program?

I like the research environment most, including the lab equipment, the instruction from faculty, and communication.

Would you recommend EHS to other? Why?

Definitely, I would like to recommend EHS to the any perspective students, because here we have responsible faculty and staff, collaborative opportunities and supportive research environment. Other than that, we have lots of student activities, which help us better study and live.

Stacey Helming

Mentor/Advisor: Dr. Ellen Braun-Howland
Degree/Concentration: PhD Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental and Occupational Health Track
Year in program: 4

What is your project focus?

Microbial contamination of surface waters, including recreational and drinking waters, is a significant concern facing regulators in the United States. Surface waters are particularly susceptible to fecal contamination from non-point sources, like agricultural runoff and failing septic systems, leading to the potential exposure of the public to disease-causing microorganisms. Identifying the source of fecal contamination is crucial to ensure the protection of the public and enable remediation and is generally referred to as fecal source tracking, or FST. Currently, there are several individual fecal source tracking methods used. Overall, most scientists support a “tool-box” approach to FST, due to the potential unreliability of any single test. My dissertation work seeks to fill the gaps left by traditional fecal indicator testing by creating an interdisciplinary approach or protocol for FST studies.

How is your project relevant to public health?

Over 900 million people throughout the world lack access to clean drinking water, with millions of cases of waterborne illness reported each year. As one of the most significant health concerns for people across the globe, it is important to look for new ways to accomplish fecal source tracking studies, update methods to increase sensitivity and specificity, and eliminate the uncertainty in reporting. The development of a firm FST protocol may impact environmental decision making processes and enable the protection of the public from the introduction of waterborne diseases in recreational and drinking water sources.

Joe Hosri

In a few words, what does Public Health mean to you?

Public health is the pursuit and utilization of knowledge that answers our most important questions regarding human health. Just as a physician diagnose and treat disease in their patients, public health professionals work to asses and intervene upon factors that cause disease at a community level.

Why Public Health?

There are so many unanswered questions regarding the causes of disease. For example, we are exposed to thousands of chemicals on a daily basis, without having a choice in the matter. There are over 80,000 chemicals registered for commercial use in the United States. However, for many of these compounds, little is known regarding their potentially detrimental effects on the human body. Public health professionals work diligently to research these effects, providing evidence to support changes in health policy that can prevent disease, promote a healthy lifestyle, and protect the public from threats to their health.

What got you interested in Public Health?

I have always wondered how the world around us influences how healthy we are. Like many individuals, I didn’t even know what public health was until I began to read about the many career opportunities in the field. I realized that I could make a difference in the lives of others while working within a discipline that I truly enjoy studying.

What type of people would you recommend take a look at Public Health?

Public health is a comprehensive field that allows students to learn about a variety of disciplines and a wide range of health issues. From biomedical science, global health, and even health policy, an education in public health provides students from a diverse backgrounds and interests with the opportunity to gain real world skills. I would recommend that students interested in human health but not entirely sure of what issues they would specifically like to work with learn more about the many opportunities offered at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health.

Would you recommend it to other students? Why?

I would absolutely recommend public health to students interested in working with others to improve the health outcomes within their community. Public health is growing rapidly nationwide, and is in need of motivated students to take on the responsibilities of understanding and combating emerging health challenges.

Do you have any advice for potential students?

My advice for potential students is to believe in yourselves. While a graduate level education in public health may be intimidating at first, hard work and dedication will build into excellence. The challenges faced in the public health community can be overcome, often resulting in a significant improvement in the quality and duration of the lives we serve.
Read as much as you can about current issues in public health. Ask questions until you find one that you feel must be answered. The SPH will give you the tools to do so.

What attracted you to this program?

I was attracted to this program as an undergraduate majoring Public Health at the University at Albany. I was offered the opportunity to take a graduate course in Environmental Health Science as an undergraduate student and I immediately fell in love with the discipline. I welcomed the challenging expectations of the program as a means of bringing out the best in me academically.

How did you find the application process?

I found the application process to be straightforward and fair. I would advise potential students to make an effort to connect with their undergraduate professors, whom may one day serve as a reference during the graduate admission process. Also, if they haven’t taken a mathematics course since high school, it would be wise to brush up on some math skills before taking the GRE.

What are you most looking forward to in this program?

I am very excited to begin the summer internship that is a component of our program. The concepts addressed in my courses are fascinating even on paper, and I look forward to applying them in a more hands-on manner alongside veteran public health professionals.

What's the best part of your first semester/what is something that surprised you?

Understanding the scientific research the drives public health is like learning to speak a new language. At the start of the semester, I encountered technical scientific terms and concepts that seemed almost like a foreign language to me. It was quite intimidating at first, to be honest. Thankfully, my professors have guided me in understanding many of the most complicated scientific concepts. The realization that I am beginning to master the language of scientific research is one of the most rewarding feelings I have had in my academic experience.
From what you’ve already been able to experience, would you recommend this program? Why?
I would absolutely recommend the MPH program to interested students. The wide range of issues addressed in our program provide an excellent opportunity for students to find a discipline that suits their interests and challenges them. Our professors work diligently to ensure that students are prepared for the real world challenges they will face, and are always available when extra assistance is needed. The skills taught in this program will be marketable to potential employers in a field that expected to see dramatic growth in the next decade.

Where do you hope this program takes you?

I am currently considering applying to medical school upon the completion of my MPH, as I feel that the medical community is in need of individuals with an understanding of the methods utilized by public health professionals. I hope to one-day work towards solving heath issues among individuals that have been occupationally exposed to unsafe levels of man-made chemicals due to improper industrial hygiene.

Stephanie Wilkinson

Mentor/Advisor: Patricia Fritz, research scientist
Location of internship: New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Bureau of Toxic Substances Assessment (BTSA)

What is your project focus?

My project dealt with the growing industry of spray foam insulation and the potential health effects that could occur throughout the lifecycle of the product. The product rose in popularity because of its energy efficiency and potential for economic savings. I created a life cycle analysis to look at possible exposure scenarios from a cradle-to-grave point of view dealing with the manufacture of components, formation of the product itself, and its disposal. Exposed individuals included manufacturers, insulation installers, and homeowners.

What, if anything, influenced your decision to focus on this topic?

I wanted to do an internship in an area which I had no prior experience in. This topic allowed me to collaborate with different individuals, including those in other state health departments and the Bureau of Occupational Health at NYSDOH. This opportunity to collaborate with individuals in the field made this internship appeal to me. The members of the BTSA immersed me not only in my topic, but also took opportunities to educate me on the many aspects they deal with on a daily basis.

How is your project relevant to public health?

The fact that not much research has been done on this industry and its high potential for health effects makes it completely relevant to public health. Occupational exposures could be prevented with proper control measures and training, while homeowner exposures occur when improper installations occur. The need to educate individuals as all exposures are preventable is huge and will continue to grow as the industry does.

Current endeavors

I am currently interning at the Schenectady County Health Department working on a variety of topics in the environmental health discipline. I choose this topic in part because I live in Schenectady County and wanted to see how the health of the community I live in is affected by different environmental aspects. I wanted to experience how things work on the local level, as my previous internship dealt with the state. Having a wide variety of experiences is essential in public health as it is so wide reaching and multidisciplinary.

Wendy Strollo

Mentor/Advisor: Dr. Michael Bloom
Location of internship: Wyoming County Health Department, Silver Springs, NY

Public Health Background

This internship allowed me to have the ‘whole public health experience.’ I worked mostly in the Wyoming County Environmental Health Department but was also actively involved with the Community Health Assessment for the County. Within the environmental health department I received extensive field training as well as knowledge of environmental health regulation and policy. I gained hands on experience in water testing, and various types of health inspections. I learned to communicate environmental health information to the public and as well as how to effectively enforce regulation.

Working on the community health assessment exposed me to the process of planning collaborative health interventions. In this process I worked closely with the public and community stakeholders to analyzed data, identified health priorities, and developed action plans.

Overall I was very pleased with my internship experience. It was important for me to have an internship focusing on environmental health. In this internship not only was this priority met but I was able to gain valuable practice in other aspects of public health as well.