Previously, I had a conversation with Carla Reinhard, Program Administrator about this MSPH program. Now we have an audience with Dr. Breyssee, the Program Director. We're re-visiting because the value to students or healthcare professionals considering this field are well worth the consideration of a second look. 

Programs that afford the opportunites and options (such as those described in the interview) are indeed rare, and deserve a bit more of our attention. Sometimes we're overloaded with all that Hopkins, and specifically the School of Public Health, can provide. We're only a few mouse clicks away from an abundance of riches. This being said, we wouldn't want a true jewel to go unnoticed.  

For more information.....

 

And in case you're wondering it's Alonzo doing the "Q," and Dr. Breysse providing the "A".

 

Q: Dr. Breysse, what do you see as the advantage of getting a master’s degree in the field of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene?

A: it seems as though everyday we’re confronted with problems that relate to how our environment directly affects our health. Last night on the radio I was listening to a conversation about problems with mountaintop coal-mining in West Virginia; the other day I was reading an article on the web about the  big environmental concerns  associated with the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas production; in the local Baltimore paper I was reading about issues with excessive sedimentation in the Chesapeake Bay; and of course we are always hearing about air pollution and its effect on health. As a result of all this, there is a need to train health professionals who have the tools and skills to address these issues in a variety of capacities, and I think that is very attractive to someone considering this program.

One of the best things about the profession of occupational and environmental hygiene is that there is a scientific basis for investigating and mitigating health concerns. We attract people who are not only interested in science, but who also are interested in working with people with a wide range of backgrounds. They may not necessarily want to work in a research lab and study how chemicals affect mice, but they want to study chemicals in the environment and how they impact working and living in the real world. We are looking for students who want to study how the environment affects people where they live and work.

Q) What feedback have you received from graduates of the program?

A) First of all, our graduates get jobs in many types of workplace settings. We have graduates that work for organized labor, private industry, consulting companies, and healthcare providers. They work for government organizations at national and local levels; they work for non-profits; and they work in academia.

We maintain a great deal of contact with our graduates. We have a 100% employment record - students have no difficulty getting a job right out of our graduate program, or getting a nice promotion from their existing job. We also turn to our graduates to help mentor students currently in the program. A number of our graduates come back to lecture in our classes, and we have others who hire students for internships. Some of our greatest ambassadors for the master’s program are our graduates, our alumni.

Q) What would you say is the typical background for students coming into your program?

A)   Students move into the environmental health fields through a variety of paths. They typically graduate with a science background. For years, I’ve always told students to “get as much science as you can, you’ll never go wrong”. No one looks back and says “gee I wish I hadn’t taken that math class”. No, they say “I wish I’d taken ANOTHER math class, or ANOTHER science class or biology”. You’re never going to regret taking more basic science classes. So we look for students coming into our program who have a good science background.

 Ultimately, the kind of job that’s out there for new college undergraduates might not be their first choice, but they migrate to the kinds of fields and opportunities that are available. They get a job as an Environmental Compliance Officer, or perhaps they do Risk Assessment for a government agency----and they discover they like environmental health. We’ve found that students who move into these fields come to us because they need a little bit more training to do their jobs better, and to advance further.

Because we offer two delivery options for our master’s degree (full-time/on campus and part-time/internet-based), we get students who are right out of undergraduate programs, and students who are established professionals.

Q) What do you think are the challenges for this program?

A) Tuition is certainly a big challenge and a bit of a barrier, but on the other hand the investment in a Johns Hopkins education is something you’ll never regret. JHSPH is the biggest School of Public Health in the world, it’s the oldest School of Public Health in the world, and our department of Environmental Health Sciences alone is bigger than half the other schools of Public Health. So in terms of the breadth of experience you get, and the depth and level of interaction with the faculty and fellow students---this is  a very unique experience that I don’t think you can get anywhere else in the world.  

I think another challenge is the lack of understanding that this training exists. I think we need to do a better job of informing people that getting a degree in this type of program will really help your career.  Not everyone has the awareness that a master’s degree in environmental health is really a gateway for future advancement in terms of a higher paying job.

 

Alonzo LaMont

alonzo@jhmi.edu

 


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