Our center stands on three pillars: Research, Education, and Practice. One of the many ways we work to protect workers is through educating and training future leaders in occupational safety and health (OSH). We support trainees in OSH disciplines across six programs through the Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center
As part of our Alumni Spotlight series highlighting our graduated trainees, we interviewed Silpa Krefft, an environmental and occupational medicine
graduate working as a pulmonary and critical care physician and researcher.
How did you find yourself in the field of OSH?
I cared for a patient in the intensive care unit who had a work-related inhalation injury. During his recovery, I found myself interacting with occupational medicine and safety experts to answer his questions and navigate his post-injury medical care as well as his return to work. I found the field of occupational and environmental medicine fascinating and decided to learn more about it.
What attracted you to the MAP ERC program?
I thought that the interdisciplinary approach encouraged throughout MAP ERC curriculum and experiences was cutting edge. The MAP ERC offered a great way to learn about the full spectrum of occupational and environmental health disciplines and network with other occupational health and safety experts.
What lessons did you learn by working with classmates outside of your program field in the MAP ERC?
I learned that a multidisciplinary approach can help tackle complex research questions and improve medical care. Sometimes, you cannot address medical issues without understanding work hazards and workplace culture. Early collaboration with industrial hygienists and organizational psychologists can help inform an approach to protecting workers.
What is your current role and how does it apply to your training or field of study in OSH?
I am a pulmonary and critical care physician and researcher specializing in occupational and environmental lung diseases. As the director of the Post-Deployment Cardiopulmonary Evaluation Network site at the Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Administration Medical Center, I oversee a clinical and research program that involves lung diseases related to military deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. I also work part-time at National Jewish Health in occupational lung disease research as part of a multidisciplinary team in the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.
Were there major differences between what you thought your job would be as a student compared to your current role/responsibilities?
My current role requires constant use of skills that I learned and developed during my training. I have relied on interdisciplinary interactions and relationship building with colleagues even more than I had anticipated. I also am finding that the emphasis on simple messaging without too much jargon is an important skill that I practiced during training and continue to work on in my current job.
How has your training impacted the way you approach OSH?
One of the most important things I learned through my MAP ERC training was to start with cost-benefit analysis and lead with this information when making requests for new research tools or starting new medical care initiatives.
How has your current position impacted the larger body of workers, families, and communities?
My current position allows me to expand access to medical evaluation for workers who may be at risk for lung disease. My colleagues and I hope that our clinical work and research inform prevention efforts as well as improved methods of disease detection and treatment.
What advice would you give future OSH trainees?
Use your training to network with colleagues in disciplines other than your own, and keep in touch with them. Also, remember that messaging is important: brevity is the key to communication.