We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
I always knew that I wanted to do something related to health. While I was in high school, I had the opportunity to join a pathways program called CUPS that allowed first generation students to explore the different careers in health and STEM. One summer during our program, I had an introductory public health class that was taught by Dr. Virginia Visconti. Her class gave me the ability to put my experience into words and empowered me to bring justice to my community. After that, I went to CU Denver for my undergraduate in Public Health and then I joined the 4+1 program to do my MPH.
A lot of my interests revolve around bringing justice to my Latinx community and my family. Many of my family members and friends have experienced injustices and inequities because the system does not value them. I have seen family members and friends who have not qualified for workers compensation or have been injured because the instructions or resources were not in a language that they could understand.
The workplace safety and wellness aspect of the certificate attracted me to the program. I realized that in order to have an impact on workers, I needed to learn more about the frameworks and theories behind Total Worker Health. I recognized the gaps in Latinx workers’ health – this certificate will allow me to bridge my knowledge and the existing solutions to evolve and adapt them in the future.
This Spring 2022, I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala to assist in a research study about chronic kidney disease in sugarcane workers. Here I learned the importance of communication and cultural competency. Communication is everything especially when you do a study with non-English speakers.
Being able to communicate with research participants in their language not only gives you rapport but it allows for research participants to express their wants and needs. Sometimes when we do research, we often forget that it has to be mutually beneficial. So, giving workers a platform to express their needs without fear of being reprimanded can lead to better worker health and outcomes.
I hope that with my training, I can bridge my new knowledge with my previous experiences. I want to use my native language to bridge communication and cultural competency gaps that exist in the workplace. I want to create equitable workplaces where non-English speaking workers have the knowledge and resources to live and work without fear.
My hopes are to continue doing research and tapping into workplaces where Latinx people experience health disparities, whether in the U.S or internationally.