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.
Trainees from our Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center (MAP ERC) recently took an old-school field trip to Colorado Springs. After driving an hour and a half south of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and trying to drive through the wrong base entrance, they arrived at the visitor’s center of Fort Carson Army Base.
Dr. Natalie Schwatka, program director for the Colorado School of Public Health’s Certificate in Total Worker Health® program, had long been awaiting the opportunity to take trainees on a safety tour of this post.
These types of practical, unique learning opportunities are available in abundance to MAP ERC trainees. Each of the center’s six occupational safety and health graduate programs place great importance on interdisciplinary education and first-hand experiences. Our programs prioritize helping students understand and encounter the roles they could have (or work closely with) after graduation.
Fort Carson has its own dedicated safety team lead by U.S. Army Garrison Safety Officer William J. Whitman, CSP. Whitman, a retired veteran, led the day-long tour, accompanied by various members of his safety team (many of whom were also retired veterans) including resident industrial hygienists, field safety officers, and health physics (radiation) specialists.
Many of the post’s safety hazards are present at the rail yard where soldiers load and unload heavy machinery such as tanks and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (Humvees). Trainees witnessed a rare, but unique safety challenge where teams were working to safely restore the equipment to a derailed railcar.
Our group also spoke with field medics and contractors that dispose of the post’s hazardous waste materials and recycle discharged bullet shells and toured the coordinating facilities these individuals work in.
The most poignant question facing Fort Carson’s safety team is how to encourage a safety mindset in military individuals while on base after returning from a deployment. In many cases, soldiers are asked (and more than willing) to put their own safety on the line for the sake of their fellow soldiers or the sake of the mission while actively serving abroad. The challenge is to shift towards a safety mindset when they return home to maintain readiness.
Part of this challenge is how the mental health of military personal effects their safety choices and vice versa – how injury and illness affect mental health. MAP ERC trainees sifted through these complex issues with the Garrison Safety Team. Whitman and his team were each deeply concerned with “why” behind these safety questions, and their approach to work reflects that concern.
We want to extend a special thank you to Whitman and the Garrison Safety Team for their service, dedication to the safety and health of others, and thoughtfulness during our tour.
Visit our MAP ERC programs page to explore our different occupational health and safety degrees and certificates.
Written by Laura Veith, communications and media program manager for the Center for Health, Work & Environment.