USF College of Public Health’s Occupational Exposure Science program makes top 10 ranking

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The USF College of Public Health’s occupational exposure science program has been ranked 8th in the top 20 best industrial hygiene degrees in public health for 2019 by MPH Online.

MPH Online is an independent online resource for public health students offering information and guidance regarding public health degrees. They weighted programs based on alumni salary, cost of the program, and reputation, according to Dr. Steve Mlynarek, professor of occupational exposure science (OES).

Current OES program students (from left): Miriam Escobar, Zach Brandes-Powell, Colins Nwafor, Paul Irvin. (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

“Our alumni get excellent jobs and we have a good reputation,” Mlynarek said. “Our faculty, particularly Dr. Hammad and Dr. Bernard, are also known nationally and internationally and are very highly regarded.”

Mlynarek said alumni of the OES program have gone on to hold jobs with respected organizations including the Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau Veritas, and the U.S. Navy, and Intel to name a few.

“I’m very pleased we’re in the top 10,” he said. “I think there is a lot of subjectivity to all of these polls, but I think one of the good things to come out of it is that we will all pay attention now and work harder.”

The occupational exposure science field, formally known as industrial hygiene, is seeing a need for more public health professionals with this specialty, according to Mlynarek.

Those working in OES discipline focus on the chemical, physical, and biological agents and stressors in the workplace, and how they impact the health and safety of individuals, according to MPH Online.

The OES field is anticipated to grow by 8 percent through 2026, according to MPH Online, and Dr. Mlynarek agrees with that assessment.

“The world is getting more complicated; there is more development and use of exotic chemicals, there is more use of nanoparticles and other possible hazards that need to be assessed and controlled,” Mlynarek said.

OES program alumna Adelmarie Bones, the vice president of an environmental health and safety consulting firm in Polk County, Fla., said she’s not surprised to see the program ranked so highly on the list.

“I was very proud and happy to see that COPH emphasizes and teaches us that all our decisions and recommendations within the professional setting must research-based,” she said. “COPH actively trains their students to manage their personal beliefs into objective point of views for the benefit of the population as a whole.”

USF OES student Brooke Fait works with hazardous waste bulking to checking airflow direction. (Photo courtesy of USF COPH)

Alumnus Kyle Vogel, a safety and industrial hygiene professional for the city and county of Denver, said employees rarely take the time to consider how exposures to harmful agents in the workplace will affect their health years from now.

“Getting to educate employees about hazards in their work environment and make changes to processes that help keep them safe is something I truly love about my career,” he said.

Vogel said he appreciated that the program provided a challenging, but supportive atmosphere.

“The people I went through the program with remain some of my closest friends and are colleagues that I can always reach out to when dealing with a difficult problem at my job,” he said. “I wholeheartedly recommend the USF COPH for anyone pursuing graduate studies in environmental and occupational health.”

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health