Alumni profile: Clint Pinion (’13, Houston campus)

Dr Pinion and Students
Pinion (fifth from right) and students from his air quality and health course visiting a local power plant in central Kentucky.

Clint Pinion wears many hats in his current job as an assistant professor of environmental health science at Eastern Kentucky University — including hard hats. He’s a teacher, association president, environmental health and safety consultant, and frequently all three at the same time. It’s all in a day’s work for Pinion, who has dedicated his career to protecting the environment and keeping workers safe in his home state of Kentucky.

While he was a student at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, Pinion was a industrial hygiene trainee in the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH), a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Education and Research Center. After earning his DrPH in environmental and occupational health in 2013, he worked in environmental health and safety compliance for industry. Pinion joined Eastern Kentucky University in 2016, and also serves as president of the Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs and the Kentuckiana section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

What led you to public health and to environmental health in particular?

I had so many experiences as a child dealing with environmental occupational health issues. My grandfather actually passed away from an occupationally related disease, because he was a coal miner. While growing up in Eastern Kentucky I also witnessed many environmental hazards caused by coal mining releases into the environment. But I really discovered public health as a career option when I was graduating from college with a bachelor's in biology and was looking for the next step. I applied to Eastern Kentucky University’s Master of Public Health program focusing on environmental health issues because many of the concepts related back to my biology degree. When I went to EKU for my tour, they showed me their labs, and talked about the career opportunities and the impact I could make in EHS. I was pretty much sold. One of my mentors at Eastern was Dr. Carolyn Harvey, an alumna of UTHealth School of Public Health. She told me about UT Health.

Tell us about your work. What’s an average day like for you?

A typical day would involve me teaching several course sessions, engaging with my students, taking time for my own research and of course my service for the college, university and profession.

I’m also a consultant, so that’s another way I keep in contact with industry. Central Kentucky has a great deal of manufacturing and fabrication. Companies call on me for help with a variety of EHS needs. It could be something as simple as helping them with permitting, crafting environmental regulatory plans or conducting OSHA safety training. In some instances, companies call me to conduct a walk through if their facility needs to identify environmental and occupational health issues.   

How did your education at UTHealth School of Public Health prepare you for your current career?

A few milestones marked the very first semester I attended UT Health. I started participating in a qualitative study with Dr. Wendell Taylor, following up on a worksite health promotion intervention. The study sparked my interest in worksite health promotion, which ties in nicely with environmental health science. Later on, a School of Public Health alumnus with CB&I, Inc., a global engineering procurement and application company, was looking for a student to do a practicum. I took advantage of the opportunity. That practicum led to a five-year career with the company doing environmental health and safety compliance. I also spent some time as a health, safety and environment (HSE) technician with Baker Hughes because their highest officer in HSE was a graduate of UTSPH.

I have had many doors open for me because of my interactions with alumni of the School of Public Health. Even to this today, I still stay in contact with my boss from CB&I and we collaborate on research projects together.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in public health?

Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, unless it compromises your integrity or values. You should always say yes, because you really don't know if when a door opens, that's going to be the door to the next big adventure of your career.