HOUSTON – Amber Mitchell, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., C.P.H., has been elected chair of the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Mitchell is an alumna of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, and began serving as chair-elect in December 2017. The official term begins at the end of the APHA Annual Meeting in November 2018 and lasts for one year.
The Occupational Health and Safety Section of APHA, established in 1914, is the one of the oldest within the association. The section has more than 700 members and works to advocate for the health, safety and well-being of workers, families, communities and the environment.
"I worked closely with Amber while she was here in Houston and was very impressed with her intellect and energy," says Robert "Safety Bob" Emery, Dr.P.H., vice president of Safety, Health, Environment and Risk Management at UTHealth and a professor of occupational health at UTHealth School of Public Health. "This is a tremendous honor for her to be elected to this prestigious positon and reflects well on her accomplishments and the UTHealth School of Public Health."
Mitchell earned her Dr.P.H. degree from UTHealth School of Public Health in 2013 with a focus on occupational and environmental health sciences. While at the School of Public Health, she was an Occupational Injury Prevention doctoral trainee on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Education and Research Center training grant (T42 OH008421) offered in the school's Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. She earned an M.P.H. in 1998 from The George Washington University. She is currently president and executive director of International Safety Center in Houston, an organization that works to improve the safety and health of those working in the health care industry.
Serving as co-councilor and program planning co-chair within the APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section for the past two years, Mitchell has been responsible for organizing roundtable, poster, invited and oral sessions; section business meetings; and more, all for the APHA Annual Meetings.
"It is an incredibly rewarding and challenging volunteer position and I have met and worked with some incredibly experienced and dedicated occupational health and safety heroes," says Mitchell. "Meeting and serving with my co-chair, Dr. Natalie Schwatka from Colorado School of Public Health, has been an unexpected gift. Since the annual conference is often the one time of year, professionals in our field get together, we all want to make it a terrific experience filled with celebrating our colleagues, peers, and friends in their work, their lives, and their commitment to making workplaces safer."
Mitchell says the incoming chair position will be equally challenging in a different way.
"It is an absolute honor to be nominated and elected by not only a group of your peers, but also a stellar group of mentors and icons with decades of experience fighting for workers' rights, civil rights, safe and healthy work environments, ground breaking research, and incident surveillance at all levels and in all kinds of industries from around the world," says Mitchell. "I hope to continue to learn from them and do the absolute best I can to continue to serve them and the workers they fight for and represent within the broader APHA organization."
"The public health community must not forget that the greatest population of people are those that work and if their safety and well-being is not preserved, the infrastructure of all other elements of public health tends to fall apart," she said.
— Written by Shannon LaDuke