Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health


The Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) supports research, education and outreach in occupational and environmental health. The SWCOEH is housed within the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences of the UTHealth School of Public Health and is under the leadership of Elaine Symanski, PhD who serves as Director.


The mission of the SWCOEH is to promote and improve health, safety, and well-being in the workplace and the community.

Board of Advisors

An external advisory board comprised of members from industry, labor, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia provide guidance to the SWCOEH on current and future directions.


The SWCOEH was established in 1977 as a NIOSH-funded Education and Research Center (ERC), now one of 18 ERCs in the nation.  In 1985, the SWCOEH became a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health.  In 2010, the SWCOEH, in collaboration with our colleagues at the University of Utah, received a large 5-year Worker Education and Training (WETP) award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to provide hazardous materials and emergency response training to workers; we place special emphasis on training returning veterans and underserved minorities.  Having grown considerably since we were established, we also conduct research on how environmental and occupational exposures affect health and on how to mitigate health risks associated with these exposures.  

What We Do


The threats to health and well-being posed by occupational and environmental factors are complex and require interdisciplinary and innovative approaches to improve the health of workers and communities.  In addition to utilizing the best available research practices and interventions, solutions must also consider geographic, economic, behavioral, cultural and political dimensions.  The SWCOEH addresses these threats by providing graduate-level education in environmental and occupational health, conducting research into the causes, prevention and control of disease and injury, engaging in research to practice activities, and providing continuing education and outreach to our stakeholders.


We conduct research in areas that include military health, ergonomics, farmworker health, workplace violence and air pollution epidemiology. Funding primarily comes from the NIH, CDC NIOSH, DOD, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Graduate-Level Education

Through the ERC, the SWCOEH provides a variety of graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, and occupational epidemiology.

Continuing Education and Outreachfarmworkers

The SWCOEH Continuing Education (CE) and Outreach Program serves as a training resource for professionals by delivering specialized courses in response to current training needs and responding to emerging issues in occupational and environmental health.

Taking an Interdisciplinary Approach

hazmat 1

We train occupational and environmental health professionals to recognize, evaluate and control environmental and work-related threats to health.  Just as in the larger field of public health, success at these challenges requires application of a broad range of skills, from the research lab to workplace and community settings.

An interdisciplinary approach to occupational and environmental health training is at the center of our philosophy. Through common coursework, joint projects, field experiences and research, SWCOEH creates a rich environment for exchange and interaction among faculty, students and professionals from varying disciplines.

The Southwest Center offers programs in several areas, including Industrial Hygiene, Occupational Epidemiology, and Occupational & Environmental Medicine Residency.

Industrial Hygiene

Industrial Hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling factors that arise from the workplace that pose health and safety risks to workers and the community. For more information, Dr. Lawrence Whitehead.

Occupational Epidemiology

Occupational Epidemiology is the science of epidemiology focused on the occupational environment. This includes the assessment of health risks from occupational exposure, investigation of disease outbreaks and research to establish the scientific basis for regulation and control of chemical, physical and biological agents in the workplace. For more information, Dr. David Gimeno Ruiz de Porras.

Occupational & Environmental Medicine Residency

The Occupational & Environmental Medicine Residency is the training of practicing physicians for occupational and environmental positions in private practice, industry, government, the military or academia.  The ACGME-accredited residency program includes one year of coursework leading to an MPH and one practicum year. For more information, Dr. Arch Chip Carson. 

NIOSH Education and Research Center (ERC) Pilot Projects Research Training Program (PPRTP)

The goal of the pilot projects research training program (PPRTP) is to enhance the SWCOEH’s regional outreach efforts in research training and to foster stronger inter-institutional ties in occupational health research within Public Health Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Metal Air Pollution Partnership Solutions (MAPPS)

MAPPS is a collaborative research-to-action project designed to study and address health risks associated with emissions from metal recycling facilities in Houston. 

Biosafety and Infectious Disease Training Institute

dual degree 286x255

The mission of the Biosafety and Infectious Disease Training Initiative (BIDTI) is to positively and meaningfully impact the health of our communities by providing well-designed, well-delivered and practical hands-on health and safety training to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases of public health significance, such as Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and other emerging infections.

Hypertension in Mexican-Americans: Assessing Disparities in Air Pollutant Risks

This is a research project conducted using a community engagement approach to assess the hypothesis that individual- and neighborhood-level psychosocial stressors exacerbate risks for hypertension associated with fine particulates and other air pollutants among individuals of Mexican origin living in Houston, Texas.

field work

Full tuition and fees support and a generous monthly stipend are available to full-time students on a competitive basis from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (trainees must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents). Requirements for the NIOSH traineeships include acceptance into the program, maintenance of a minimum course workload, and satisfactory academic progress.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are also available to students throughout UTSPH. There are also many scholarship opportunities available through the school, professional associations, and community and advocacy groups.

Your Best Response to a Changing World!


The mission of the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) Continuing Education (CE) Program is to serve as a training resource for professionals and decision-makers in the occupational and environmental health fields by delivering specialized courses in response to current training needs. Our ultimate goal is to improve occupational and environmental health. 

Subject Areas

In general, our training sessions are short (2-5 days), technical, and highly specialized. Our core subject areas are occupational medicine, industrial hygiene, occupational safety, hazardous substances and materials, HAZWOPER training, and occupational health nursing.


Our courses are attended by individuals from across the country. For our ERC courses, we target audiences in Public Health Region 6 which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Currently, our training events are held in live face-to-face sessions. In the future, online courses will be available as well.

region map

Program Philosophy

Each course is thoughtfully designed by a course director to meet participant training needs and we employ a unique blend of instructors from industry, government, and academia for a well-rounded educational experience. Didactic sessions are complemented by hands-on activities.

Your training needs are our priority. Please contact us if we may be of service.

Training Schedule

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

  • TBD

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

  •  TBD

December 2016