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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Alex Cardone, MPH

Untitled design (13)Currently, I am working for the Department of the Air Force as an Industrial Hygienist in Utah. I was fortunate enough to start working around a month before graduation and so far it has been an incredibly rewarding experience with so many opportunities to put my education into practice. Primarily, my job entails updating job processes and seeking to understand worker’s potential exposures to both physical and chemical hazards. In addition, I have recently had the opportunity to obtain my Associate Safety Professional certification. The best part of my job is interacting with a variety of individuals with different occupational backgrounds and trades – there is always something new to learn.

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

During my undergraduate studies, I knew that I wanted to do something within the realm of science but was very unsure which route to take. Then, I took an Environmental Science class and my professor previously worked as an Industrial Hygienist and an OSHA Inspector. As he discussed the class materials and shared stories from his career, I knew that this is what I wanted to move toward. When looking for graduate schools, the ultimate deciding factor for choosing UTHealth came down to its location in the Texas Medical Center – the largest medical center in the world. With an interest in Industrial Hygiene as it relates to healthcare, UTHealth’s traineeship program in Industrial Hygiene was an easy choice.

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

Honestly, I feel I have the best job in the world. Every day I get to interact with unique individuals and learn what that they do for their jobs. As an Industrial Hygienist, I look at jobs and processes in order to determine potential hazards that may be associated with specific tasks. My day includes observing how others perform their job, researching specific chemicals, and evaluating existing and potential controls that may keep employees safe. Although some time is spent behind a computer, writing reports and researching, I then have information to provide to the employee on my next visit.

How did your education as a SWCOEH ERC trainee at UTHealth School of Public Health prepare you for your current career?

As a SWCOEH ERC trainee, the classes that had the largest impact on my development involved hands-on experiences such as the Environmental Sampling Analysis Fundamentals of Occupational Safety. This class helped me prepare for the Associate Safety Professional examination, which I passed in September 2021. In addition to my regular classes, I had the tremendous opportunity to conduct a research project. The opportunity to conduct research and experiment in a lab was a unique experience and it also allowed me to present the findings at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo 2021, where I won awards and was able to network with other like-minded professionals from around the country.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a SWCOEH ERC traineeship leading to a career in public health?

My biggest advice for any student pursuing a SWCOEH ERC Traineeship is to always keep your eyes and your mind open for opportunities to learn and meet others. My current career path was determined because an alum reached out to me, my family decided to take a chance, and it was the best thing that could have happened. Even if the experience is not what you would initially think of doing, if it is related to your field make the time and put forth the effort.