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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Ifeoma Ama MD, MPH

Ifeoma Ama Head Shot editedI currently work in the medical department at the Phillips 66 Sweeny Refinery where I serve as the Sweeny Refining Complex Physician and the Director of Corporate HS Compliance and Policy. I graduated from the University of Texas School of Public Health with a Master of Public Health degree in 2014 after which I proceeded to complete a Residency Training in Family Medicine at the University of Texas, McGovern Medical School, Houston Texas. After my Family Medicine Residency training, I returned to the University of Texas School of Public Health for an Occupational Medicine Residency training. I subsequently worked for Concentra Occupational Medicine and Urgent Care Clinics in Houston and San Antonio. I have also worked at Memorial Hermann Occupational Medicine clinics. I am a member of the University of Texas School of Public Health Occupational Medicine Journal Club, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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

I have always been interested in understanding the impact of one’s environment and occupation on their health, as well as the ways one can interact with their environment to prevent illness and disease. After medical school, this curiosity led me to seek for further studies in Occupational and Environmental health. I chose the University of Texas School of Public Health because of the distinguished professors at the institution, the research opportunities, and the proximity to my family. While completing the required coursework for a master’s degree in Occupational and Environmental Health, I knew that it was something I would like to do long term. My Residency training in Family Medicine further buttressed the need for more training in Occupational Medicine as I continued to see firsthand the acute and chronic diseases people suffered due to certain factors in their environment and workplaces. This prompted me to do a residency in Occupational Medicine. My passion for preventive medicine led me to author a book titled, “Choose Health – Understanding Prevention and Remedies for Some Common Health Problems”.

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

An average day for me involves performing various Occupational and Family Medicine related activities, including performing pre-placement and periodic medical exams for employees, executing fitness for duty exams, implementing health surveillance exams for employees based on their job roles, delivering travel health consultations including the administration of required vaccines and counseling employees on measures to help them stay safe and healthy while traveling. In addition, I supervise clinic staff to ensure the smooth running of the clinic, certify the integrity of medical documentation, provide COVID-19 support including testing and return to work clearances, advise employees and management on COVID-19 best practices for the workplace, evaluate and manage various work and non-work-related injuries and illnesses as well as continuous collaboration with the safety department, management, and Human Resources department.

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

My education at the UT School of Public Health prepared me for my current career, in several ways, one of which is the several industrial sites that we visited during my training, during which time we were trained on potential job hazards and their preventive modalities. Also, during my Occupational medicine training, I rotated through refineries, Occupational Medicine clinics, Corporate Medicine clinics and the Public Health Department, these helped to prepare me for my current job role.

My membership in the University of Texas School of Public Health Occupational Medicine Journal Club also provides a platform for me to interact with my professional colleagues outside of the workplace which has been a useful asset to learn about their professional experiences. All the faculty at the Occupational Medicine Residency department as well as the faculty in the Occupational and Environmental health department have been instrumental to my success in my career.

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

Future applicants should look for a program that would give them the necessary exposure and training needed to be successful in their field, for me that was the SWCOEH. Personally, I am truly blessed to have been granted the opportunity to learn at the SWOECH and to continue to interact with the faculty even after my training. It is my honest opinion that the SWOECH has the personnel and the resources to help students gain the knowledge to carve out their desired future careers.