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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Mehta headshotRitesh Mehta, MD, MPH 

After graduation, I decided to do an Addiction Medicine Fellowship in Augusta, Georgia where I served as a Chief Fellow. I set up schedules, didactics, and Journal Club for all the other fellows, and worked in sync with the Psychiatry Department of Augusta University. Addiction and mental health were two main components of this fellowship, and I was able to learn mental health care and management, and used that training to help my patients who fought addiction.

I enrolled in a 6-week course on Motivational Interviewing and provided rehabilitation and treatment too Veterans, an underserved cohort, and helped patients with alcohol, drug, and tobacco addictions.

I worked closely with Child Protective Services, officers, therapists and counselors to help mothers gain custody of their children, cleared individuals to return to work safely and find employment.

I also started working part-time with Cartersville Occupational and Urgent Care in Georgia on weekends, where I helped with the COVID-19 pandemic and served as a lead Occupational Medicine physician. I trained multiple Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants and taught Evidence-Based Medicine, helped with occupational injuries, treatment and management.

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

My former training was in Internal Medicine in Las Vegas, and I decided to expand my horizon into Occupational Medicine. I wanted to expand my training and public health and Occupational and Environmental Health was my calling. I wanted to treat individuals and make a larger impact in the population.

I interviewed at UTHealth Houston, and felt this was the right place for my training. The residency was for two years and I was able to get my MPH from UTHealth School of Public Health. I did my clerkship at multiple sites (Exxon, Chevron, NOVA, and Houston Area Safety Council) where Occupational Medicine was prioritized.

I was able to learn how to diagnose and treat Occupational injuries. During my time within the UT Health SWCOEH residency, I served as a chief resident and helped organize didactics and worked closely on a project with my program director.

I moonlighted at Occupational Medical Care in Pasadena, Texas after hours, under Dr. Puig. During these two years I attended multiple conferences, did case study presentations and met multiple mentors who have helped me to this day.

I also enrolled in a Healthcare Management Certification course from University of Houston—Clear Lake, which was sponsored by the SWCOEH.

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

I consider myself very blessed to be in this field – it is very rewarding and satisfying. My typical day starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. I work with a team of 10 individuals including front desk staff, nurse assistants and management and our goal is to serve the working and non-working members of the community. I am a DOT (Department of Transportation) certified physician and perform physical examinations and clear individuals to drive vehicles safely. I also perform pre-employment clearance, read audiograms, spirometry and x-rays, and provide workers with restrictions and follow up if there are any injuries that might have occurred at work.

I am in constant conversation with our health and safety manager, workers compensation personnel, nurse, and referring physician. I clear individuals for pre-employment and read multiple drug tests, including random drug tests that occur when there are suspicions that workers are under the influence at work.  

My day is an exciting one as I never know what pathology and injury might come to us through the urgent care. I treat everyone above two years of age by following Evidence-Based Medicine and discuss treatment and management plans. If something is concerning, I send my patient to the nearest ER once I stabilize them.

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

I could not have asked for a better place to train than the SWCOEH. This program under Dr. Brett Perkison, and leadership role of Dr. George Delclos and Dr. Chip Carson provided me with confidence to be out in the field and manage any occupational related pathology that can come my way.

The courses I took in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Industrial Hygiene, and Health Care Management helped me share my opinion about the COVID-19 vaccine, provide education to staff members, health safety managers, and patients of different ages.

When I enrolled in the Healthcare Management Course, I was able to provide my input in strategic planning, business strategies, safety concerns and improving staff member’s well-being with the HCA and SmartCare leadership group.

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

To all the future students/residents, this program will provide you the best training and will make you a leader in public health. This program and the members who run this program are extremely thoughtful, and will be with you forever. I consider everyone in this program as a family member, who were able to join my wedding virtually (due to COVID). I was able to get their blessings and trust. They have helped me with education, guided me correctly when I was lost and reassurance for the past three years since my graduation.

Whenever I am unsure, I am able to call my mentors at any time and they provide me with appropriate direction. I am planning on being a part of this program in near future once I make my career move to Texas.

Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life. I have yet to work a day in my life, because I truly enjoy and love what I do, and none of it would have been possible if I did not train at the SWCOEH.