From Maroon to Burnt Orange – Meet the New Faculty: Anna Gitter, PhD
Anna Gitter, PhD, joined the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health in July as an assistant professor in the environmental and occupational health sciences program. Gitter earned her BS in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan and her MS and PhD in Water Management and Hydrological Science from Texas A&M University.
Gitter's research interests include human health risk modeling to interpret environmental exposures, water resources management for public health, and risk communication. She spends her free time volunteering at the local animal shelter and has completed over 25 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, three times.
To learn more about Gitter, SWCOEH.org asked her about her background.
SWCOEH.org: What attracted you to this role as an assistant professor with the SWCOEH?
Gitter: My education and training are in the environmental sciences, but I have always been interested (even curious!) in how environmental conditions could affect human health. I was fascinated by the case studies we did in undergrad and graduate school regarding environmental contamination (i.e., oil spills, groundwater contamination, etc.) and how communities were adversely impacted. Learning these stories instilled a passion for understanding better how these exposures occur and how they can be mitigated. The opportunity to work with the SWCOEH seemed like the perfect fit for pursuing and addressing these environmental health issues. Additionally, this type of work crosses over to occupational settings too!
SWCOEH.org: Can you please describe your role as a postdoc research fellow in El Paso?
Gitter: As a postdoctoral research fellow in El Paso, I was involved in a range of environmental and public health research. This work included evaluating wastewater data to inform public health decision-making and estimating human health risks associated with different water management practices and settings (including aquifer storage and recovery, recreational waters, and drinking water). I also mentored graduate students and co-taught the PHEO Risk Analysis course this past spring. You could say that I did a little bit of everything!
SWCOEH.org: What was a typical day like for you at the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI)?
Gitter: I led water quality-related projects throughout Central and East Texas, which addressed water quality concerns for specific waterbodies. My workdays varied quite a bit. Some days I worked on a report that characterized historical water quality and contaminant sources for a specific river, which TCEQ or the TSSWCB would review. On other days, I would be on the road by 6 a.m., driving to several sampling sites within a watershed to collect water samples and in-field water quality data. I also traveled to different communities (where the impaired water body was located) to give a presentation on water quality and meet with local stakeholders to discuss ways we could help improve the water quality of the river/creek/tributary for future generations.
SWCOEH.org: What are you excited to teach, research and learn at the SWCOEH?
Gitter: In my previous role at TWRI, I was involved in stakeholder engagement and environmental outreach. I am excited to reconnect with community work at the SWCOEH. I also want to utilize some of my environmental skills to understand health risks in occupational settings.
SWCOEH.org: What initially piqued your interest in public health? Any key hinge points that helped grow your interest?
Gitter: Both of my parents were in the medical profession (my dad was a physician, and my mom was a hospital administrator), but I never found myself comfortable around hospitals (to be honest, they kind of scare me). However, I wanted to help people, as cliché as that sounds. When I was in high school, I joined the venture scouts and completed a 12-day backpacking trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico (my first-time backpacking). As scary as the experience was (we had a bear go through our camp one night!), I had an immediate connection with the outdoors. Since then, I knew I wanted to combine my love for the environment with my passion for helping people. Throughout college and graduate school, I was always on the periphery of public health. I took a few classes here and there, but I was able to finally bridge the gap when I began my postdoc here at the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health!
SWCOEH.org: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your new role or background?
Gitter: While I mentioned that my background is in environmental science, my focus has been specifically in water (groundwater, drinking water, recreational water, wastewater, water reuse, etc.). I hope to support and inspire/influence the next generation of water researchers with the research and outreach conducted by the SWCOEH.
The SWCOEH provides graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.