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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Shafali Patel completes Safety Internship at the John. S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center at UTHealth Houston

Shafali Patel is a is a SWCOEH Trainee in Industrial Hygiene at the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH). Born in India, Ms. Patel studied dentistry as an undergraduate. She is interested in the Industrial Hygiene field because it helps improve the environment. Her goal is to become a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) in the future. 

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Ms. Patel recently completed a summer internship at the John. S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center at UTHealth Houston. She shared insight on her internship with How did you land this internship?

Ms. Patel: My professor and advisor Dr. Wei-Chung Su recommended that I meet Scott Patlovich, the Assistant VP of Environmental Health & Safety at UTHealth Houston, to see if they had any internship opportunities. I interviewed with Scott, and he thought I was a good candidate for clinic safety as I have a previous clinical experience as a Dentist. I was appointed as a clinic safety intern at the John S. Dunn Behavioral Health Center. What was a typical day like?

Ms. Patel: My day would start around 8:30 a.m. We had a Clinic Safety meeting every Monday morning, during which we discussed the agenda for the entire week. For the rest of the day, I would acknowledge the safety issue complaints from the staff and work to address them. Every Tuesday afternoon, we had Environment of Care (EOC) rounds, also known as Safety Audits. During these audits, I followed with my supervisors to the units where patients are housed and inspected those areas for any safety concerns. I was given charge of developing Safety Training Modules for the new safety personnel recently hired at the Behavioral Health Center. Safety was of utmost importance due to the nature of the patients being treated at the Behavioral Center, as they can have aggressive behavior and tendency to harm oneself or others.

Every Thursday, my supervisor and I prepared a recall report wherein we highlighted all the medicines, electronic devices and food that was being recalled by the State of Texas to ensure the safety of our patients.

Every Friday morning, the safety department held a CE (Continuing Education) meeting to discuss safety issues across the campus and any updates in the safety world. Who were your mentors?

Ms. Patel: My mentors were Ms. Cynthia Crespo-Bonaparte, MS, MIE, CSSGB, Clinic Safety Manager and Charles Varghese, BSc, CSP, Safety Specialist. How do you think this experience will help your career in Industrial Hygiene?

Ms. Patel: I think this experience will help me a lot in my future career in Industrial Hygiene. I am now able to anticipate and recognize any safety concerns just by looking at my surroundings. This is the primary principle for an Industrial Hygienist. I became familiar with OSHA requirements during my internship, which will help me to organize the work according to OSHA requirements. Also, I learned about the Joint Commission requirements for the clinic settings as well as Fire and Life Safety codes, which I believe is essential information for safety personal.


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® programs.