PubH 6004: Environmental & Occupational Health in a Sustainable World | [email protected]


Hello. My name is Peter LaPuma. And I’m George Gray. And we’d like to welcome
you to environmental health in a sustainable world. One of the nice things
about our course is that there’s
not a lot of people really know what
environmental health is. Upfront anyway. And so some folks come to
the course kind of, well, I have to take this course,
it’s required of me. And we always have the luxury
of having students, especially in the feedbacks
and all, to tell us that they were absolutely
delighted that they took the course, that they didn’t
realize all that was involved in environmental and
occupational health. So what we’d like to do is
introduce ourselves and maybe then tell you a little
bit about the course. So I’ll start off. So my name is Pete Lapooma. I actually retired
from the Air Force. I was in the Air
Force for 21 years. My first 10 years I spent
mostly in occupational health. So we were worried mostly
about worker health and safety, making sure that
noise and radiation and chemical
exposures and things like that, that workers were
safe in their environment. And we’d do things like
recommend respirators or ventilation systems
and things like that. In the last half of my
career in the Air Force, I started getting more into
environmental sciences. And we started doing
things that were sort of traditional back
in the ’90s like Superfund sites and air pollution. And I started to realize
that the things that I kept confronting had a lot
to do with energy. A lot of the air pollutants
that we come across are sort of linked to
burning fossil fuels. And so I started to get
more interested in looking for alternative energy, other
maybe more sustainable forms of energy. And then came along George
Washington University who saved me and now I
get to teach many students about environmental science. So that’s some of my history. As I said, I’m George Gray. I’m a professor here
in the School of Public Health and Health Services at
George Washington University. I’m trained as a toxicologist
but I’ve spent my career doing research and practice
around the area of risk analysis. So I’m interested in how we
take scientific information, we process it to understand
which risks are real and which ones aren’t, we try
to understand how big they are and we think about how to
do something about them. And then, ultimately–
something we’ll learn about later
in the class– how do we communicate about risks? So I spent my– the
first part of my career at the Harvard School
of Public Health and then came here
to Washington DC to serve as the assistant
administrator for the Office of Research and
Development at EPA. The Office of Research
and Development is sort of EPA’s think tank. It’s the scientists
and engineers who do research to help
the agency be ready for our coming
scientific challenges. I then stayed here
in Washington DC and was very happy to join
the faculty George Washington University. And since then,
I’ve been teaching in this class for several
years with Professor LaPuma. Really enjoy sharing
both the insights we’ve learned from our
research and from our real life experience with our students. So let’s tell you a little
bit about the class. One of the ways we like
to describe the class is it’s really kind of an
inch deep and a mile wide. The reason I say it
that way is because environmental
occupational health is a very large umbrella. We literally have a dozen
different topic areas from climate change
and energy and water and wastewater and environmental
risk assessment, toxicology. And it’s hard to
get a lot of depth into each one of
those areas but we’re going to give you
enough of a flavor to be able to have a
better sense for things. When you confront things
in the outside world, you’re more well rounded to
be able to synthesize and put things into perspective. Many times, environmental
and occupational health will interact with
your background. A lot of– even if
you’re unrelated right now to environmental
health, many things that we do in public health are
influenced by the environment and hopefully we’ll point that
out as the course goes on. You’ll have a better
feel for the importance of environmental and
occupational health as a society, when you’re
a voter, as a public health professional. And we’re going to
give you some tips are going to help you use that
information in your daily life. One of the things
we often find is that students, when
they’re made more aware of environmental issues,
is you start to notice it more. You’ll start to notice it in
the newspaper, in the news. In fact, we like to joke that
we’re on the 6 o’clock news almost every night. Whether it’s an oil
spill in the Gulf or it’s climate change or the
Keystone pipeline. If you’re a human
being on planet Earth and you eat and you
breathe and you drink, you’re interacting with your
environment every single day. And don’t forget about
things like food safety. Salmonella in food or
pharmaceuticals in the water. All of these things require
a mix of science and analysis and management. And that’s the
kind of thing we’re going to be talking
about in this class. So it’s important to
sort of understand some of the interactions
that might go on. Everybody wants to
know how bad is this and will this stuff hurt me. And so what we try to do
in environmental science is try to measure and
understand those things and try to put it
into some perspective. Hopefully, when
we open the doors and we take a look
around, it’ll influence you to see environmental
health in the way that it interacts
with you every day. We’ve worked really hard and
putting this course together in this format. We’ve had a lot of
fun doing it, and I think you’re going to
find it a really good way to learn this really
interesting topic. Probably something that’s
going to help you out, too, is that because the course
has a lot of information– we’re going to cover a lot
of material– hopefully a lot of it perspective. It’s not necessarily
intended for you have to memorize everything. So in the course syllabus,
there’s learning objectives. And those learning
objectives are going to be critical
for you to be able to understand the course. And those are really the areas
that we want you to key on. The hint is that may be
information you really want to know for later on
for, say, testable material. We do that because we know we
go through a lot of information and it can be overwhelming
when you first see it. So we don’t necessarily
intend for you to know everything and
have everything memorized, but if it’s in the
learning objectives, that’s a pretty important spot to
really cue in on and make sure you know and understand. So that’s kind of our way of
compensating for test anxiety we know is going to
be alive and well. It always is. But this is kind of
our way to zoom you in the important materials. So with that, we just hope
you really enjoy the material. We hope so our enthusiasm
for the subject matter comes out in the course. We both really do enjoy
teaching this course and we hope that
enthusiasm rubs off on you.

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