ENS Mark Glasgow
- School: The State University of New York at Buffalo
- Major: Environmental Health, MPH
- Future Plans: To practice environmental epidemiology as a USPHS officer at Federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
- Did this experience make you want to join the Commissioned Corps?: Yes, I look forward to continuing my career as a full-time, active duty Commissioned Corps Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.
If your time in JRCOSTEP turns out to be anything like mine, you will have had an invaluable experience! The summer of 2010 marked the halfway point of my enrollment in the Master of Public Health program at SUNY Buffalo. During this time, I was privileged to be selected as a Junior Environmental Health Officer. I was stationed in Atlanta, GA, at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a sister agency of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Specifically, I worked in ATSDR’s Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, Health Promotion and Community Involvement Branch (HPCIB). During my internship, I served as the project lead for the development of a premier series of computer-based, interactive, environmental health learning tools to come out of HPCIB. The intended audience was community members attending public meetings and environmental health fairs hosted by ATSDR.
Building relationships can certainly be just as important as the work performed, and the depth of collaboration that took place on the project allowed me to interact with the talents and expertise of many types of public health professionals – from health communication specialists to visual information specialists. Working on the project taught me the importance of scientists becoming better communicators – not to the scientific community, but rather to the general public which CDC serves. Coming from a scientific and technical background, I have learned ways to adjust communication for settings where it is assumed the audience has little or no scientific background or interest. There are distinguishing factors between knowing the science and sharing the science, and of course, sharing is key to informing and educating community members on environmental contaminants and how to reduce the risk of exposure. Although this was the main focus of my internship, CDR Smith-George, my JRCOSTEP preceptor, ensured that my experience was well-diversified with lots of stimulating, skill-building supplements.
One of the most special aspects of my JRCOSTEP experience was my deployment to CDC's Emergency Operations Center to work on the Environmental Data Review Team. During my days on the team, I was involved with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response. I reviewed and analyzed data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency. The data consisted of contaminant levels found in air, water, soil, and sediment from along the U.S. Gulf Coast to allow anticipation of increased hazards to human health since the onset of the oil spill. I also collaborated on the development of a new protocol to optimize functions of data review which was to be incorporated into routine handling of incoming data.
Upon entering JRCOSTEP, I knew I was in for a great learning experience. However, I was somewhat unaware of its potential to solidify my career path in public health. Once on duty, I quickly realized my capacity as part of an elite team. I have participated in several internships, but my JRCOSTEP experience has, by far, been the most fulfilling and empowering. Furthermore, my past experiences do not match the level of support, guidance, and encouragement that I have witnessed and received within the U.S. Public Health Service. It is also worth noting the inspiring quality of officership I was exposed to among my superiors. I am honored to have been a part of a tradition of officers who serve in protecting the health of the Nation.
At the end of my summer internship, I wrapped up my duties with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I am certainly looking forward to continuing my career as a full-time, active duty Commissioned Corps Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.
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ENS CJ El-Bakoush
- School: The University of Oklahoma
- Major: Master of Science: Industrial Hygiene/Environmental Health Sciences
- Future Plans: Based on my JRCOSTEP experience, my future plans include joining the USPHS Commissioned Corps as an Industrial Hygienist/ Environmental Health Officer
During my summer 2010 JRCOSTEP I built lasting relationships, provided outstanding public health service, and discovered the career path I intend on following. Like much of the general population, I didn’t have a clear understanding of the role the U.S. Public Health Service plays, and how it’s integrated into various Federal agencies. However, by the time my JRCOSTEP concluded I was well aware of the importance of the Indian Health Service agency and the vital responsibilities of Commissioned Corps officers throughout the Nation.
I conducted my JRCOSTEP as an industrial hygienist/environmental health officer at the Oklahoma City Area Office and worked under the direction of an outstanding preceptor, CAPT Richard Turner. During my time I was given the opportunity to provide public health services in a variety of settings, with the majority being Native American health care facilities. X-ray surveys, nitrous oxide monitoring, implementation of infection control practices, policy and procedure review/authorship, and statistical analysis were just a few of the various tasks I participated in during my JRCOSTEP. In addition to daily work duties, I was also given the unique opportunity to participate in an event which epitomized what it is to be a Commissioned Corps officer. This opportunity consisted of working side by side with officers from all over the Nation on a deployment training exercise in which we provided support for a Remote Area Medical event. This event was a free medical, vision, and dental clinic that provided care to more than 1,700 patients, with services totaling over a quarter of a million dollars in health care.
During my time with the USPHS I realized that not only were daily work duties diverse, but the added spontaneity of deployment opportunities created a fluid work dynamic unmatched by the private sector. These were just a few of the many unique characteristics afforded by the Commissioned Corps that, I believe, would be difficult to find in other work environments.
Based on my experience, I would highly recommend all students interested in public health to consider the USPHS when seeking internship opportunities. During my summer I had the chance to interact with many Commissioned Corps officers and all reiterated the same sentiment, which was they couldn’t imagine not being part of the USPHS. After my JRCOSTEP I couldn’t imagine pursuing a career in anything other than the USPHS.
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ENS Jessica Buttler
- School: Bowling Green State University/Miami University
- Degree: BS Biology and BS Environmental Health/MS Environmental Science
- Future plans: I plan to graduate with a master’s in environmental science from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, within the next two years and then move on to a career related to my interests in the sciences.
- Did this experience make you want to join the Commissioned Corps?: My JRCOSTEP experience was outstanding and joining the Commissioned Corps is a goal I am very interested in pursuing following my graduate studies.
The USPHS and Indian Health Service (IHS), Oklahoma Area provided an outstanding internship opportunity for summer 2010. I am a recent Bowling Green State University (BGSU) graduate having earned a BS in biology and BS in environmental health and will be pursuing an MS environmental science degree starting fall 2010 at Miami University. I first heard about the JRCOSTEP program from a BGSU alum, Danielle Mills, who is currently a Commissioned Corps officer working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
ENS Jessica Buttler and Farrel Smith
Danielle's recruitment speech peaked my interest, and prompted me to find out more at the program Web site. The possibility of traveling for an internship got me very excited about applying for this opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised a few months after submitting my application, when Environmental Health Officer Farrel Smith called me expressing his interest in my resume and a possible placement at the Office of Environmental Health (OEH) Shawnee Field Office in Shawnee, OK.
After a 1,000 mile trip from Ohio to Oklahoma, Mr. Farrel Smith and I began the summer with extensive orientation sessions. We discussed the general internal workings of government agencies as well as IHS-specific protocol and processes. It was during this time, that I began to grasp the purpose and importance of IHS, understanding that our goal is to provide non-regulatory, technical assistance to the tribes we serve. The tribes served by the Shawnee Service Unit include the Kickapoo Tribe, Sac and Fox Tribe, Iowa Tribe, and the Citizen Potawatomi Tribe. Together, Farrel and I put together a detailed work plan encompassing the entire two month internship duration.
Dental office survey
Farrel wanted me to experience as many different environmental health surveys as we could fit in the small time frame. He wanted me to have the opportunity to use my foundation knowledge gained in coursework and apply it to practical surveying exercises. Survey types completed this summer included, food service, pools, casinos, liquid waste disposal systems, pow wow grounds, juvenile detention facility, and institutional environmental health surveys.
Farrel and I had the opportunity to attend a large training program and conference in Oklahoma City as well as provide food handler training to the tribes. The training we attended covered topics related to retail special food processes such as reduced oxygen packaging, smoking and curing, live molluscan shellfish tanks, sprouted seeds, and the use of food additives. The Inter-Tribal Environmental Council (ITEC) conference was an event hosting speakers from various tribal and U.S. government agencies. We had the opportunity to sit in on several interesting presentations covering topics such as storm water management, stream gauging, superfund and Brownfield sites, Cherokee Nation culturally protected species management and heirloom seed bank, pesticide management and several other breakouts sessions.
Work was not the only interesting aspect of my summer JRCOSTEP. My internship opportunity in Oklahoma provided me a first-time adventure several states from home while living on my own. I have grown as an individual, and have become a better person as a result of this experience. This independent summer gave me the opportunity to find enjoyment in doing things on my own. After a couple of weeks, I made friends with other interns and commissioned corps officers working in the state. I was able to enjoy the many museums, night life in Bricktown, floating the Illinois River, southern cuisine and hospitality, fishing and swimming, the beautiful parks scattered across the state and so much more. I also appreciate the exposure I received to the Native American culture. I am so thankful to all the individuals this summer, IHS employees as well as tribal workers, for sharing their stories and information on their tribal traditions with me.
I would recommend this program to any student looking for an absolutely outstanding and worthwhile internship opportunity. The practical experience I gained as a supplement to my degrees is invaluable and I had the greatest pleasure and honor of working with some incredibly intelligent and caring people. I will never forget my JRCOSTEP summer experience, and I thank the Public Health Service and Indian Health Service for providing me with this amazing opportunity.
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ENS James Allen Goggins
Western Carolina University
I participated in the U.S. Public Health Service’s JRCOSTEP program during the summer of 2009, where I was stationed with the Environmental Health Services Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Through my time as a JRCOSTEP with the Environmental Health Services Branch of the CDC, I experienced environmental health practices in a variety of fields. We worked with environmental health professionals at the county, state, and Federal levels. We coordinated field experiences with the USDA, National Parks Service, and Vessel Sanitation Program to see how the programs function in environmental health. I was also able to see how environmental health functions at the Federal level with my day-to-day work at the CDC.
I think the highlight of my experience as a JRCOSTEP has been the people I have worked with. I cannot stress enough how much I have learned from my colleagues and mentors. Everyone I have worked with has been warm and inviting and has taken time to share with me their experiences and lessons from the field. I have had the opportunity to work with professionals in a variety of fields, each boasting a unique set of skills and experiences I had the opportunity to learn from. I have been able to learn about their career paths and how they achieved their success. I have had invaluable networking opportunities and have made lasting relationships with professionals in environmental health.
My JRCOSTEP experience has provided me with a great foundation for my career in environmental health. I have been able to experience environmental health practice in a variety of areas. From cruise inspections with Vessel Sanitation Program to county-level restaurant inspections with local environmental health professionals, my time as a JRCOSTEP has provided me with a wealth of experience and personal connections I will use throughout my career, as well as a new career avenue as a Public Health Officer with the Commissioned Corps. I can’t think of any other program where a student will have the opportunity to do as much in environmental health while being mentored by experienced public health professionals. More importantly, the JRCOSTEP program helps young professionals find their niche in environmental health. I could go on and on about my experience as a JRCOSTEP, but my best advice would be to try it for yourself and make your own lasting memories.
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ENS Marnin Alan Forman
Texas A & M University
My duty as a JRCOSTEP was at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. I worked in the Veterinary Resources Program (VRP), which is a component of the National Center for Research Resources. VRP is one of the largest biomedical research animal care and use programs within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At VRP, a majority of my work was with the microbiology diagnostic laboratory. Dr. Theresa Lawrence served as the director of the laboratory and my JRCOSTEP preceptor. My work in the lab involved performing microbiological procedures for diagnostic, health surveillance, and environmental submissions. The diagnostic submissions were received from a variety of animals from the NIH campus. The procedures included processing biological specimens, performing biochemical characterizations, and testing for antimicrobial susceptibility. I also was responsible for documenting results, which are then conveyed to the presenting veterinarian.
Dr. Lawrence encouraged me to make the best use of my time by taking advantage of the numerous opportunities available to me at NIH. I observed and assisted with necropsies performed in the VRP pathology department. I attended weekly pathology slide conferences issued by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. I also attended training seminars on biohazard handling and laboratory animal handling and manipulations. Through the JRCOSTEP program, I was able to assist in the publication of a biweekly newsletter, as well as tour a number of facilities associated with the Public Health Service.
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ENS Nicole Beblo
Fourth-year student at Duquesne University
For my JRCOSTEP assignment, I traveled 1,900 miles to dry, sunny El Paso, TX. I worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Federal Corrections Institution La Tuna in Anthony, TX-NM. Anthony is a small town that lies half in Texas and half in New Mexico. It is about 10 miles west of El Paso.
At La Tuna, I worked in the pharmacy under the direction of Sheila Veikune. The pharmacy is in the hospital portion of the prison and it is similar to a caged room. Only the tech and Sheila had keys to the pharmacy.
I worked on several projects: One was on diabetes, in which I conducted chaperoned interviews with inmates about their understanding of their disease states, and then I presented my findings to the medical staff. I also completed a project on Lassa Fever and presented that to the medical staff. I did several self-study projects, including one on tuberculosis and one on drugs of choice for infections.
During my time there, I also helped fill prescriptions. While I was there, they received a new computer system that was Windows based, so I got to learn how wonderful it is to fill scripts on that system! I also greatly improved my patient-counseling skills. Sheila feels that all the inmates should be counseled whether or not their prescription is a refill. Also, since many of the inmates are Spanish speaking, I counseled in Spanish, as well as in English.
I met many great contacts and great friends as well. The facility also had two dental PHS COSTEPS that I grew quite close to. We even took a long weekend and drove 9 hours to San Antonio! We also went to Juarez, Mexico the sister Mexican town to El Paso.
The thing I miss most about El Paso by far is the great Mexican food. After living in Pennsylvania all my life, I've now realized that Taco Bell and Chi Chi's don't hold a candle to real Mexican food! Anyway, I had a wonderful summer one that I'll never forget!
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ENS Todd Marcy
University of Oklahoma
My experience with the Indian Health Service (IHS) has been outstanding. I have learned how much more the pharmacist is informed and involved in the care of the patients we serve. As we are preparing prescriptions for our patients, we have their charts so that we can understand completely both their current problems and their history. We know the details of an acute problem and the progression of a chronic one. This changes our entire perspective relative to that of other pharmacy practices. We are able to make informed recommendations to the physicians about drug selection and dosing. We can also order labs, such as liver function tests, to properly monitor the patient and make recommendations as to the appropriateness of continuation of the chronic therapy.
There is a comprehensive protocol and standing orders system here as well. It allows pharmacists to prescribe medications for patients with specific disease states such as allergic rhinitis, strep throat, and many others. The pharmacists routinely check blood pressure, and every patient is counseled on every medication new or refill by a pharmacist or pharmacy student. The pharmacy is much more clinical and there is a significant amount of patient contact here.
Another wonderful thing about being here in Warm Springs is the opportunity to learn about the rich culture of the native people. They are very open and eager to share that culture. They encourage anyone who is interested to take part in their pow wow and other activities. Since moving into the American Indian community, I have felt welcomed by nearly everyone I have met. I have had the opportunity to attend church services here as well. They sing some of the traditional Christian songs that I grew up with in a native tongue, which is special to hear.
I have also had the opportunity to meet several IHS pharmacists. One thing I've noticed about them is that they are satisfied with their jobs. After working here, I understand why.
ENS Michaela Hall
ENS Michaela Hall, a student in Western Carolina University's Environmental Health program, recently participated in the USPHS JRCOSTEP, where she was assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard in San Pedro, CA. While on assignment, ENS Hall focused on environmental health, safety, and industrial hygiene. Her adventures included: inspecting foreign containers, completing an indoor air quality assessment for a building where an individual was diagnosed with occupational asthma, and visiting Air Station Los Angeles to complete respirator fit testing. In addition, she delivered annual training and assisted with inspection. ENS Hall says, "My summer as a JRCOSTEP was a hands-on educational experience I will never forget!"
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