Alumni Highlight – Erica Colbert graduated from the COPH with a Master of Public Health in Environmental and Occupational Health in 2010.
Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Current Career Position: Environmental health specialist at Douglas County Health Department, studying and training to become a nationally registered environmental health specialist. Upon starting my position at the Health Department, I was placed in the Sanitary Engineering and Sanitation Control section in the Environmental Health Division. The department received a complaint of unsanitary conditions. Upon arrival at the residence, my supervisor and I were greeted with an animal hoarding situation and possible elder abuse case. It was at this moment that I realized that my role in environmental public health not only meant enforcing compliance with environmental health rules and regulations but also encompassed protecting the health of vulnerable individuals.
What did you value most about your time in our program? As a teaching assistant for the Introduction to Environmental Public Health course, I was able to develop skills in relaying environmental health principles, rules, and regulations, and scientific data to students of varying backgrounds and experiences. I also served as a research assistant in my last semester in the program. My communication skills improved as a teaching assistant, and I developed my organizational skills and time management working in a laboratory setting. Being a research assistant gave me the opportunity to participate in field research and interact with the public, experience which has been vital in my role at the Health Department. I am constantly in the “field” interacting with swimming pool operators, restaurant managers, disgruntled tenants, etc., and must convey rules and regulations, results of inspection reports, and methods for remediation of unhealthy situations in a clear and concise manner.
Advice for current students: Become involved in the community you serve. Develop a relationship not only with individuals from various agencies and community advocacy groups that you are working with, but also with individuals in the community.