The MS in Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology is a concentration of the MS in Epidemiology degree.  The program includes a required research field experience in which students will conduct research with outside governmental or non-governmental organizations. The field experience will provide our trainees with an invaluable learning experience as they apply their classroom skills in the real world, apprenticing under the close mentorship of public health practitioners.

The goal of the program is to train graduates to be highly successful in conducting research and research related activities (e.g. surveillance, risk assessment and policymaking) in academia, government, not-for-profit organizations, and industry.

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Faculty research

Coal miners and lung disease

Coal miners walk together following a shift of work.

SPH’s Kirsten Almberg, PhD, is investigating risks to coal miners for black lung disease even after employment has ended.  Examining a sample of more than 3,000 former coal miners with an average of 22 years of experience, her research found more than three percent of miners with simple cases of black lung disease at initial diagnosis had progressed to radiographic progressive massive fibrosis within five years or less.  The results stress the need for former miners to undergo regular medical surveillance, even if they have no prior history of black lung disease.

Law enforcement epidemiology

Two police officers speak with a Black man standing on a street corner.

While high profile cases of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in police interventions captured the nation’s conscience in 2020, civilian injuries in law enforcement encounters are much more prevalent – and much less known.  Lee Friedman, PhD, is an injury epidemiologist building a nationwide surveillance system to track and describe injuries and deaths suffered by civilians in legal interventions.  Initial findings highlight the outsized injury outcomes among Black people, people living with neurological and psychological conditions and individuals with low incomes.

Arsenic exposures

Children play along a rural street in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, more than 57 million people exposed to arsenic concentrations exceeding safe limits in their drinking water.  Chronic exposure in adults leads to many adverse health outcomes, including cardiometabolic, respiratory, liver, kidney and neurodevelopmental diseases, as well as cancers.  Maria Argos, PhD, is leading a National Institutes of Health study with early results showing that prenatal arsenic exposure is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.  The overall goal is to inform future arsenic prevention and remediation interventions targeted to pregnant women, women of child-bearing age and children.

Persistent organic pollutants and diabetes

A farm worker poses for a photo standing amidst rows of crops.

Diabetes currently affects 55.8 million people in the U.S., with prevalence in Hispanics particularly high at 11.8 percent. Several studies have shown significant associations of diabetes with persistent organic pollutants, but the reasoning for increased risk is unknown.  Victoria Persky, PhD, and Mary Turyk, PhD, are leading a National Institutes of Health study of multiethnic Hispanics in four major U.S. cities to measure levels of persistent organic pollutants, as well as endogenous thyroid and steroid hormones and measures of inflammation that have been related to the exposures and/or diabetes.

At work in communities locally and globally

Global health opportunities

SPH faculty, staff and students are collaborating to advance public health in 65 nations across the world.  MS students develop global health research skills through SPH’s global health concentration.  In particular, SPH coordinates dedicated programs in Kisumu, Kenya and Cuernavaca, Mexico that are sites for student experiences and faculty research.

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