Kevin Abernethy, CIH, CSP, MPH (MPH ’10)
I attended Utah State University for my bachelors degree in Public Health, with a minor in Chemistry. There I focused on Industrial Hygiene and participated in two internships in the field, one with a semiconductor company and the other in the automotive industry. These experiences led me to see how important both my choice to pursue a masters degree and my choice of school would be to my future career.
I applied to and was accepted into many Masters of Public Health programs; however, the Industrial Hygiene (IH) program at the University of Michigan (UM) stood out compared to the rest. Not only is the IH program part of a larger School of Public Health, it is also affiliated with a Center (COHSE) whose focus is entirely on occupational health and safety. Furthermore, in addition to the fundamental curriculum of the IH program, opportunities such as a concentration in hazardous substance management and the ability to take courses from other schools at the university were available.
The aspects of the IH program which have been most influential for my career were the internship opportunities and course offerings. I had the chance to interview with companies such as Chevron, Marathon, and Abbott. These opportunities may not have been available had I attended a smaller or less recognized IH program. Additionally, Prof. Ted Zellers’ hands-on laboratory course “Environmental Sampling and Analysis Laboratory,” where we learned to use sampling equipment, take samples, and analyze data, and the field trip course, “Occupational Health Aspects of Industrial Processes,” which immersed students in ongoing industrial processes, potential hazards, and controls at companies such as the Ford Focus plant and Dow Chemical, would not have been available at other institutions.
Since graduating from UM in 2010, I have held several different Industrial Hygienist positions with Chevron. In New Orleans, LA, I supported offshore exploration and production for oil and gas. Then, in Bakersfield, CA, I provided health and environmental safety support for new projects where I identified health threats to employees, provided risk analysis, developed policies, and ensured the proper environmental and procedural controls were utilized. I have learned that Industrial Hygiene is extremely competitive at large companies where senior hygienists have enormous responsibility and are highly visible within their management structure. I now have a greater appreciation of the skills I obtained at UM.
I have just accepted a new set of responsibilities, and will be working in Kuwait for two to three years on a large capital project. I will be responsible for analyzing the health and safety aspects of this major project, and living out my passion for protecting people and the environment. My MPH degree from UM has enabled me to do this.