Work and environment hazards school's focus

Graduates are in demand by private and public sector

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

The only school of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene west of Toronto has recently been established at UBC--the 11th professional school on campus.

A program within the Faculty of Graduate Studies since 1992, Occupational Hygiene's change in status to a school and the reference to environment in the title was recently approved by Senate to better reflect the scope of the school's research and teaching activities.

"We're very pleased at the recognition and believe it will increase the visibility of our profession," says Kay Teschke, the new school's director. "We also hope that the distinction will attract a larger pool of applicants." About 10-15 students enrol annually for the two-year program leading to a master's degree in Science that focuses on the identification, evaluation and control of health and safety hazards in the work and community environments. Doctoral studies in occupational and environmental hygiene are also offered.

Facilities include four comprehensive exposure analysis labs, a mobile pulmonary function lab and extensive field survey equipment. The school is unique in North America because of its interdisciplinary approach, says Teschke.

The 22-member faculty has research strengths in noise and vibration, occupational and environmental respiratory diseases and risk assessment. Faculty members have recently been involved in investigations of air-borne moulds and fungi in B.C. buildings.

Training hygiene professionals is a growing need and "grads are gobbled up" by industry, government, unions and educational institutes, says Teschke, who is a professor in the Dept. of Health Care and Epidemiology. A $3-million endowment from the Workers' Compensation Board matched by the provincial government provided the original funding. In 1999, the Ministry of Health signed a 10-year $1-million agreement for consultations and technical expertise.

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