When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Despite the seemingly never-ending challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Breanna Livingstone participated in the online offering of the Rutgers Environment and Public Health (EPH) Program in the summer of 2020, completed the required 200-hour health department internship, and passed the New Jersey Registered and Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) Licensing Exam. The program is through the Office of Continuing Professional Education of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
Breanna graduated from Stockton University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in 2013, but, year after year, she was unable to attend EPH, Rutgers’ annual public environmental health course, because the in-person classroom times conflicted with her work schedule.
“Offering the Rutgers EPH program online has actually been a blessing for me because it allowed me to finally get a foot in the door for the career I always wanted. Right after my internship at Burlington County Health Department, I was immediately hired and now work as a full time REHS.”
Consisting of a seven-week course and a 200-hour health department internship, the 2020 EPH program covered all of the topics needed to prepare for a career as an environmental health inspector, including epidemiology, public health sanitation (e.g. inspections of body art and tanning facilities, pools, camps, restaurants), water/wastewater treatment, environmental pollution, soil and septic systems, communicable diseases, risk communications, and much more. The instructional team is made up of more than thirty public health and environmental experts with decades of first-hand experience working for the NJDEP, FDA, NJDOH, private industry, Rutgers University, and local health departments across the state.
“I really enjoyed hearing from so many different professionals and being able to ask a lot of questions. I learned so much in this class I could go on and on.”
In her current REHS position at Burlington County Health Department, Breanna conducts food safety inspections of dine-in and take-out retail establishments to help safeguard the public from accidental contaminations and foodborne illnesses.
With fearful talk of coronavirus super spreaders, ventilators, and vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly ushered in a new appreciation for epidemiological expertise, emergency preparedness, and clear public health messaging. It also increased the demand for professionals to conduct contact tracing, accurately convey risk communications, and ensure the safety of dine-in restaurants, retail businesses, and schools.
In these trying times, Breanna and other graduates of the Rutgers EPH program are uniquely positioned to fulfill the increasing demand for these frontline heroes.