MPH Student Presents Research in D.C., Jamaica

Published on December 14, 2017

The fall semester has been a busy one for Esther Epps, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public health specializing in environmental health science while also pursuing a certificate in industrial hygiene. Over the course of the semester, Epps presented her summer research findings in Washington D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Epps photoDuring the summer, Epps interned in the nation’s capital with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as part of its prestigious Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP). Epps and the elite group of interns received orientation in Los Angeles, California, and then she was placed with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), a labor union that represents more than 1 million workers. During the summer she worked with IBT to survey senior rail and transportation workers along with many other workers from other industries about workplace hazards and their ideas for potential controls and interventions to minimize dangers in the workplace. The 90-question in-depth surveys were carried out at to IBT hazardous materials training courses in Sacramento, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Upon completion, Epps presented her findings to national experts at NIOSH headquarters in Washington D.C. and was encouraged to then submit her findings to the American Public Health Association’s Occupational Health Section (APHA-OHS) for consideration at that group’s national meeting. Epps did so and received the James P. Keogh Memorial Scholarship from APHA-OHS, which enabled her to travel to Atlanta in November to present her findings alongside four students who spanned the country from UCLA to Columbia University. At the APHA meeting, Epps and her fellow students were recognized alongside the Alice Hamilton Award recipient.

Epps, a former Udall Scholarship recipient, arrived at EKU with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Buffalo and an engineer-in-training credential. As Epps enters the field of industrial hygiene, she credits much of her success to her MPH program faculty at Eastern.

“The Environmental Health Science program helped prepare me for my internship with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in D.C. last summer,” she said “Courses like Toxicology with Dr. Clint Pinion and Industrial Hygiene with Dr. Gary Brown gave me a solid foundation in understanding occupational exposures to chemicals and various workplace hazards. I also appreciate that my classes gave me experience presenting to others. I've been able to present the results of the project at three different conferences, and thanks to the practice presenting in my graduate courses, I'm more comfortable in front of a group of people.”

Epps recently presented her findings at a third presentation to the International Federation of Environmental Health and the Jamaica Association of Public Health at the One Health, One Global Environment Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

She also credits her faculty for employment opportunities. “I also found out about the internship through Dr. Brown's job listserv, so overall I've been so grateful for the learning and help that the Environmental Health Science Program provides me with!”

Brown sends out emails to his listserv weekly with job opportunities and internships. More than a thousand individuals subscribe for his emails about job prospects as well as internship and co-op opportunities. Brown runs the listserv for students and professionals in the environmental health sector nationwide. 

Epps’ time at EKU has also included a service-learning trip ( to Plains, Georgia, where she had a chance to eat dinner with President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She remains impressed and inspired by that experience.

“I was impressed to hear that they are still conducting their humanitarian work into their 90s,” Epps said. “They still meet with ambassadors, leaders of nonprofits, and others, to continue their work of improving democracy and decreasing disease burden worldwide.”

Dr. Gary Brown indicates that Epps, who is on track to receive her MPH degree in May 2018, “lives and breathes the public health mission.”

The mission of the EKU Master of Public Health Program is to prepare competent public health practitioners who are able, through creative and critical thinking and effective communication skills, to enhance the health status and quality of life in local, state, regional, and global communities. For more information about the program, contact Program Director Dr. Karina Christopher at; for information on the MPH specializations in industrial hygiene or environmental health science, Brown can be reached at For more information about EKU’s Master of Public Health Program, visit or call 859-622-7566.