Environmental Health and Safety, with Lynniece Warren

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Lynniece Warren, the Executive Director of Risk Management at California State University, San Bernardino. They discuss Lynniece’s career journey, what environmental health and safety is, and tips on finding your niche in public health.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Lynniece discovered public and environmental health
  • Tips on how to find opportunities for job shadowing 
  • What the role of an environmental health and safety specialist may entail
    • The importance of building relationships with the community and those you are trying to influence or educate
    • How COVID changed the responsibilities and technology needs for environmental health and safety
    • The importance of being financially and legally aware in this role and how to gain these skills
  • What a day as an Executive Director of Risk Management looks like

Today’s Guest:

Hi, my name is Lynniece! My passion for public health has evolved into a dynamic international twenty-year career! Collaboration, analyzing, problem-solving, and measuring progress are what I enjoy professionally!

My administrative leadership at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) facilitates student, faculty, and staff success through the Offices of Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety. It’s such a pleasure to oversee programs that prioritize the well-being of everyone on our campus and work with partners to protect the University’s assets. Our teams work tirelessly to provide a safe environment for more than 23K students, faculty, and staff at our San Bernardino and Palm Desert campuses. Let’s talk about, ERM, insurance, health and safety, change management, and shared governance when you have time!

Episode Transcript

Lynniece 0:00
You’re going to have exposure to so many different elements of the field, that you’ll be able to know which ones you do very well at which ones you’re really excited about. But then you can also set yourself against the crowd by ensuring that you have exposure to different fields.

Sujani 0:24
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host, Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.

Hi Lynniece, and welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. It is so wonderful to sit down this afternoon and speak with you and so welcome. And thank you so much for sharing your time with us.

Lynniece 0:52
Oh, it’s so exciting to be here. Sujani Thank you for the invitation.

Sujani 0:58
And I got to say that you left a very important event, your employee appreciation event to be here with us. So even more grateful that you’re spending this time with us.

Lynniece 1:08
Well, you know, although I certainly love and look forward to participating in employee events, particularly when my staff are able to put their day to day activities aside and really have some camaraderie. It’s just as important to talk to fellow professionals in the field. I know that when I was a young professional and a student in grad school, any information or material I could get to learn more about, you know, the field of public health was so invaluable. So I’m hoping I could just be a little glimpse of a light for someone.

Sujani 1:42
Absolutely. And I’m sure you will, because, you know, based on what I’ve been able to research on you, you’ve had a very interesting career journey. And I’m very, very excited to learn about it. So one of the first questions that I like to ask my guests is their discovery of this field of public health. And when I kind of looked into you, you started off kind of exploring the field of chemistry. So I’m curious to hear when public health entered your world. And when you decided to, I guess, build a career in this area.

Lynniece 2:14
Right? Now that’s a great question. I almost got intimidated when you saw when you researched me. But yes, this is the century that we live in. But how I got into the field, I would say that, you know, public health, for me was more of a lifestyle before I even realized it was the career path that I was going to go towards. A lot of it has to do with my upbringing, particularly my parents. So I had very educated parents. They were both educators. And my mom, she was an elementary teacher, but she also had degrees in physical education and art. So from a youngster, we were always outdoors we did camping. My dad did a lot of his study and Health and Nutrition Sciences. And I remember as a youngster, he was vegan before vegan and vegetarianism was exciting.

Sujani 3:06

Lynniece 3:07
There were many days in school where I was looking at, you know, my friends with the roast beef sandwiches and the Cheetos. And I didn’t have any and one of my GOP brothers told me the funniest story. One day I was at my grandmother’s house, and I was trying to go, I was less than five years old, no one could find me. And they finally found me in a cupboard with a bag full of Cheetos. So at the time, it probably didn’t sound exciting. But you know, I learned about exercise and nutrition and rest, just from being part of my family. And my dad always did a lot of science projects with this. So he did help me really develop a love for nature. And I remember in fourth grade catching, praying mantis and dissecting things, and he bought me a model skeleton. And I was learning all the bones. So it was just really exciting for me. And so when I went to college, I just knew I wanted to do something with health, or science or something. I wasn’t quite sure. And you know, I’m a little odd where I knew that I did very well in biology, but I was kind of not as strong in chemistry. So I said, I’m gonna challenge myself. And that’s how I got into the career of biochemistry, you know, where I could blend both of those things. And I said, it’d be a great foundation for whatever I fall into. And through shadowing, I can give a shout out to the Bermuda government Environmental Health Department. David Kendall was one of the individuals I shadowed as a youngster. And you know, many years later, I had to go back and work there to work as a professional and I found him but you know, I had a chance to, to shadow some professionals while I was in college, I also took a course at the Biological Station, which is now known as the Bermuda Institute of oceanic sciences. And that’s where I really fell in love with environmental health. We were studying the contaminants of inshore waters, it was very fascinating to me to learn about this nature and environment that I really embodied and enjoyed. As a youngster growing up in Bermuda and seeing how human activities were impacting not just the health, on the community, but on the ecosystems. So that’s how my path kind of developed. And everything else just led from there, I found institutions that had an environmental degree. And I looked primarily in Florida and California, because I was in undergrad in Massachusetts. I said, I need to get back to the sun.

Sujani 5:59

Lynniece 6:00
So that’s how I ended up in Southern California. I was accepted into Loma Linda University, and, and after graduate school, I began my career.

Sujani 6:09
Very, very fascinating. A few things that jumped out at me and I think the most important one was, I’ve never heard anyone say, I’m going to do a degree in something that I’m not good at, or I don’t enjoy. And- and it sounds like maybe that’s just who you are, like putting yourself in front of challenges and seeing how you can tackle them. Would you say so yourself?

Lynniece 6:32
Yes, sometimes I do that to my detriment. But I’m always up for a challenge.

Sujani 6:38
Yeah. Did you ever hear your parents kind of use the words, we are public health professionals?

Lynniece 6:45
No. They were teachers. They were devout Christians. You know, there’s a concept with Christianity where you Love one another as you would love yourself. So I think part of that was ingrained in my paradigm.

Sujani 6:59
Yeah, yeah.

Lynniece 7:00
But no, I never heard them talk about we are public health professionals.

Sujani 7:05
Okay. Or like the words public health, I suppose you kind of discovered that as a field, or something that you could continue your education. And when you started, like researching about further studies and environmental health?

Lynniece 7:19
Probably not, originally, I think I was being encouraged to explore medicine. And I always felt like it was something I could do standardized testing, I always excelled at, but it wasn’t something that I was passionate about. And so for me to get excited when I actually did the course at the Biological Station, now known affectionately as BiOs was that, you know, catalyst to, to where I am today, I got excited about it. It wasn’t someone saying, oh, you should do this, I was able to discover it on my own. And then I was able to envision where I could go with, with not just the the academic learning, but also the excitement of, you know, having a career and something that I actually wake up and look forward to doing.

Sujani 8:09
Yeah. What, I guess, led you to go and look for this job shadowing opportunity. You know, I speak to a lot of guests, and we talk about different ways to find your passion or find your purpose or even you know, just build some experience.

Lynniece 8:28

Sujani 8:28
And we talk about volunteering, we talk about finding jobs and or being on boards, but I don’t think I’ve covered kind of job shadowing as much as I would like to. So, you know, from your perspective, what do you remember kind of leading you to exploring this opportunity, and especially you are already in the US and for you to think, Okay, I’m gonna go back to Bermuda and do this job shadowing opportunity.

Lynniece 8:52
I would attribute that to my father. From the time I was younger, in Bermuda, unlike the United States, young people can begin working earlier, right?

Sujani 9:03

Lynniece 9:03
And so I was a middle school and my dad’s like, you can’t just hang out all summer, you have to figure out something to do whether it’s volunteering, you can call somebody up and ask them if they you can go to their office and learn what they’re doing. And so from the time I was 12-13, my summers, although I did camps, I also was either participating as a junior counselor at a summer camp or one time I helped my uncle who was a plumber, you know, get his books and things together. So that was really interesting. So from young, it was instilled that you have to do something. And so when I was in college, and I still hadn’t quite figured out my career path, and it was the end of my sophomore year. My dad was like, well, you should look to see what programs are out there that you could do over the summer, or figure out what career path you’d like to do. And of course, For me, I also looked at, you know, the potential of what income I could bring home. So I saw, I can’t remember exactly how I saw the course. At that time, I don’t think it was being advertised online. I actually began typing on a typewriter, and now I’m on a computer. So I think we were still in word processors, back then. So it may have been my father or a family member who actually sent me the document, because they knew I was searching for some things. And I just registered and signed up and got accepted into the program. So I was really fortunate for that. And I also got sponsored by the Biological Station as well. So I had to submit not only like my course curriculum, my transcripts, but also you know, my extracurricular activity. So through college, I went to a Christian college, we had volunteering responsibilities, and I also worked and you know, had some extracurricular things, I did sports and music. So, y’know, I had a good package. And- and I got accepted. And that’s how I got into that.

Sujani 11:11
Right now you are within kind of the academic environment. And I’m sure you come across a lot of students who you’re mentoring, I guess, like any advice you give them about modern day job shadowing, and how to go about, you know, grabbing those opportunities, especially I guess, you know, it sounds like the one that you were in was a bit more of a structured application that they were looking for. And I’m sure you could do this by you know, the same way your dad suggested, just call up somebody and see if you can go in and, and just learn about what they’re doing. And I’m wondering if you have any advice or tips on kind of pursuing that path for anyone interested?

Lynniece 11:53
Yeah, absolutely. I think the best thing is to put yourself out there, but before you put yourself out there, really know what you’re planning to get out of an experience. So one of the earlier shadows that I did with the Environmental Health Department in Bermuda, it wasn’t formal at all, I literally was doing ride alongs with our Mel Thomas, one of the environmental health inspectors, who was young in their profession at the time. And then I went to another inspector the next day, and we drove around and did something. So that was just allowing me to see what the day was like for them. And I even had one day where I was just stuck in the office. So when I say for a young person to put themselves up there is first let’s put together your resume so you can know what your strengths are. And I would use an advisor or a trusted family member who’s either in a profession that is used to reviewing resumes, or you may have a professor or a colleague, whether it be a another classmate, or colleague that has already been in the industry and is coming back to study, that person may be able to provide some input. You know, LinkedIn has amazing opportunities, because you can actually go and explore different people’s pages to see how they put together their profiles. But simple things like Word, you can download resumes. And they have really nice templates. But the key is to make yourself marketable. And even if you don’t have any experience, but you can volunteer, so I always tell my youngsters since I have four teens. Actually, no, my son just turned 20. So he’s not a teenager.

Sujani 13:47
Not a teenager.

Lynniece 13:48
But I had all of them, I recommended to all of them to put together a resume before they finished high school. And so that helps you understand what things you’re doing, what extracurricular activities or clubs, you’re in, or even interests because some people have an entrepreneurial spirit, and they can put the activities that they’re doing on that resume, you know, it shows initiative for sites, strategical, you know, talents. So I’d say put that resume together, understand the spaces that you like to explore more, and be okay with reaching out to individuals to just have a conversation with them over the phone if you’d like.

Sujani 14:28

Lynniece 14:28
Some people would prefer to write. And, you know, when you’re reaching out to professionals, you may not always get a response. So, you know, put together a few questions or be willing to say, hey, can we have tea or coffee? I’d like to leverage your expertise. I think many students may be willing or able to, you know, buy a cup of tea for a professional.

Sujani 14:49

Lynniece 14:51
So yeah.

Sujani 14:52
Yeah, I think the most important thing is like really putting yourself out there. You know, the worst thing that can happen is somebody doesn’t respond to you email or call. And often there are a handful of individuals who are more than happy to sit down and tell you about the work that they do. And even go as far as maybe inviting you to come and shadow them. So you won’t know those opportunities exist unless you put yourself out there.

Lynniece 15:17

Sujani 15:19
So, you know, the nice, I think the one thing that I’m just so fascinated about with your story so far is that you were able to find what you love so early on. And I think, you know, for myself, it’s- it’s taken some time, and I’ve done a lot of work in public health. And, you know, I’m always reflecting and thinking about, Okay, what was it about this opportunity that I really enjoyed? And then okay, how do I then kind of steer my next few adventures, I’ll call it to kind of match those interests. But for you, it seems like you identify this like love or interest for environmental health. And you just jumped right into it. And I want to say just about more than a decade later, you’re kind of still in that area of work. And still, I can hear that the passion continues. And based on what I’ve been able to just like, look into you on LinkedIn, it sounded like, right after you graduated from your master’s program, you were well on your way to kind of establishing that career and environmental health and the first role that you landed was at the UCLA, followed by a number of other opportunities. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about kind of how that kind of started off for you and where you are today?

Lynniece 16:39
Sure. Well, you know, what’s really interesting, Sujani, is that when I was looking for occupational opportunities, or career opportunity.

Sujani 16:48

Lynniece 16:48
I was not successful in getting a job in just environmental health. So my Masters of Public Health, fortunately had a dual emphasis, occupational and environmental health, and they’re very closely related. So when I interviewed for the Environmental Health Specialists position at UCLA, I did more of the occupational elements of my expertise while I was there, it was really exciting, because at that time, I had been in the United States since 1988. And I was always a student, a foreign student, on an f1 visa. So I was on a occupational extension of the f1 visa, that you get a year option for training. And so I was fortunate that UCLA was one of those employers that celebrated International talent, I was willing to allow me to bring my talents to the table. And so during those first few years, I was focusing a lot on injury prevention. So I had a colloquial title known as the accident investigator. And basically, a big part of my job was to investigate workplace injuries. I worked very closely with the high risk departments such as facilities, arts, UPDA, the colleges of chemistry and biological sciences. And really, I worked with managers and frontline staff to identify the hazards that contributed to the injury, and wrote reports of how we could recommend either implementing things to prevent the reoccurrence and also identify training. And a big part of that job was also to provide training proactively. So I did a lot of training for their dining services, individuals, again, for chemistry and laboratory spaces, those are high, hazardous areas. And then my love for chemistry and biochem came in so I did a lot of the hazmat work, and I had time so they had an emergency response team. We did a lot of hazmat training with the FBI and LAPD, LA fire. And so that’s where I got a lot of the experience doing disaster response and mitigation. So although my primary role was in accident, prevention as the accident investigator, I got to explore a lot of different elements, they still have a really big team at UCLA. And at that time, before I left, you know, there was autonomy given where my boss Neha Shah and her boss, Bill Peck, they saw needs and they allowed me to actually develop programs where we saw that, you know, additional injuries could be prevented. So I had my first introduction to program development, and that’s where you’re actually creating a program to prevent injuries based on the regulations that are out there. So I did a lot of work on shop safety and machine guarding. And so that’s what kind of set me up for my progression, so I did a lot of the work in the field at UCLA, a little bit in the office. And then now I’m probably in the office 95% of the time.

Sujani 20:11

Lynniece 20:11
In the field 5%. But I love engaging with my staff that are out in the field.

Sujani 20:17
Yeah, it’s almost like a full circle US started off kind of your first quote, unquote, job out of grad school, within a university setting. And then you went on to do a bunch of other roles. And then now you’re the Executive Director of Risk Management at California State University. So was that intentional?

Lynniece 20:37
I don’t think it was intentional, but I definitely am a believer in- in God plotting the path.

Sujani 20:44

Lynniece 20:44
I’ve always had a soft spot for health care and education, I value what they both bring to the table, and how they really improve the quality of lives for those who have access to them. So those industries are always something that I would like to contribute to, even if I didn’t have to work, I’d find some way to give back. So I was fortunate to have a path that you know, involved institutions of higher education, and then I went into health care at Kaiser. And that was really helpful, because in a healthcare setting, you’re dealing with a lot of people who are experts in their various fields, right. And many of them have been in school for years to become the best in what they do. And so that role really taught me how to listen, to understand. Because I knew regulations, I knew what we were supposed to do to keep you safe, I was getting a little bit familiar with Joint Commission and how to be continuously ready for inspections and being compliant. But at the end of the day, for any public health professional to be successful, you have to establish a relationship with the people that you’re influencing. And they have to understand the why- Why is this information important? Why do we want to communicate this? And how do we communicate effectively so that it’s something that you consider with all the other priorities in your life?

Sujani 22:16
So important, not just in the healthcare space, but you know, higher ed and every other field, I can’t- I can’t even name them right now.

Lynniece 22:24
You’re absolutely right.

Sujani 22:26
The area of work that you’re in and, you know, just going back to the question that you asked me before we started to record and you asked me, you know, what about PH SPOT have I enjoyed the most and one of the other things that I think I really, really love is kind of hearing about all these different roles in public health that I’ve never even heard of, or even, you know, looked into for myself or have come across. And I think it’s the first time I’m learning about, like an environmental health specialist, or, you know, just that broader area of work of Occupational Environmental Health within higher education, or within like a university setting. And so, you know, for my own curiosity, and for any of our listeners interested in that area of work, where does that specialist, or that team kind of sit within the university? Is it you know, do they have a team per department? Or do you kind of serve all of the departments?

Lynniece 23:29
Oh, that’s a really great question. And there are probably some institutions that do it differently. And my experience has just been in California, but at CSU, and I’m at the San Bernardino campus. And I would say most of the campuses are this way. Environmental Health and Safety sits in the Division of Administration and Finance. And it’s actually in our university. It’s an office, there’s two offices that fall under the risk management department. So there’s the Office of Risk Management and the office, they have this cyclical relationship. And I like to tell people, you know, sometimes you have to make dollars to make it make sense.

Sujani 24:15

Lynniece 24:16
And so with risk management, it’s all about losses that you’re trying to mitigate. And a lot of those are financial losses, reputational losses, litigation, so legal and compliance losses, you’re trying to prevent those from happening. And a lot of the EH and S work is actually the the prevention methods to actually secure the whole mission of the university which is educate the students that are here. So you think about workplace safety. Institutions of higher education are like little cities. They have dormitories, they have their own facilities, which includes plumbing shops, carpentry, metal shops, warehousing, building maintenance. Right? So they’re doing full blown remodels, we have our own police department with sworn officers, we have our academic colleges. So you have all your social behavior scientists, business, colleges, etc. And then you have your recreational facilities, you have, you know, your open spaces, it’s just so much that people don’t think about. And so when it comes to workplace safety, it’s very diverse here. And so although we sit in administration and finance, we support the whole university. So California makes it very easy for us to get the message out, because there’s a lot of compliance training that every employee in California has to have. And they have something that is not just a general rule, but you have to provide compliance training that is specific to the hazards of that particular job. So if I’m a custodian or grounds worker, I’m going to be outdoors, I’m going to be using equipment, I’m going to be exposed to chemicals. So we actually target the training for our various employees for that particular piece. If I’m a professor, and let’s say I’m a professor of business, it may be very straightforward for someone to say, oh, I probably just have some office ergonomics to do. But if you are someone that is a club sponsor, or you take your young people on trips, academic field trips, then we have to make sure that you understand vehicle safety, you take your defensive driver training, you know, it’s all sorts of elements that you think about to keep the worker safe. But at the university level, which is one of the things I really love here is we are all about equity, we want to keep our students just as safe as our employee. So we try to ensure that we provide similar training to our students as well.

Sujani 26:57
Wow, I am just mind blown. I’m going to make this like assumption that these teams these EH and S teams at universities are pretty huge, because that sounds like a ton of work. And obviously, you know, the size of the team is going to be relative to this the size of the school. But don’t tell me this is like a two person team that’s running this.

Lynniece 27:23
I won’t say it’s a two person team. But many people are surprised at the actual organizational structure of the typical EH and S department, which is one of the reasons why I like to present my team whenever I go and talk to our partners on campus so that they are aware of the resources that we have. So one of the things we have to do is learn how to be efficient. So, you know, there was a course I took called systems thinking, oh my goodness, that I’ve never thought that a class that I thought was so boring. But be so effective. But you have to learn how to strategize, be efficient in the work that you do. But one of the secrets that one of my mentors taught me was to understand the priorities of everyone else, and figure out ways that your programs connect to them. So for instance, I know that there is a department that wants to do some training for their young people, and they like to use new technology that’s coming in. And they were partnering with a GIS firm here in the area. And I knew at the time, I was working in the Office of Sustainability, that we needed to do not only some mapping of our trees on campus, but we also needed to map some of our infrastructure, particularly our sewage and water lines. And so it was, you know, working with the professor and saying, Hey, do you think your young people can do a GIS project for campus, and this is the topic that they may be considering, you know, we didn’t get very far, you know, it’s not the consultant level that we want, but we were able to get something and what was so exciting about us, our own students contributed to that project. And so that’s the way I try to do work. I try to learn and listen, and then align. So making connections is really important when you have a small team, but then also getting that buy in from your leadership. I learned when I worked for the government of Bermuda and the Cabinet Office, one of the biggest things I learned was the 32nd pitch and how to make a one pager presentation. And so what I tried to do is really pitch ideas and make connections with the college deans or department directors and say this is why if you decide to have a safety net it or the safety champion in your department, this will be beneficial to you. And that was a very effective method that we use when we went from remote learning back to in person learning on campus during COVID-19. During the pandemic, it was a really challenging feat, a lot of uncertainty for many people, and our campus has about 20,000 people that were coming back to campus, you know, it’s probably a little bit less, you know, because some chose to stay and do things remotely. But we needed to make sure that each unit had their own worksite safety plan, which identified the training that we rolled out electronically for everyone, but that person along with their manager, then when I say that person, that safety champion, along with their manager, were responsible for making sure their department had their own worksite safety plan. We provided templates and examples. But they brought their expertise because they knew their area better than we would, right. Yeah. And so those are the ways that we look to do health and safety programming and risk management programming more effectively.

Sujani 31:13
Yeah, when you- when you mentioned that you- you obviously care about both the staff and the students safety. My first thought was how was, you know, rolling out all of your programs for during COVID. And it sounds like it was a huge undertaking.

Lynniece 31:29
It was, and I must give a lot of credit to our world class information technology team, because they created a lot of systems that allowed us to do our job more effectively. And like I said, we’re in California, where our COVID 19 response in a workplace as a lot of regulations. And so we automated things as much as possible. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that, without our IT team putting together some bespoke things as well as utilizing existing ITSM solutions to get our messaging out. So I can’t take the credit for it. But again, it shows the importance of having partners and having the right partners, knowing what areas you’re not so good at and understanding where someone else can probably pick up the pieces and you create a synergy together.

Sujani 32:26
Did you feel I know, you said, you know, there’s a lot of thinking about like cost finances in kind of like the role that you’ve taken on and as well as legal things are these things that are covered during your grad studies within kind of that stream of Occupational Environmental Health or these, I guess, skills and experiences you had to have on the job?

Lynniece 32:53
So I did a public health degree. And I had some core classes in there. One of them was environmental law. And that really helped me understand the litigation that could take place by employers not following, you know, the federal or state legislation that governs environmental health or occupational health. It also introduced me to environmental impact assessment. So whenever there’s certain developments that take place in California, developers have to do studies to demonstrate what the environmental impact would be. And sometimes that includes an economic impact analysis as well. And these are public documents that are part of the planning phase. And a lot of people who are citizens who like to be active can learn and actually become very well versed in what should be expected. And so I think that was a good introduction class for me. But my work and sustainability and for the government of Bermuda, it was what really promoted and pushed me into the space of understanding the business impact. Because with sustainability, it’s a balance between the environmental, social and economic kill elements. So no matter what you’re doing, there’s going to be a give and take based on the culture of the space and other factors. That’s where I really learned the importance of understanding the financial aspects and the value for the dollar. I did a lot of policy analysis. And for many people, business people or even government officials, the dollar impact is really important. You got to be able to speak about the bottom line. And so that that really set me up for my next role, which was working in health insurance regulation. That was a little bit of a sidestep, but it really pushed me to understand the monetary elements around health care and accessibility, looking at the cost of health care and really understanding the social determinants of health. So that space, all of those experiences, I would say, really set me up for where I am today. Because although I’m very passionate about environmental health and worker safety, I’m just as passionate about making sure we’re not spending things frivolously, and that we are funneling money into the right programs, and preventing fines and things of that nature.

Sujani 35:28
That’s a good segue for me to kind of ask you about, you know, what does a day look like as the Executive Director of Risk Management at the California State University, and I think you kind of alluded to this a little bit where you kind of said 5% of your time is in the field, but most of it is in the office. So yeah, what does what does the day look like?

Lynniece 35:51
So first thing this morning, I came into the office early to try to go through some emails, because I knew today was not going to be a day where I was going to get to those emails quite a bit. But then they had new faculty orientation. And I took the opportunity to go and meet some new people introduce myself, leave a basket. So you know, you’re trying to encourage people to read your fax sheet, put a little QR code, and then leave the basket. So when you come back, two days from now, people have had a chance to see it and you ask questions, then I had an opportunity to meet with our legal counsel and our director for diversity, equity inclusion, and we go over a legal risks that are emerging for the university, I had a chance to meet with some of my staff on a project today. And then I took off to our annual employee appreciation, which is not very common, we do have time to actually come together and have camaraderie. But you know, I work very closely with our Student Health Center. And twice monthly, we meet with our chief medical officer, Dr. Secure and Dr. Wang, his deputy. And that’s a really amazing relationship. Because of the type of community that we live in, we funnel a lot of our Community Health programmings through the Student Health Center, and a lot of our worker safety programmings can be funneled through the university too, they were invaluable during the pandemic. So sometimes I’m meeting with external stakeholders, I like to meet periodically with senior leaders on campus, but just today, you know, I didn’t even have the meeting on my schedule, I cut one short because I had two stewards, who are union representatives, some employees, they stopped by the office, and they brought something to my attention. And I wasn’t quite sure what to say to them. So I said, I’m not sure. I know, it’s involved with my program. But let’s call the manager that I know whose program this involves. And let’s figure out the solution together. So sometimes I can’t just plan it out on Outlook, I have to be flexible. And I have a really good team here who for the most part, they’re self directed, we have group meetings together. And then I’m not all about doing things in the office, I want to make sure that the staff that are here, also have opportunity to engage with each other. So once a month, we try to either have lunch together, or we go on a scavenger hunt around campus, you know, figure something else-

Sujani 38:31

Lynniece 38:31

  • outside of the office to do

Sujani 38:34
it sounds like, you know, just thinking about the type of work that you and your team do. You’d expect kind of these droppings, right, from- from folks around the university. Because yeah, you need to have that open door policy especially when you are managing risks, which they just show up.

Lynniece 38:50
Exactly. And so building relationships is very important.

Sujani 38:55

Lynniece 38:55
That’s my in the field space. And I’m really happy that we are transitioning out of the zoom, or web videos phase, I think it’s actually a step up from phone call. So I will always keep it in my toolbox. But there’s nothing that can be said about the interpersonal relationships and interactions that you can have with people.

Sujani 39:18
Absolutely. When you kind of just reflect on the journey that you’ve had, Lynniece, with your career so far, and thinking about you know, somebody who’s early on in their career and exploring Occupational Environmental Health as a potential path for themselves you know, to build their career, what are some things I guess that come to mind for you as you know, I’m so glad I did this because it really kind of set the stage for my career and you know, maybe there are a few other things that you wish you had done and that could have maybe giving you a leg up and you know, just based on your your reflection and giving somebody else advice for a similar career path. Are there any like of last words of wisdom you could share with our listeners?

Lynniece 40:03
For students participate in the association meetings and conferences as much as you can, I wish I would have taken advantage of them more when I was in college. And in graduate school, typically, conferences, charge students $25, whereas a professionals probably charge like 400, or $500. So this could be something as simple as the American Society for safety professionals. They have a safety conference every year, there’s the National Environmental Health Association, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Public Health Association, and then they have an environmental health or occupational health chapter. So there’s a lot of ways that you can get involved. And even if you’re not in the states, like when I was living in Bermuda, I followed ISO quite a bit, you can find these groups on LinkedIn, Facebook groups are not as professional but you can still learn about people and hear about their different experiences and questions. So I would certainly connect those groups a little bit more, joined some groups online. And certainly try to find those shadowing opportunities. I will also say be okay with taking the job that doesn’t pay a lot of money. Because typically, at a state or federal or county level, you’re going to have exposure to so many different elements of the field, that you’ll be able to know which ones you do very well at which ones you’re really excited about. But then you can also set yourself against the crowd by ensuring that you have exposure to different fields, because sometimes a business will say, Well, I’m glad that you bring this strength or this expertise, but we also have this need. And that happened to me in my career at Kaiser, you know, I was like, Oh, I can do that for you too, even though this isn’t part of my job description. And then you negotiate what that looks like from a monetary perspective as well. So it can be very beneficial. So I’d say be okay with, you know, doing lower entry level positions, and look for opportunities to explore opportunities outside the the job description, find a mentor, I still have a mentor 20 years in, because there are people that will be real with you. As you get higher up in organizations, most leaders will find that it’s hard to find people that will be honest and truthful with you at all times. And so having that mentor or colleague that you can converse with is really good for you so that you can stay grounded.

Sujani 42:49
Yeah, those are some great advice. And and just want to say thank you so much again, Lynniece, for joining us and for talking to us about your journey in public health and as a- as an environmental health professional. And I’m 100% sure that somebody’s going to find this episode very, very, very valuable. And I bet we’ll reach out to you and to want to hear more about kind of your reflections. And so thank you, again, for taking the time to share that with us.

Lynniece 43:20
Sujani, it’s been a pleasure. And if you’re ever in California, or even Bermuda, send me a line Southern California. It’ll be awesome to link up with you. And I’ll be glad to talk to anyone who has further questions about the field.

Sujani 43:38
Hey, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links or information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I want to tell you about the public health career club. So if you’ve been looking for a place to connect and build meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, from all around the world, you should join us in the public health career club. We launched the club with the vision of becoming the number one hangout spot dedicated to building and growing your dream public health career. And in addition to being able to connect and build those meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, the club also offers other great resources for your career growth and success, like mindset coaching, job preparation, clinics, and career growth strategy sessions in the form of trainings and talks, all delivered by experts and inspiring individuals in these areas. So if you want to learn more or want to join the club, you can visit our page at pHspot.org/club. And we’ll have all the information there. And you know, as a space that’s being intentionally curated to bring together like minded public health professionals who are not only there to push themselves to become the best versions of themselves, but also to each other. And with that, I can’t wait to see how this is going to have a ripple effect in the world as we all work together to better the health of our populations and just have immense impact in the world. And I hope you’ll be joining us in the public health career club.


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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