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Environmental Health

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When you join the Commissioned Corps, you become a part of a dedicated team of professionals who work to improve the health of individuals, communities, and the Nation.

Meet some environmental health officers from the Commissioned Corps.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Dawn Arlotta Health Education Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

September 11 changed her life…
A native New Yorker, LTJG Dawn Arlotta was teaching a corporate leadership class in downtown Manhattan on September 11, 2001. After she lived through that crisis, LTJG Arlotta decided that she wanted a career in sync with her spirit and left corporate America. She relocated to Atlanta to begin working on a masters in public health. Shortly after graduation, she met Commissioned Corps officers at a disaster preparedness health summit and was intrigued by the Corps. LTJG Arlotta applied for commission and was proud to be sworn in this May. She says, “I wanted to be part of the team that is trained and can respond to crises. It’s so necessary and I have a lot of respect for the Commissioned Corps that’s preparing us to help people.” As a health education officer, she is part of a team that educates people about environmental health hazards in their communities.

Lieutenant Commander Gary Carter
Environmental Health Officer, Indian Health Service

Planned to go to law school…
LCDR Gary Carter was headed to law school when he spent a summer at a Fort Worth medical facility at the Bureau of Prisons as part of the Commissioned Corps Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP). He realized that he could work in public health, have a direct impact on people’s health, and feel fulfilled in the Commissioned Corps, so he changed his mind about law school and joined the Corps. LCDR Carter has been an officer for 13 years and is confident he made the right decision. His first duty station was in Alaska, where he vaccinated sled dog teams in freezing temperatures. He responded to the 1997 Minnesota floods and assessed well water. In his current position as institution environmental health officer, he provides service to health care facilities in American Indian communities, primarily involved in occupational health and safety, where the need is great. The Commissioned Corps has been working on improving public health issues for the community and has a positive effect. LCDR Carter says, “It’s been very rewarding to work in American Indian communities, improve their environmental health, and help raise their health status. Joining the Corps is for the adventurous at heart who gain fulfillment from helping people.”

Commander Joselito Ignacio
Environmental Health Officer, U.S. Coast Guard

Hurricane response and more.
CDR Joselito Ignacio served in the U.S. Army as an environmental science officer for 8 years before enlisting in the Corps. As an environmental officer of the Corps, CDR Ignacio has been deployed in a number of settings, including hurricane recovery in the Gulf region, heightened maritime security detail during the Republican National Convention, and the Oakland Estuary oil spill in early 2005. CDR Ignacio is currently detailed as a staff officer in the environmental health division of the U.S. Coast Guard, where he identifies and revises current Coast Guard policies on such topics as water quality, pest management, and food service facilities.

Lieutenant Carolyn Oyster
Environmental Health Officer, Office of the Surgeon General, Office of Commissioned Corps Operations

Traveling near and far to protect public health.
As an environmental health officer in the Commissioned Corps, LT Carolyn Oyster has enjoyed the many opportunities the Corps has afforded her to work with representatives from a wide variety of government agencies. While working with the Indian Health Service, LT Oyster got to travel to remote villages to help underserved American Indians. With the Food and Drug Administration, she was able to enter huge manufacturing plants and improve America's food safety. LT Oyster also has had the chance to travel across the country and work in a number of duty stations from Alaska to Boston, and California to Puerto Rico. LT Oyster is currently responsible for creating the new Commissioned Corps Associate Recruiter Program. She is also the first Commissioned Corps officer to participate in the International Public Health Officer master's program.

Captain Jaret T. Ames
Environmental Health Officer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Traveling to exotic destinations.
CAPT Jaret Ames protects public health by serving in the Vessel Sanitation Program at the CDC. The program prevents the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable disease in the United Sates from a foreign country by passenger vessels traveling from foreign to domestic ports. CAPT Ames and his fellow Commissioned Corps officers accomplish this by conducting unannounced inspections twice a year, conducting quarterly vessel sanitation training seminars to cruise ship supervisors, and investigating gastrointestinal illness outbreaks that occur on ships. They also review new ship construction plans and conduct onsite foreign shipyard inspections during new construction or renovation projects. The job involves travel to exotic destinations on U.S. coasts, including Alaska, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. The CDC has established partnerships with public health programs in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Egypt, and many other places. "I proudly wear the uniform every day, and the industry shows great courtesy and respect for the program and the decisions we make. My work reflects the values of the Corps and the CDC," says CAPT Ames.

Commander Calvin Cook
Environmental Health Officer, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Keeping what we eat safe.
CDR Calvin Cook serves as a consumer safety officer who conducts inspections and investigations at manufacturers of medical devices, foods, and medicated animal feeds to ensure consumer products are safe and effective. In 2003, CDR Cook successfully completed a team investigation of an animal producer suspected of feeding his animals with protein prohibited by FDA regulations. The investigation resulted in regulatory action by FDA, which prompted other producers to voluntarily come into compliance or improve their safeguards. Since CDR Cook's first deployment to Falmouth, KY, during the 1997 Ohio River floods, he has responded to numerous other disasters, including New York City in October 2001, and twice volunteered to serve in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. CDR Cook says, "Serving in the Commissioned Corps is more than a job; it's serving the American people during times of need. Assisting fellow citizens during a national disaster, particularly underserved people, has been an invaluable experience." With more than 16 years of service in the Commissioned Corps, Cook plans to be a career officer by continuing to grow professionally in the comprehensive practice of environmental health, consumer protection, and emergency response.

Captain Charles Higgins
Environmental Health Officer, National Park Service (NPS)

Innovative solutions.
As director of the National Park Service's office of public health, Captain Charles Higgins' service in public health is anything but routine. NPS deals with all manner of public health threats, from protecting tens of thousands of visitors at a special event at the National Mall in Washington to helping a single backpacker prevent Hantavirus, a potentially deadly disease spread by infected rodents. A wide variety of situations keeps Commissioned Corps officers up to their necks in alligators—literally, in the Everglades. "The biggest opportunity within the Corps has been the enormous professional growth. From rafting the Colorado River to solving visitor illnesses in Grand Canyon National Park to putting a new food safety system in place, no other career could have provided so many learning experiences," Captain Higgins says. Supporting the preservation mission of the NPS means not simply killing all of the mosquitoes when West Nile Virus arrives (even the mosquitoes are protected) but finding innovative solutions to public health problems.

If you are a student or an environmental health professional interested in the Commissioned Corps, take the next step! E-mail us your questions, call us at 800-279-1605, or apply online now.

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Last updated on 7/2/2008