ST. PAUL, Minn. – Recently, our very own Nicole Vars McCullough, the Global Technical Services, Regulatory and Application Engineering Manager for the 3M Personal Safety Division, had the opportunity to sit down with Jamie Schenk, who works as a scientist at Exponent. Jamie is this year’s 3M New Occupational Health and Safety Professional Essay Award contest winner, which is open to new OHS professionals who have been working in the field for five years or less.
By way of background, Jamie graduated with a Bachelor of Science from UCLA in 2013 concentrating on medicine and public health. She then followed that up by completing her Masters of Public Health from Emory University in 2015 where she focused on environmental health. She has worked previously as an intern for the U.S. Environmental and Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington DC and as a research assistant for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Currently, Jamie is a scientist in the Health Sciences practice at Exponent, a scientific and engineering consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.
Jamie was actually a finalist in this competition last year, but this year her essay based on the theme, ‘The New Look Workforce: How Will Changing Demographics Affect the Practice of Occupational Safety and Health’ took home the top prize. This attests to her strong writing skills and proves, as a new scientist, she continues to have her finger on the pulse of what is going on in today’s occupational health and safety industry. As part of her prize, Jamie was invited to attend the American Society for Safety Engineers conference (ASSE), Safety 2017, held earlier this year in Denver, Colorado. Nikki presented with her award at ASSE during a reception held for her.
What follows is an excerpt of the interview between Nikki and Jamie. Jamie shares some very interesting insights about what she learned at ASSE 2017 this year and how she views the changing demographic landscape in the science world.
What Did You Like about Attending ASSE?
The best part about attending ASSE was the tremendous learning opportunity, which is very important in the formative years of a young professional’s career so it was a great experience for someone like me. I was exposed to all types of safety research and practices and I had the opportunity to interact with experts in the field. ASSE and 3M provided me an invaluable chance to network with professionals from all types of industries, subjects, and companies, which proved to be very enlightening.
ASSE was also lot of fun because there were so many different vendors! It was amazing to see the products that have been developed to help keep people safe in a myriad of scenarios.
What Were the Biggest Take-Aways You Came Away with from the Conference?
Two things. Safety first! This belief was at the core of every product, presentation, and discussion I heard and was a part of. There was a complete emphasis by everyone that we are all in the business of helping protect each other by making jobs, people, and our environment safer.
Second, I realized that in many of the presentations that I attended, there was another over-arching theme of infrastructure providing the foundation to execute the concept of safety first.
Individual behavioral change is hard to enforce, so we must continue to build an infrastructure and industry culture that seeks to ensure safety while protecting occupational health, which can help result in better safety outcomes.
As an example, in one presentation I attended, a cosmetics company emphasized this commitment to internal safety by showing steps they took to make their manufacturing process cleaner for the environment, its employees, and its consumers. This stewardship is an excellent example of how creating an environment that fosters and thrives on safety culture can positively affect the health outcomes of the people working there and the customers they are looking to sell to.
Your Essay was about Changing Demographics Affecting the OHS Arena. What are Your Thoughts about Diversity in this Industry?
Historically, this field has been predominately comprised of men, but I believe there are now a lot more women entering the health and safety space in their professions.
I am lucky that in my day-to-day practice of occupational health and safety, I work with an amazing team with equal representation of men and women at Exponent. I think equality and diversity as a whole are improving in the field, which you could see at ASSE and I have seen during my time as a professional in the OHES community.
Everyone bringing their diverse backgrounds and understanding differences throughout the world is how we can learn to help make things safer for everyone. By taking the time to understand different cultural practices, languages, and customs, we can make the occupational world a more inclusive and safer space. I am thrilled that I am part of this cultural shift and to be contributing to this field.
To read Jamie’s essay, for which she was presented an award during a reception at ASSE by Nikki, please click here.