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EPA and Ponce School of Medicine Join Up to Promote Environmental Careers

Release Date: 11/14/2011
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(New York, N.Y. – November 14, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ponce School of Medicine and Health Services today signed an agreement to promote environmental and public health protection in Puerto Rico. The agreement, detailed in a Memorandum of Understanding, is aimed at bringing qualified students into the EPA workforce and providing Puerto Rico with a new generation of environmental leaders with medical expertise. In addition, the Ponce School of Medicine has undertaken a study to assess the connections between health concerns and environmental conditions in the community along the Martin Peña Canal. EPA has been engaged in a project to improve environmental and public health conditions in the Martin Peña community. Air pollution from factories and power plants can trigger asthma attacks, cause respiratory problems and increase the risk of cancer. Puerto Rico has the highest asthma rate in the nation.

    “Puerto Rico has unique natural beauty. Unfortunately, the beauty of Puerto Rico’s natural resources masks a range of environmental problems that have real effects on people’s health, particularly water pollution and air pollution,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “It will take a sustained collaboration of experts in the fields of environmental science and medicine to tackle the complex environmental and public health problems facing Puerto Rico. This agreement encourages students at the Ponce School to take on these challenges.”
      “The Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences is excited about this opportunity to partner with EPA. This agreement will make environmental health issues ‘real’ to students as they pursue their academic Masters in Public Health program” said President and Dean of PSMHS, Dr Joxel Garcia. “Students not only learn how to improve the health of Puerto Ricans and work with EPA , they will also be better prepared public health professionals of the quality EPA needs for future ensuring of improved environmental health in Puerto Rico.”
        The Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences has begun a study to connect environmental and health impacts in the underserved community along the Martin Peña Canal. Throughout the course of the study, data will be collected on gastrointestinal diseases associated with exposure to wastewater. Factors such as flooding, sewer overflows and other wastewater related events will be taken into consideration. The study will provide evidence of health impacts on the residents of Martin Peña that may be resulting from exposure to sewage.
          The programs implemented through the agreement will help EPA hire talented individuals by using innovative approaches to recruiting, as well as promoting opportunities in higher education. EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment demands a highly trained, diverse workforce of professionals from across the U.S. The supply of students pursuing science and technology-related fields is dwindling, and today’s agreement will help address the challenge.
            Under the five-year agreement, EPA and the Ponce School of Medicine and Health Services will team up to exchange advice and technical assistance between medical professionals at the school and EPA experts. They will also
                • hold on-campus and electronic career fairs focused on public service careers
                • find opportunities for EPA internships for Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences students
                • educate faculty and students about critical environmental issues such as waste management, emergency planning and response and hazardous waste cleanups
                • develop an on-campus speakers’ program, mini-courses and lectures
            The Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences will so establish new environmental sustainability practices on campus. This program will include:
                • water conservation
                • renewable energy
                • energy efficiency
                • waste reduction
                • recycling and composting
                • food donation, and
                • the use of nontoxic cleaning products, grounds management and pest control products.
            To learn more about EPA’s environmental education and youth programs, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region2/ee/
            Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/eparegion2