Environmental health major Kelly Fry wants to play a part in reducing the harmful impacts of environmental contaminants on the health and well-being of communities.
“While people can usually change their behavior in an effort to stay healthy, they have much less control when it comes to environmental contaminants in the places they live and work every day,” he says.
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health (BSEH)
What attracted you to a degree and/or certificate in public health?
I first became interested in public health during my first year at UGA, and that interest has only continued to grow thanks to all the amazing experiences I’ve had at the College of Public Health. I was originally studying biological engineering when I came to UGA because I loved the idea of developing solutions to health problems that could impact a large group of people. However, my roommate introduced me to the Environmental Health Science undergraduate degree, and I was immediately convinced it would be a much better fit while still allowing me to pursue that same passion. I ultimately made the switch because I love that public health is a field that combines working with people and communities, and implementing evidence-based decisions that look at population-level data.
Why did you choose your particular concentration?
Ever since I can remember, I have been extremely interested in the impact that our environment has on our general wellbeing and how we can improve our environment to reduce or eliminate negative health outcomes. As I enter the environmental health field and begin my career, I want to serve as someone who protects the health of communities by preventing harmful exposure to things that the general public has little control over. While people can usually change their behavior in an effort to stay healthy, they have much less control when it comes to environmental contaminants in the places they live and work every day.
What did you do for your applied practice experience? What did you learn?
This summer, I completed an internship through the National Environmental Health Association’s National Environmental Public Health Internship Program. The program partners with local, state, and tribal health departments and matches them with student interns based on their interests within environmental health. I was matched with Clark County Public Health in Vancouver, WA, where I was a part of their recreational water safety team. My research project aimed at creating a mathematical model that is able to predict the presence of algal blooms in lakes in Clark County using satellite imaging, allowing for earlier detection of blooms that are potentially toxic to humans and animals.
During my internship, I was able to get a close-up look at what it’s like to work at a local health department, along with all the challenges and rewards that come with it. Through my research project, I also became very knowledgeable about harmful algal blooms, the danger they pose to human health, and how to reduce their occurrence or prevent exposure.
What was the biggest challenge faced during your applied practice experience?
My internship was 100% virtual, which was certainly a new experience that I hadn’t gone through before. I had a lot more freedom and flexibility because of this, which meant I had to be diligent about time management and self-discipline.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your time at the College?
EHSC4700 (Genetic Applications of Environmental Health) was probably the most interesting class I have taken during my undergraduate career. Dr. Anne Marie Zimeri is a great instructor and this class showed me the amazing potential that genetic engineering has in solving public health issues.
Do you have any external activities that you are passionate about?
I am a member of the Environmental Health Science Club at UGA. I also play saxophone in The Redcoat Marching Band, and I am a brother of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the nation’s oldest music fraternity.
Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?
The Environmental Health Science Club organizes a road cleanup every semester before finals. This is a great opportunity to improve the health of my local community and get to know other EHS students!
I also had a lot more free time in the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant I was able to explore a lot of the nature trails that Athens has to offer. I later decided to volunteer as a Trail Ambassador for Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services. This is a great way for me to stay active and develop an even greater sense of appreciation for our natural environment.
What activities/achievements/awards during your time here are you most proud of?
I have been recognized as a College of Public Health Presidential Scholar for three semesters. I am also very proud of the work I did during my internship this past summer with Clark County Public Health in Vancouver, WA.
What insights have you gained a public health student?
Being a student in the College of Public Health has made me much more aware of the ways in which environmental exposures impact our health. I am constantly making connections between the things I observe in my daily life and how they are related to topics discussed in class.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I plan on applying to the MPH program at UGA with a concentration in environmental health. After that, I would love to begin a career in industrial hygiene or at a local/state health department. I have hopes of eventually working at the CDC!
Posted on December 2, 2021.