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Meet Our Graduates: How flushing toilets can spread infection – and UV light can kill it

Nov 27, 2017 |

This fall, graduates from the School of Population and Public Health are setting out to start their careers as healthcare professionals and researchers. Find out how they are making a difference in the world through their research and work.

Name: Jesse Cooper
Program: Master of Science in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

What does your research involve?

My research focused on helping to understand how toilets may contribute to pathogen transmission in healthcare facilities. Specifically, it looked at how pathogens can become airborne from flushing, and what the fate of those pathogens in air may be. My work also looked at how effective ultraviolet C light is at reducing pathogen levels in shared patient bathrooms. From a broader sense, it incorporated both infection control and occupational health components.

Why do you think it is important?

Approximately 10% of adults in healthcare facilities acquire an infection while receiving medical treatment, and 8,000 patients die annually from these infections. Hundreds of healthcare workers are also affected annually, in B.C. alone. Toilets contribute to pathogen transmission in healthcare facilities, and are likely playing a role in the high rates of healthcare-associated infections we are seeing. Understanding the fate of aerosolized pathogens in bathrooms may help to protect both patients and healthcare workers from disease transmission.

What’s next for you?

Currently, I am working as an occupational hygienist for Aura Health and Safety. I have the opportunity to apply much of the knowledge I learned in the Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (OEH) program at UBC. I learn about a wide range workplace hazards, how to assess them and, recommend appropriate controls. I also plan to continue to learn about infection control and the role occupational hygienists can play in controlling pathogen transmission.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at SPPH?

Lots, but to name a few, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with students and faculty on various projects. I learned a ton of skills through working with my peers in the OEH program and SPPH in general, as well as from getting to work closely with several of the faculty members. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to complete a thesis. It was challenging yet really rewarding to manage a big project like that and see it all come together. Lastly, being a part of the students’ association, TAPPHS, was a really great experience.

What’s your advice to incoming SPPH students?

Take the time to get involved in activities outside of your classes. Your time here will go really fast, so make the most of it. I think an important part of grad school is making connections, so try to harbor good working relationships with students, faculty, and other people you work with along the way.

What are you looking forward to the most after graduation?

Continuing to develop my skills as an occupational health specialist. I am also looking forward to some travelling in the next year or so, and finally getting around to reading the last book of Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy Series!

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