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Starting a Career in Public Health When the World Needs It Most

Breanna Livingstone carrying out her food safety responsibilities as an REHS for the Burlington County Health Department

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Despite the seemingly never-ending challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Breanna Livingstone participated in the online offering of the Rutgers Environment and Public Health (EPH) Program in the summer of 2020, completed the required 200-hour health department internship, and passed the New Jersey state Registered and Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) licensing exam.

Breanna graduated from Stockton University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in 2013, but, year after year, she was unable to attend the annual public health career prep course because the in-person classroom times conflicted with her work schedule.

“Offering the Rutgers EPH program online has actually been a blessing for me because it allowed me to finally get a foot in the door for the career I always wanted. Right after my internship at Burlington County Health Department, I was immediately hired on as a full time REHS.”

Rutgers EPH summer career prep course, consisting of a 7-week course and a 200-hour health department internship, covers epidemiology, public sanitation (ie. body art, tanning, public pools), water/wastewater, environmental pollution, environmental sanitation, food safety, soils/septics, public health microbiology, risk communications, and much more. The instructional team is made up of almost 30 public health experts with decades of first-hand experience working for the NJDEP, FDA, and county health departments across the state.

“I really enjoyed hearing from so many different professionals and being able to ask a lot of questions. I learned so much in this class I could go on and on.”

In her current REHS position at Burlington County Health Department, Breanna conducts food safety inspections of dine-in and take-out retail establishments to help safeguard the public from accidental contaminations and foodborne illnesses.

With fearful talk of coronavirus super spreaders, ventilators, and vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly ushered in a new appreciation for epidemiological expertise, emergency preparedness, and clear public health messaging. It also increased the demand for professionals to conduct contact tracing, accurately convey risk communications, and ensure the safety of dine-in restaurants, retail businesses, and schools.

In these trying times, Breanna and other graduates of the Rutgers EPH program are uniquely positioned to fulfill the increasing demand for these frontline heroes.

For more information about the Rutgers Environment and Public Health (EPH) program, please contact Amy Cook at 848-932-7649 or eph@njaes.rutgers.edu.