Student Profiles

Emily Sparer

Following her graduation from Barnard College with a degree in Environmental Science, Emily Sparer worked for two years for ENVIRON International Corp., an environmental consulting firm, where she conducted environmental site assessments at industrial facilities throughout the U.S.  It was during these site visits that she first became interested in the issue of occupational health and injury prevention.  “On those trips, I saw firsthand how intricately connected the work environment was to worker health outcomes – and knew that I needed to learn more about these exposures, and more importantly, what could be done to protect the workers.”  Emily then enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Occupational Hygiene here at HSPH, and soon had the opportunity to work with Jack Dennerlein on a research project that explored the impact of safety communication and recognition programs on worker health and safety in the construction industry.  It was this introduction to worksite-based intervention research that led Emily to pursue a Doctorate in Ergonomics and Safety.  Emily’s current doctoral research evaluates the ways in which organizational programs and policies can be used to improve safety climate and decrease work-related injury.  While her work to date has focused on a major initiative to evaluate a safety communication program on numerous construction sites in the Boston area, she has also worked in the health care arena, on a project aimed at reducing musculoskeletal injuries among hospital-based nurses.  Emily plans to continue her career in injury prevention following the completion of her doctorate.  “HSPH has provided me with the tools, education, and mentorship to move forward in injury prevention research and policy development.”

Oscar Arias

Oscar Arias is currently a rising 4th year Doctor of Science student at the HSPH. He was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia and received his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and a Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Occupational Health Management from the Universidad del Rosario. Following graduation, he worked as an occupational physician with Techint and Saipem, oil companies, from 1993 to 1996, engaged in various construction projects. He then worked as the Medical Director for a health services company in Colombia until 1999, when he then joined Ecopetrol S.A., the main Petroleum Company in Colombia”. Working with Ecopetrol gave him the unique opportunity to become familiar with the occupational exposures and risks present within the refineries, gas and oil production fields, as well as at the pump stations. Appointed to the Occupational Health Department of the company, he focused his efforts in the development and implementation of occupational health policies, programs and measures that prevent work-related diseases and improve workers’ well-being at the work site.

Oscar’s current doctoral research is evaluating the relation between trunk posture and physical activity in Hospital Patient Care Unit Workers.  In addition, he is exploring the relation between whole body vibration and absenteeism due to musculoskeletal disorders of the back in heavy equipment operators from an open-pit coal mine. Under the guidance of his mentor, Professor Jack Dennerlein, he is applying quantitative methods in the assessment of physical exposures in two occupational environments in order to develop a better understanding of their interaction. His long term research goal is to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and promote healthy lifestyles at work.