Kelsi Sullivan began her involvement with NEHA as a student and intern and continues to stay involved through Emerging Professional membership. She is currently working as an Environmental Health Specialist at Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD). Her interview touches on how she started off in the environmental health field, issues SNHD is facing in their community and how they are tackling them, and some great advice to other young professionals starting out. Engaging with NEHA as a student helped Kelsi advance her career and allowed her to network across multiple avenues leading her to where she is today.
NEHA: Why did you decide to study and pursue a career in environmental health?
Kelsi: I’m not sure I decided on a career in environmental health. Honestly, I feel like I fell into it! I was living and working in Sri Lanka when I realized I wanted to work in public health. I was involved with a project on organic farming and tea plantations and it just dawned on me! Then, after a few environmental health courses in my MPH program, I was hooked.
NEHA: How did you get involved with NEHA, and how has the association helped you advance in your career?
Kelsi: I first got involved with NEHA during an internship in the final year of my MPH program. I worked under Elizabeth Landeen on a couple of cannabis projects. The internship really helped advance my career in two ways: 1) It exposed me to the day-to-day life of an environmental health professional and all the different avenues available to me and 2) I was able to network- a lot! I attended two conferences, presented at a conference, and worked closely with a small team of experts in the cannabis field and at health departments in cannabis legal states. Those experiences gave me ideas for career paths and suggestions for jobs that may be suited to my interests.
NEHA: What are some emerging environmental health issues facing your community, and what is SNHD doing to stay on top of them?
Kelsi: Emerging environmental health issues are numerous, but I would say most of them are a result of global warming. In Southern Nevada, the most evident issue to me is water insecurity. SNHD does a good job of educating the public and private industry about recycling water and collaborates with other districts in Southern Nevada to oversee and manage the problem.
NEHA: Tell us about something that you’re currently working on that you’re excited about.
Kelsi: I’m currently working on Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) with a group of colleagues. It is the largest mass gathering festival here in Las Vegas. It is my first year working on the project and I am excited to learn from my colleagues and be part of the group of inspectors assigned to oversee it!
NEHA: What advice would you give other young professionals who are just starting out in their career?
Kelsi: I’d say be patient and open to change. My greatest pleasure thus far has been learning from inspectors who work at SNHD (whether they have been here 20 years or only a couple of years). What I have learned from them is that things in this field change all the time, so stay up-to-date and be flexible enough to change with the times.
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