Jenny Houlroyd Earns Doctor of Public Health Degree

 

Jenny Houlroyd, CIH, MSPH, DrPH

Jenny Houlroyd, an occupational health group manager for the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) Program, successfully defended her dissertation in March 2024 to complete a doctorate in public health (DrPH) from the University of Georgia. Her degree is from the College of Public Health in public health policy and management. Graduation is scheduled for May 10. The SHES program is part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Prior to joining Georgia Tech in 2005, Houlroyd earned a dual master of science in public health (MSPH) from Emory University, focusing on epidemiology and environmental and occupational health. As a certified industrial hygienist with the OSHA 21(d) Consultation Program, she helps small Georgia businesses ensure that workplaces are hazard-free and workers are protected from potential health threats.

She also serves as faculty for the OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) at Georgia Tech and for the professional master’s in Occupational Safety and Health program for the School of Building Construction within the College of Design.

“My dissertation was on respiratory protection,” said Houlroyd. “In health and safety, we follow a hierarchy of controls, and the last layer of defense is personal protective equipment (PPE).”

Respiratory safety ranks consistently among the top ten concerns of OSHA, and Houlroyd conducted a qualitative study focusing on the manufacturing sector. Through the process of exploring elements that might contribute to a worker’s reluctance to wear PPE, she developed what she calls the FACT model, which tracks fit, acceptance of risk, comfort, and type of respirator.

Houlroyd views her doctor of public health degree as an achievement that not only enhances her own skill set but also benefits colleagues and contributes to the greater good. “I’m really hoping that it helps my entire team open doors, to apply for more competitive grants and make connections with other research groups,” she said. “I really see it as essential for our team to have this kind of expertise in-house.”

Those doors are already opening. On May 16, Houlroyd is attending the conference Preventing Silicosis – An Ancient Disease in Modern Times: Silicosis Caused by Artificial Stone in the U.S., hosted by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at University of California, Los Angeles, where she has been invited to speak on exposure and control technologies. “My doctoral program includes leadership training, and it gave me the confidence to speak up about issues that are important to me,” she said.

“At the Enterprise Innovation Institute, we are committed to making workplaces healthier and safer,” Houlroyd added. “We want people to go home from work to their families in the same or better shape than when they left. My dad got sick with brain cancer from exposure on the job; he died two years ago. I really do see it as a personal mission. We are saving lives.”

Georgia Tech to Create Pilot Crystalline Silica Training Program

The Safety, Health, and Environmental Services program at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute is using a $75,000 federal grant to create a pilot crystalline silica exposure training and materials program for the cut stone and stone fabrication industries.

 

The grant is one of 93 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Administration Occupational Safety and Health Administration awarded totaling more $11.6 million.

 

Derived from the Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training program, the grants awarded by OSHA in fiscal year 2021 are in the Targeted Topic Training, Training and Educational Materials Development, and Capacity Building categories. The grants are a critical part of OSHA’s effort to educate workers and assist employers.

 

The funding will support the one-year effort that targets small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. The specific focus is low/non-literate, limited-English speaking, and other at-risk workers. The training materials will be evaluated during the pilot period which includes 50 workers and employers. Training will be offered in English and Spanish.

 

Crystalline silica — or quartz — is a common mineral found in natural materials such as stone. Cutting, drilling, or grinding of stone creates a lot of dust, which includes particles of crystalline silica.

 

Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to serious and sometimes fatal illnesses, including tuberculosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exposure to these particles has also been linked to kidney disease and cancers, including lung cancer.

 

Crystalline silica inhalation can also lead to silicosis, an irreversible and potentially fatal disease marked by the development of growths and scarring of the lungs. If the growths or nodules become too large, breathing can become labored and eventually lead to death.

 

“The risk of silicosis is high for workers in several industries, including the construction, cut stone, and stone fabrication industries,” said Jenny Houlroyd, the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services program’s occupational health services manager. “This effort is designed to give workers the essential tools and training to protect themselves and keep them as safe as possible.”