- Michelle Romero based her fieldwork experience in Alpuyeca, Mexico working on an effort to identify and prevent diseases related to exposures to chemical and biological pollution. The project, which emphasized health promotion and participation of the community, gave the Fielding School PhD student a new level of appreciation for the value of social interactions and teamwork in reducing environmental risks.
- Romero earned her master’s degree in environmental health at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, where her thesis focused on phthalate exposure and use of personal care products in women Mexico’s northern states. While there, Romero collaborated on an online course on risk assessment with Dr. John Froines, a member of the Fielding School faculty; and participated in a nanotoxicology course taught by another faculty member, Dr. Hilary Godwin. Those experiences led to Romero’s decision to apply to the school’s PhD program.
- In Alpuyeca, Romero’s first task consisted of reviewing the reports from the project’s previous stages. In collaboration with the principal investigator, she then outlined additional tasks that could be beneficial to the project and the community.
- Romero also contributed to a campaign for the modification of habits of handling and storage of domestic water, promoted safe re-use of water in households, and helped to spearhead an information campaign about water-related diseases such as dengue, diarrhea and skin conditions.
- Romero, who plans to focus her career on community-based research and environmental risk analysis, says the impact of the experience went both ways. “For me,” she says, “it was very touching and inspiring.”
“Part of the impact was reassuring the community that something was being done to help,” she says. “My presence helped to keep their trust, and I was able to communicate important information not only on the water and sanitation issues, but on other environmental problems as well.”