September 16, 2021

Working for public health and the common good.

Now more than ever, Francesca Pinard ‘19 recognizes the cause-and-effect nature of environmental science, the field she studied as a student at Mitchell College and in which she earned her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude.

Today, working in her dream job as an environmental health and safety specialist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Medical Center, Francesca deals with hospital compliance for industrial hygiene and occupational health and safety.

What does she love most about it?

I enjoy the public health and common good aspect of environmental science. The things we do are for the benefit of other people and for the planet we coexist on. It’s all about leaving the world/workplace better than you found it.”

For Francesca, working in a healthcare setting during a global pandemic has meant figuring out solutions to protect both worker and patient. In fact, her department worked to successfully aid the Massachusetts Field Hospital, set up at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., to conduct respiratory fit testing during the early months of COVID-19.

“When COVID-19 became a state of emergency, Massachusetts opened up its field hospital to care for those communities that are underserved and hospitals that were overfilled. We had nurses and doctors traveling from all over the country to help. My department ensured that the healthcare staff were wearing the proper protection against airborne particulates, or respiratory droplets, that can spread the virus. It’s important to have proper fit of N95 respirators to prevent contracting an illness. Most people think they can wear any respiratory they want, but facial structure, teeth structure and weight fluctuations can be the determining factor between becoming sick and being 95% protected with a HEPA filter.”

Expanding her safety knowledge with the goal of becoming a biosafety officer, Francesca is now in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, studying for a master’s degree in biological sciences and biotechnology.

Mitchell helped her build a good foundation for her current job, in both undergraduate coursework and an internship. She often draws on information learned in biology, chemistry, microbiology, research compliance and science and public policy. In addition, she built skills during an internship in the environmental health and safety department of Harvard University.

Reflecting on how she chose Mitchell, Francesca says she had many reasons.

“I first wanted to do marine biology, and Mitchell had a beautiful beach and a well-staffed science department. I decided environmental science could be a good gateway. Through my classes each semester, my interest in environmental science grew, and I am very glad I stuck with it.”

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