National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Visits Avant Training Center

IMG_2462 (1)By Tony McCray

Unity in the Family Ministry and the Jolene Avant Center of Excellence was recently visited by Sharon Beard of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and Dr. Beverly Wright of Dillard University.  Unity in the Family is in the first year of operating a five year grant through Dillard University’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice which is funded by the National Institute.

Sharon Beard is the institute’s professional responsible for developing the Environmental Career Training Program which Dillard University has been operating for 20 years.  She is an Industrial Hygienist in the Worker Education and Training Program of the Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institute of Health (NIH) in Research Triangle Park, NC.  As an industrial hygienist, Beard is primarily responsible for coordinating, evaluating, and improving the nation-wide worker education and training program especially in the area of the Minority Worker Training Program (MWTP) initiative.

In 1986, Beard was handed a 2 page program proposal called the Minority Worker Training Program by her supervisor at the institute. Congressman Louis Stokes and his staff were responsible for advocating for minority focused training programs in urban areas experiencing crumbling infrastructure. Now years later, Pensacola-based Unity in the Family joins the cities of Houston, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Detroit Michigan in the operation of the Environmental Careers Worker Training Programs.

Beard’s site visit provided her with an opportunity to meet the Unity in the Family staff, tour the training facility, view the training being conducted, and simultaneously meet with Deep South Center’s Director Beverly Wright and her key staff. The program is viewed as an opportunity to provide jobs for minority workers in a growing field focused on environmental issues. Beard uses her background in industrial hygiene to provide expert evaluation, and leadership as she manages the multi-million program portfolio of worker training grants throughout the nation.

On November 1, 2016, NIEHS will celebrate 50 years of environmental health research at NIH. The NIEHS 50th Anniversary is an exciting and important opportunity to raise public awareness that the environment influences human health and to highlight the improvements to public health that have resulted from environmental health research. It’s also a perfect time to bring together NIEHS staff and alumni, health researchers supported by the NIEHS, and the larger public health community for networking, collaboration and celebration.

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