Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) Tuesday, July 12.
McCarthy’s visit was part of a nationwide tour to educate communities on the EPA’s role in public health. The administrator was also interested in learning about environmental challenges specific to the border region and how they affect community health.
“A lot of people don’t know it, but the EPA is fundamental for public health,” McCarthy said. “It’s about bringing safe drinking water; it’s about clean air; it’s about what products you use and what kind of exposures to toxic chemicals you may face.”
McCarthy met with a small group of students and faculty for a roundtable discussion about the region. During the meeting, attendees discussed regional concerns, like poor air quality and its affect on respiratory health, and how food swamps — areas inundated with junk food — propagate diabetes and obesity.
“Medical professionals really have an important part to play in all of this,” she reminded her audience. “They can tell us what they’re seeing in terms of health impacts. They can help communicate to individuals about what to do to reduce those environmental exposures.”
The administrator’s visit was organized by TTUHSC El Paso’s Southwest Center for Pediatric Environmental Health (SWCPEH). Stephen Borron, M.D., regional director of the center, stressed the EPA’s role in improving the health of children. “The agency’s support of pediatric environmental health specialty units, like the SWCPEH, is crucial in raising health care providers’ and laypeople’s awareness of the critical role played by the environment in the health of children.”
McCarthy hopes to build relationships with medical institutions across the U.S. to increase the EPA’s understanding of environmental health outcomes and to find ways to solve these problems. The administrator will continue to nurture the EPA’s relationship with TTUHSC El Paso to forge partnerships with the future health care experts of the border region.
McCarthy has headed the EPA since 2013, when President Barack Obama nominated her for the position. She holds a Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering from Tufts University and has advised high-ranking political leaders, such as Mitt Romney, on issues concerning the environment.