TEHA Environmental Health Workshop in Odessa on June 14
Posted - Jun 13, 2017

The Panhandle West Texas Chapter of the Texas Environmental Health Association (TEHA) met in Odessa on June 14 for their summer workshop and training event.

The meeting was held at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 1010 East 8th Street in Odessa. The cost of the event was $40 for TEHA members, and $90 for non-members.  Bruce Cunha, RS, DR, and Gregg Olberts, RS, DR, CPO with the Ector County Health Department, Environmental Section were the event organizers and hosted the event.

There were a number of great speakers at this year’s event starting with a keynote presentation by TTUHSC Senior Director of Workforce Education and Development, Steven Gates, LSW.

Steven gave a presentation on “Thriving Beyond Criticism.”  He says that one of the most detrimental challenges we face in life is “destructive criticism.” Without the right tools, this can literally “stop us in our tracks.” He emphasized having a positive mindset about yourself, then when the destructive criticism comes, it bounces right off because you will understand that is not true about yourself.  And to recognize and refuse the lie of insufficiency, that we really are enough!.

Here were his learning objectives for his presentation.  A copy to his handouts is linked below.

  • Learn to distinguish between constructive feedback and destructive criticism
  • Discover how to effectively respond to destructive criticism
  • Gain an understanding for the importance of a positive, realistic self-perception
  • Identify steps to overcome destructive criticism and achieve excellence

Next was a presentation by the Ector County Health Department Environmental Section, Brandy Garcia, RS, Jimmy Young, RS and Divina Bongo, RS.  All three presenters are  TEHA members, professional sanitarians and experts in the area of food safety.  Brandy provided an overview of an event that occurred at a local Mexican restaurant back in June 2016.

Jimmy and Divina also worked on the event and provided their perspective. In their presentation entitled “Salmonella Investigation 2016” they provided an overview of some of the inherent challenges, including testing of the employees for salmonella, and importantly how they updated their procedures to improve investigations in the future. Their conclusion was that because their office was not notified until 2 days following the event, they were unable to determine the exact cause of the outbreak because all of the food samples were already discarded because of the volume of food prepared. After conducting interviews with 70 employees and management they suspect that the cause was salmonella contaminated tomatoes in the salsa. Davina concluded their presentation by describing how they provided training for all of the employees prior to allowing reopening of the restaurant. A link to their presentation is below.

Gregg Olberts, RS, DR, CPO, Water Quality Program Manager with the Ector County Health Department, Environmental Section spoke on “Pool Safety.” Gregg gave an overview of his pool inspection program, pool chemistry and importance of Safety Vacuum Release System Devices that will sense blockages, such as a human body, and shut off suction within milliseconds.  He also provided 10 reasons he would close a pool, those include:

  1. Trained pool operator. Not having one.
  2. Fence and Gate. If it is damaged, not self-closing or self-latching
  3. Water Quality. Can’s see to the bottom of the pool.
  4. Operable 911 device.  Device is not present/operational and within 200 feet of the pool.
  5. Drain Covers.  Damaged, missing.
  6. Single Main Drain. With no operational safety vacuum release system device.
  7. Non-working Pump.
  8. No Disinfectant Residual. Requirements: Free Chlorine between 1-8 Parts per Million (PPM), 2-8 PPM for a spa.
  9. pH Concentration outside of normal range of 7.0-7.8 (lower is better)
  10. Cyanuraic Acid concentrations outside of normal range of <100 PPM

A link to his presentation is below.

After lunch and a brief chapter meeting by Shaun May, MPH, REHS, President of the Panhandle West Texas Chapter, we again welcoming Katelyn Kesheimer, Ph.D., Entomologist and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Agent with Texas A&M AgriLife for Lubbock and Crosby Counties.  Dr. Kesheimer was the special guest at a recent “Lunch and Learn” on May 2nd at TTUHSC in Lubbock.  Although her presentation spoke again on mosquito control, she went more into depth on scope of IPM, included control of roaches, mice/rats, and flies.

Her presentation discussed a simple concept for human life as well as life of pests.  We all need: Food, Water and Shelter.  Removing any one of these can eliminate or help control the pest. The IPM tactics for control then become the following:

  • Exclusion (pest-proofing your building)
  • Sanitation (eliminating thing insects need to survive) and
  • Monitoring (use of traps).

She went into depth in each area and provided pictures of each pest and methods for controls and elimination. A link to her presentation is below.

The next speaker was Katie Brice, Health Professional Senior Program Specialist, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) in Austin. She spoke about the new Sanitarian Licensing Rules.  Coming up in November sanitarians will no longer be licensed through the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) but will be licensed through the TDLR.  Her presentation gave professional sanitarians an update as to what to expect from this new licensing entity, and the online recertification process.  A link to her presentations are below.

To end our workshop, we had representatives from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  FSIS is the public health agency in the Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safely and correctly labeled and packaged.

Matt Goin is a Compliance and Investigations Division (CID) inspector in the DFW area.  He gave a presentation on the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection program. In his presentation he introduced his local team members, Javier Macias from the El Paso office, and Tom Griego from the Lubbock Office. Both Javier and Matt participated in the discussion and provided their insight on inspections in our area.  Matt was not able to provide a copy of his presentation for publication.

Presentation links:

On behalf of the Panhandle West Texas Chapter of TEHA, we would like to thank all of the speakers and participants.  We especially would like to thank Texas AgriLife for donating the use of their building and facilities for our event.


About our Speakers:

Steven Gates, LSW, is the Sr. Director for Workforce Education and Development for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa. He has also served as Senior Director of Human Resources at TTUHSC at the Permian Basin.  Steven is a recipient of the Chancellors Award, the highest level of service award given by TTUHSC.  His team, Workforce Education and Development, is nationally recognized for Innovation in Education by CUPA HR, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. He received his License in Social Work and certification in mediation from Texas Tech University.  He has 12 years of teaching experience in public education and is an associate minister of a local bi-lingual church in West Texas.  With over twenty years of experience in education and curriculum design, Steven has a passion for lifelong learning and utilizing education to provide people with tools to enhance their personal and professional lives.  Steven is a West Texas native and resides in Odessa.

Brandy Garcia is from east Texas and moved to the beautiful west Texas area in 1990 she has obtained a bachelor’s in health administration from the University of Phoenix, a master’s in public health from Grand Canyon University and currently finishing up a PhD in Psychology.  Brandy has been with the Ector County health department going on 3 years and holds a professional sanitarian and OSSF designated representative license.

Divina Bongo is from the Philippines; at the age of 16 she came here to attend college at Southern Illinois University. Divina has 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, and has been employed with the Ector county health department for 10 years.  She currently holds a professional sanitarian license and is an OSSF designated representative license, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

Jimmy Young, RS. No bio information available at publication.

Gregg Olberts joined the health department in 2009, after a career in environmental consulting.  He has learned and teaches swimming pool operations, obtained National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) Certified Pool Operator (CPO) status and became an NSPF Instructor in 2013.  One of his duties is to put on an annual “Pool School” for local pool operators.  He obtained a B.S. in Geological Engineering from a small college in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer is an Extension Agent-Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Lubbock and Crosby counties. Her goal is to help agricultural producers and homeowners achieve efficient, sustainable pest control though educational IPM programs. Katelyn has a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from Eastern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Kentucky. Her background is in conservation biological control of agricultural pests. Originally from Connecticut, she and her husband moved to Texas in 2016.

Katie Brice is a Senior Program Specialist with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).  Before starting at TDLR, Katie was the Executive Director for the State Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and the State Committee of Examiners in the Fitting and Dispensing of Hearing Instruments at Department of State Health Services. Katie has a degree in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.  Katie will be the Compliance Division lead for the Sanitarian program when it transfers to TDLR.

Matt Goin is the Compliance and Investigations Division (CID) Inspector with the USDA. He has worked with the agency for 9 years investigating violations of the food safety, food defense and consumer protection statutory requirements. He grew up in the DFW Metroplex area and attended Sam Houston State University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer speaks on Mosquito Management at “Lunch and Learn” May event
Posted - May 14, 2017

By Renee Witherspoon, CSP, CIH, CHMM, ASSE South Plains Chapter Past-President (2012-2015)

Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer speaking in Lubbock at a “Lunch and Learn” event hosted by TTUHSC.

On May 2, 2017 Katelyn Kesheimer, Ph.D., Extension Agent in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Lubbock and Crosby counties.  She was the special guest speaker at a “Lunch and Learn” hosted by TTUHSC Safety Services in Lubbock.  The event was TechLinked to TTUHSC locations in Abilene, Amarillo, Odessa and El Paso and open to the public.  Those in attendance received 1 hour of continuing education credit at no cost.

Her presentation began with a discussion on the basic principles of IPM. Stop pests before they become a problem while ensuring a minimal impact to the environment and human health.  She explained that food, water and shelter are not only the requirements for human life, but also for the pests.  The key being that we understand the life cycle, ecology and habitat of each pest so that we will know how to control the population.

In mosquito IPM there are multiple control tactics:

  • Eliminating breeding habitats
  • Biological Controls, and
  • Pesticide use

Dr. Kesheimer recommended that we focus on Continue Reading »

Allergy and Flu Season is Here
Posted - Apr 22, 2017

By: Renee Witherspoon, CSP, CIH, CHMM, South Plains Chapter President (2011-2016)

Allergy and flu season are upon us. Seasonal allergies affect more than 35 million Americans, with each season having different allergens.

Manage your symptoms

Seasonal allergies describe allergies that change with the seasons due to plant pollination.

For people with seasonal allergies, symptoms come and go with the pollination seasons of certain trees, grasses or weeds.  In our West Texas area, pollen counts from Mulberry, Oak and Cedar can increase this time of year. Pollen levels can vary day to day, depending upon several factors, including the weather. High pollen levels can, in turn, affect the severity of symptoms.  Find out your current allergy report at

So what can you do?

Continue Reading »

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