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Jumpstarting a career dedicated to keeping workers healthy

School of Public Health graduate student Grant Bergeron is set to enter his chosen profession proactively safeguarding workers’ overall health
Grant Bergeron

Grant Bergeron ’24 didn’t think twice about the physical mechanics of pitching for his high school baseball team. But then a hamstring injury sidelined him during his senior season, leading the then-teenager to work with an athletic trainer to recuperate. That experience gave Bergeron a real appreciation for what the body can do—and sparked a deep desire to pursue a career where he could help people maintain their physical health.

Now, thanks to Texas A&M University School of Public Health’s occupational health and safety coursework, the master’s student is being prepared to take a proactive approach to safeguarding employees’ overall health.

“With physical therapy, you’re seeing people post-injury or post-incident. Something happened and you’re putting these exercises or routines in place to get that person back to a somewhat normal state,” Bergeron said. “With ergonomics, you attack more of the root cause of something happening—so you’re the first line of defense. You see what’s happening in an occupational setting and can eliminate that from happening at all.”

Making adjustments

The native of Houma, Louisiana, initially enrolled in Nicolls State University planning to major in business. However, he found that he wasn’t passionate about that career path, so Bergeron transferred to Louisiana State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. Initially interested in a career in allied health­—which focuses on the identification, diagnostic evaluation and treatment of acute and chronic diseases and disorders—Bergeron decided to shift his career direction again before starting physical therapy school.

Unsure where to turn, Bergeron applied to and was selected for an internship with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, California. The internship introduced him to the field of ergonomics. His work focused on workers’ health in an office setting, requiring him to learn to identify and correct structures or behaviors that, if left unaddressed, would lead to health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back pain.

“I would make adjustments to the workstation, the chair height or posture while the workers were sitting,” he said. “I might change some of the equipment, such as a keyboard or mouse, that they were interacting with to correct their posture or the repetitive motion that was part of the job.”

He quickly discovered that ergonomics complemented his undergraduate studies. “Ergonomics is occupation biomechanics—how does the body move with the environment,” he said.

Coming to Texas

The internship whetted Bergeron’s desire to diversify his knowledge and skills. That led him to consider attending graduate school, and the list of possible programs included the School of Public Health. A campus visit to Aggieland—which included a meeting and lunch with Texas A&M Ergonomics Center Director Mark Benden, PhD, and Project Manager Martha Parker and School of Public Health Graduate Program Manager Dennis Johnson, a tour of the campus, and a visit to research labs—sealed his decision.

“They really showed a vested interest in me and my future,” the graduate student said. “They went above and beyond in making me feel at home, which cemented that Texas A&M was the place for me to be.”

Bergeron has been very pleased with his decision. In addition to learning cutting-edge coursework from top faculty, Bergeron was one of the School of Public Health master’s students selected to participate in a prestigious National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health traineeship. As a result, Bergeron receives financial support that covers his tuition, offsets some of his living expenses, and allows him to attend conferences and other learning experiences.

“Texas A&M looks out for the student interests, because graduate education is expensive,” he said. “I’m 28 so graduate school might not have been an option if I didn’t have this NIOSH traineeship as part of my education at Texas A&M. I’m able to get through this program and graduate school debt-free. I’m not worried about my financial situation during graduate school at all—and I’m really set up for the future.”

Additionally, this opportunity allowed him to apply his growing knowledge and skillset on industry projects, such as noise sampling in an oil and gas company and an ergonomics assessment of an automotive assembly line.

“It’s good to be able to put this traineeship on your resume or application going forward,” he said. “These experiences set you apart from other applicants, especially as a young professional in the industry.”

Engaging with industry

Bergeron also appreciates other opportunities he has had to engage with industry while in school. He currently serves as president of Texas A&M’s student chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals, which promotes networking, best industry practices, and promotion of the field’s innovations and technological advances, such as artificial intelligence or exoskeletons.

“The student chapter at A&M consists of a population of more early-career, young professionals,” he said. “Our scope is focused on networking and learning safety culture and practice from our industry partners, which include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, Entergy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Boeing, Mortenson, and ISN, to name a few.”

As part of his coursework, Bergeron had the opportunity to intern with Chevron’s midstream operations. This summer internship gave Bergeron valuable experience in doing industrial hygiene sampling for noise and air quality. He also assisted with updating the company’s emergency management plans and did a database analysis to ensure that contractors were properly using the company’s safeguards and controls.

That internship also put Bergeron firmly on Chevron’s radar. After graduation, he will join the company’s office in Midland, Texas, as a workforce safety specialist. His responsibilities will involve conducting incident investigations to identify the root cause, analyze what happened and determine how the company can minimize or eliminate the hazard or risk in the future.

Bergeron believes his promising future in occupational health and safety is due to Texas A&M’s School of Public Health.

“If someone is interested in studying public health, the faculty and staff here are fantastic. It’s such an open-door environment and it feels like a family,” he said. “The first week I got here, we were being prepared for a career fair, internships and jobs. I thought the Aggie Network was a myth, coming from LSU, but as soon as you get here, you’re getting to network with major organizations. If someone is looking to upstart their career, develop or further their skills, or is interested in learning more, this is a great place to be for those opportunities.”

Media contact: Dee Dee Grays, grays@tamu.edu, 979.436.0611

Dorian Martin

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