Ian Saxton: Inspecting a wide array of health concerns

Ian Sexton is an environmental public health specialist with the Cole County Health Department.

Ian Sexton is an environmental public health specialist with the Cole County Health Department. Photo by Julie Smith.

Ian Saxton loves that as an environmental public health specialist with the Cole County Health Department he’s not confined to a desk.

“My job is very hands on out in the community,” Saxton said. “I’m out and about quite a bit and I love it.”

The department has two environmental public health specialists, as well as a coordinator, who are part of the environmental health division. The specialists perform inspections relating to environmental health programs, such as water and sewage systems, food sanitation, food and waterborne disease prevention and outbreak investigation, child care facility sanitation and safety, and vector control.

Saxton attended Missouri Southern State University in Joplin on a football scholarship and graduated in December 2011. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Cole County Health Department.

He has a bachelor’s of science degree with an emphasis in environmental health. The university’s environmental health program is one of 31 accredited programs throughout the country.

Saxton completed two internships that qualified him for the specialist position, one at the Public Health Department in McDonald County and one with the United States Public Health Service, commissioned to the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference is “the traditional tribal consortium of the 42 villages of Interior Alaska.”

As part of his internship, Saxton checked the villages’ well water and wastewater systems. Because of Alaska’s frozen ground, most water must come from rivers. The villages must have treatment systems to make the water potable for drinking.

“My main job up there was water quality and wastewater control,” Saxton said. “I gained an immense amount of experience there.”

He said every day is different for him as an environmental public health specialist and he learns something new on the job every day.

“The knowledge you get while you’re out there is amazing,” Saxton said. “That’s pretty cool.”

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