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Feasting

It has been a busy week as I prepare to make the trek home from Santa Fe, NM to Colorado next Friday. Yesterday I went with the four other environmental health officers from the Santa Fe Service Unit up to Nambe Pueblo to talk to one of the Community Health Representatives (CHR) there. The CHRs do a ton of work with the community to ensure that health initiatives are in place and are successful. In Nambe, they worked on a very successful community intervention for fall protection – primarily targeting seniors and those with disabilities – that was actually a topic for a poster presentation at NEHA’s conference this summer. The CHR we spoke with explained how she and the other people involved were able to collaborate and network with other entities to find the funding and put environmental controls in place to prevent falls. It was really encouraging to hear about a very successful intervention, and I learned a lot about the process for implementation. We also were able to propose the idea of starting as asthma program in the community and talk a little bit about some of the materials I have been working on. After our meeting we went to check out a mold issue in a house on one of the reservations and offer advice to remediate it and limit the hazard.

Today I was able to attend another feast! This was a particularly large feast in Santo Domingo (Kewa), with plenty of temporary food vendors to survey, carnival rides, and dances. Our whole office went out so we were able to finish up the surveys relatively quickly and feast at a couple of different houses. I am really going to miss the people in the communities I’ve been working with and all the homemade green and red chili.

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FDA Training and More Food

This week I was able to work on a variety of things, most of them having to do with food. On Monday, I went down to Albuquerque and then off to Laguna to survey food stands at their feast day. Feasts are always a good way to start of the week because who doesn’t enjoy some homemade green chili? On Wednesday and Thursday I attended a FDA training focusing on food inspections for temporary food vendors. The training was primarily lecture based with some group activities. The most interesting presentation highlighted the strategy the state of New Mexico uses to inspect temporary events. I learned about an event they have every year in January – The Matanza. The Matanza is a social gathering in which live pigs are butchered and their parts are cooked up and served to the public to judge for best taste. There’s obviously many food safety issues with this type of celebration, but the state has made some improvements – putting foil under the hanging hides used for chicharones and replacing old wooden tables with smooth plastic tables for the butchering. Today I was able to inspect some food booths at the Teseque Flea Market, which was really fun because we were able to do a little shopping after we finished our surveys. I’m looking forward to dinner at my supervisor’s house tonight and white water rafting in Taos tomorrow!

Food Handlers Training

This morning I had my first chance to give a food handlers training. It is required to attend the training to learn about food safety and pass a food handlers test in order to sell on tribal lands, so we get a lot of requests for these trainings. The training is about an hour and a half long – the longest presentation I’ve ever had to give. The presentation went well and all ten people passed the test, so I was happy about that!

Earlier in the week, my coworkers and I were able to meet with a pubic health nurse and discuss collaborating on piloting an asthma program in one or two of the pueblos we serve. It was really interesting to hear her perspectives, and get an idea of what role public health nurses play in the community. I’ve also been working on a lot of food survey reports and I’m getting to know the FDA food code quite intimately. As my internship end day approaches – only 3 more weeks! – I’m starting to wrap up a lot of projects and I’m definitely keeping busy. This weekend I’m looking forward to swimming at Nambe Falls and watching the chicken pull at Santo Domingo Pueblo!

Little Beaver Celebration

What a weekend! I was a little closer to home this weekend – staying in Pagosa Springs, CO and working in Dulce, NM at the Little Beaver Celebration hosted by the Jicarilla Apache. My fellow intern and I were responsible for surveying all the temporary food vendors at the celebration on our own. This ended up being quite the undertaking as there were about 35 food vendors scattered near the parade route, pow wow grounds, rodeo arena, and carnival. We split up the work, each surveying about half of the vendors. It was exciting to take on such a big responsibility, and I enjoyed talking with the vendors – I think the fact that the IHS is non-regulatory always puts the vendors a little more at ease. When we came back on Sunday morning after a relaxing night enjoying the hot springs, much of the food vendors had left. This was probably a good thing since the only local supermarket had run out of ice and it would have been difficult for many of the vendors to keep their raw foods cold enough to prevent bacterial growth! After our work was done we were able to admire the dancing and all the regalia worn be the dancers. I learned that any eagle feathers worn must be ordered from the federal government, sent on dry ice, and they typically take years to come in.

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Taos Pow Wow

This weekend I got to go to the Taos Pow Wow! The Pow Wow was held on the Taos Pueblo, with a grassy area for dancing surrounded by towering mountains. There were tribal members from across the United States and Canada that traveled to participate in the celebration. It truly was a celebration, with elaborate costumes, beautiful dances, people selling handcrafted goods, and food vendors – which is why I got to go. This was my first time surveying temporary food vendors. Although there are definitely different challenges with temporary food vendors versus permanent vendors, the food safety concepts we focused on were the same – employee hygiene, cooking and holding temperatures, and cross contamination issues. I was able to take the lead on the surveys and talk to the vendors to understand their processes, take temperatures, look around their stands, and make recommendations while my supervisor looked on and helped me when I had questions. The Pow Wow was a great learning opportunity, and after all the work was done I had the chance to walk around looking at booths and watch the dances, which were truly spectacular. Since my parents were down in New Mexico visiting me for the weekend, I also got to walk around the city of Taos, drive out to see the Rio Grande Gorge, and visit the Puye Cliffs with them. New Mexico is such a beautiful state, with so much to see and do!

Unfortunately, I didn’t buy a photo permit at the Pow Wow, but I did take some non-work related pictures of the Rio Grand Gorge and Puye Cliffs.

Today was a little less exciting but I got some good feedback on what I’ve been working on. Chelsey (my fellow EH intern) and I have been developing educational materials on asthma for the community and a survey to gage how people understand the burden of asthma in the pueblos. Hopefully before the summer ends (only a month left!) we’ll get to administer the surveys and test out the effectiveness of our educational materials.

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Lead and Other Fun Stuff

After a very relaxing holiday weekend back in Colorado, I drove the 6 hours down to Santa Fe to get back to my internship. Yesterday, Chelsey (my fellow EH intern/roommate) and I finished up the preliminary draft of the document that will be used in the Albuquerque Area IHS communities for people to easily identify and learn what to do with products that have been recalled due to lead contamination. It was very gratifying to finish the draft of such a huge document – over 100 pages long!

Today I was able to go on my third food survey, a convience store/cafe. The last time this particular establishment had been surveyed, they had had many problems with food safety – improper storage, improper cooling procedures, lack of sanitization, etc. – but when we went today the situation was much improved and there were very few problems. Having such responsiveness and improvement over a year’s time was really encouraging to see. I also sat in on a conference call with people from the Albuquerque Area in which new research/ relevant information to the IHS EH program was discussed. One thing that was brought up and I thought was particularly interesting was that there was a study done in Oklahoma that was able to determine the source of lead (paint, ceramics, etc) in blood by looking at the different lead isotopes present. There is always so much new information in the environmental health field to learn about!

Below I finally got around to posting some pictures taken during rabies vaccination clinics that I’ve worked at a couple of different pueblos over the past few weeks.

Food, Food, Food

I got some really good food safety experience today. I went along on a food safety training session for food vendors that work on reservation lands. I think the people that work on Native American lands are more educated in food safety than people who just work out in the community because in order to sell, each person must have a card verifying that they attended a food handler’s training and passed the associated quiz. I know I didn’t get this kind of training when I worked at Subway in high school. Later in the afternoon I tagged along on a food survey (inspection but non-regulatory) at the small restaurant on the Santa Clara Pueblo’s golf course; the golf course was nestled in between hills and was easily the most beautiful course I’ve ever seen! The restaurant was run very well and I could tell the management would really strive to implement all the recommendations that we gave. It was so encouraging to see such a good relationship between someone coming in to look at food safety and the people that ran the restaurant! I’m learning so much and having taken microbiology classes has really given me a good understanding of why certain food safety practices should be in place.