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Promoting Public Health in Nepal

BYU professor Dr. Steve Thygerson promotes public health among the people of Nepal

Up in the hills of Dhulikhel, Nepal, 20 kilometers east of Kathmandu, resides BYU professor Dr. Steve Thygerson. Thousands of miles away from Provo, Dr. Thygerson chose to use his sabbatical to conduct research and promote public health among the people of Nepal.

Specifically, his research includes investigating the links between respiratory illnesses among brick kiln workers and exposure to airborne particulates, including silica. His research is part of a larger study initiated by the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s International Affairs Committee and a non-profit organization, Workplace Health Without Borders.

Additionally, Dr. Thygerson teaches three classes on occupational health and toxicology. Throughout the entire country of Nepal, there is one occupational physician and fewer than 5 occupational health professionals. Because of this, Dr. Thygerson says, “Our goal is to develop the occupational health workforce here in Nepal. I teach 75 fourth year medical students, 18 RNs, and 25 undergraduates in environmental health. Hopefully some of these students catch the vision of how important occupational health is and then desire to do it for a living.”

Dr. Thygerson says he’s also enjoying the culture of Nepal with his family. He reports that he’s grown to love daal bhat (similar to lentil soup eaten with rice) and momos (water buffalo or chicken dumplings). Also, he says, the best part of his day is the commute to and from work, which is one mile of walking through the rice paddies to get to the university.

His family also loves Nepal, especially attending church. Dr. Thygerson says they’ve met wonderful people from all around the world, including several from Germany. They’ve also travelled to several monasteries, temples, and they plan to do two safaris at the national park and a week on the Annapurna Mountain Circuit trekking from teahouse to teahouse.

Of his experience, Dr. Thygerson says, “I really wish I could bring students here, but this country is on the restricted list. Not sure why exactly, perhaps that can change in the future. These people readily great you with ‘namaste’ and big, cheeky grins. Nepal is defined as a wonderful people with a rich heritage and culture.”

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Written by Lindsey Trendler

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