Meet the Scientist – Jennifer LykePosted on by
The NCEH/ATSDR “Meet the Scientist” series provides insight into the work the talented people who are working to keep you safe and secure from things in the environment that threaten our nation’s health
For three decades, scientists at CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have kept America safe from hazards in the environment. For example, scientists at ATSDR have worked in more than 900 communities across the nation to assess and explain the health risks involved in exposures to hazardous substances and to educate communities so they can keep families safe. Read on to learn more about ATSDR Region Six Representative Jennifer Lyke. She has received multiple awards for her regional work, including an ATSDR Leadership in Public Health award in 2005 and an EPA National Achievement Award (Bronze medal) in 2009.
Path to Public Health
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)
CERCLA, also known as Superfund, is the federal law that concerns the removal or cleanup of hazardous substances in the environment and at hazardous waste sites.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Jennifer Lyke graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of North Texas. About her path to public health, Jennifer said, “Long story short – a summer-hire
job. While in college, I worked two different summer-hire jobs for the Department of Health and Human Services. The second was for ATSDR. When I graduated, there were hiring freezes throughout the federal government for the positions (federal enforcement) that I was most qualified for, so when I was offered a position with ATSDR, I thought, hey, why not?” Well, 25 years later, I’m still here! I can thank supervisors who encouraged and challenged me!”
Leadership Award Recipient
As mentioned previously, Jennifer is a past recipient of a Leadership in Public Health award for excellence in public health improvement and program advancement for her efforts at the Tar Creek Superfund site. ATSDR has worked in collaboration with EPA at the Tar Creek Superfund site since the mid-1990s. ATSDR ’s early work helped bring attention to the work of Indian Health Services and the elevated blood lead levels in the children around the site. The contamination at the site resulted from past mining activities. “That was an important step in getting us to where we are now, with Congress approving and funding a buy-out of a portion of the community and large-scale residential cleanups to reduce lead exposures. ATSDR continues to address community concerns at the site,” Jennifer said.
Other than her work with Tar Creek, Jennifer has worked on long-term team projects including methyl parathion and ASARCO-El Paso. She often participates in community health education efforts with the Texas Department of State Health Services in some of the larger areas that are impacted by hazardous waste sites.
Most Rewarding About Her Work
Here’s what Jennifer finds most rewarding about her work: “I enjoy working with people the most. From working with ATSDR scientists, to talking with communities, to working with the state health departments, and networking with other agencies – that’s what it’s all about.”
Activities/Events Enjoyed Outside Work
When not about the business of helping communities, Jennifer enjoys spending quality time with her family. She has a son who will be a junior in high school and plays baseball, and a daughter going into 8th grade who plays volleyball. “My husband and I stay very busy keeping up with their schedules. We figure when they are away at college, we can get back to doing personal hobbies. For me, that’s scrapbooking and cross-stitch. I am an avid Texas Rangers fan (even when they’re losing) and love watching baseball and football.”
Hope you enjoyed reading about Jennifer Lyke. Interested in other Meet the Scientist conversations and NCEH/ATSDR accomplishments? Visit the NCEH/ATSDR Your Health, Your Environment blog!