BLS Featured CLSO: William Pate
1. Who are you?
William Pate, MPH, CIH, CSP, CHMM, CHSP, CPH, CLSO. I currently work as an Environmental Health & Safety Consultant in the Radiation Safety Program at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB). I am also an Instructor with Bowen EHS, LLC teaching CHMM Online Review Courses and developing an online Laser Safety Officer Review course that will make its debut this year.
2. What is your educational background?
I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2007 and my Masters of Public Health with a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Health Sciences from Florida International University in 2011. I am currently a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the University of Texas School of Public Health. In addition to being a Certified Laser Safety Officer, I am also a Certified Industrial Hygienist, a Certified Safety Professional, a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager, a Certified Healthcare Safety Professional, and Certified in Public Health.
3. Where do you work?
My primary responsibilities with UTMB are in Galveston, TX. But we are a rapidly growing organization with clinics throughout Galveston County and a future hospital to be opened in League City. Bowen EHS, LLC is based out of Chapel Hill, NC, but because of the online nature of the courses I teach, I’m able to interact with people all across the globe.
4. When did you start working with lasers?/ How long have you worked with lasers?
I began working with lasers in 2006 as an undergraduate research associate at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. I was involved in research to determine the impact of alcohol and reactive oxygen species generation on the motility of mitochondria in neurons. Part of my responsibilities involved performing live cell imaging using a laser scanning confocal microscope. This was my first introduction to laser safety and the hands-on use of a high-power laser system. After I left research and entered environmental health & safety, I transitioned from a laser user to someone responsible for ensuring laser safety.
5. How did you become the LSO?
I have never held the official title of Laser Safety Officer (in Texas, the LSO is a regulatory title that is usually concurrently held by the facility’s Radiation Safety Officer), but I have served as the primary individual responsible for Laser Safety Program development and implementation. I started serving in that capacity at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio when I began working in the Radiation Safety Division of Environmental Health & Safety. The laser safety program was something that had been on the backburner for several years, the laser safety manual needed revision, training needed to be updated, and a comprehensive laser safety evaluation system needed to be developed. My boss at the time gave me the responsibility for getting our organization up-to-date with laser safety, so I jumped in head first and have been enjoying it ever since at each of my subsequent employers.
6. Do you like being the LSO?/Challenges of “today’s” MLSO?
I do enjoy my laser safety work. Working at an academic healthcare organization, there is a wide range of different laser users and uses across our organization. From home-built lasers in our biomedical engineering department to FDA-approved lasers being used in the ORs, there are always unique challenges facing us to ensure our employees and the public are kept safe. Luckily, this helps prevent the job from getting monotonous, which makes me enjoy it even more.
7. How has becoming certified helped/benefited you in your career?
At several of my organizations, I have been the only Certified Laser Safety Officer. My colleagues and customers have recognized the value of the CLSO certification and have on many occasions sought me out for guidance. I feel that getting certified helps to lend more credibility to my recommendations. Many of my colleagues have recognized the positive impact that certification can have to their professional career and they have either sought or plan to seek certification in the near future. I encourage my colleagues to work towards certification and to get active in the ANSI Z136 committee process. I believe strongly in encouraging professional development and supporting future and current safety professionals with their professional development goals. To this end, I am very excited to have an opportunity to develop an online Laser Safety Officer Review course through Bowen EHS, LLC. My hope is to encourage new and existing LSOs to take the plunge, study, and become a Certified Laser Safety Officer! With the dramatic increase in laser use and proliferation of high powered lasers, having qualified and competent Laser Safety Officers is vital, and become a CLSO has helped me demonstrate this to my employers.