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ERHS professor helps students achieve full potential

January 22, 2010

The door to Dr. David Gilkey's office is always open and you can usually find one, or two, or a few students coming to give Gilkey an update on their progress, news of how they did on a particularly challenging exam, or to share a great internship experience they had over the summer. Like the Pied Piper, Gilkey draws students in and along to explore their passions in environmental health not through the power of music, but through the power of empowerment.

Common sense advice to students

Associate Professor David Gilkey was honored as the 2009 Outstanding Academic Advisor for Undergraduate Education in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

One of the first things that Gilkey tells his undergraduate students is that school is their job and needs to be treated as such. They should “work” 40 to 50 hours a week to be successful, and balance their lives:

  • social time with family and friends
  • volunteering in their communities
  • establishing healthy life practices, including exercise, adequate sleep, and a nutritious diet

Such common-sense advice, along with an innate desire to help students achieve their full potential academically, personally, and professionally, garnered Gilkey the 2009 Outstanding Academic Advising Award for Undergraduate Education in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

It is a well-deserved honor, noted Jac Nickoloff, head of the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.

Positive influence

“It really is amazing how many undergraduate students came to major in environmental health because of the counsel and positive influence of Dr. Gilkey,” said Nickoloff. "Through his EH 220 seminar course, or through referrals from other academic advisers, he is always there as a mentor and guide, helping students figure out their passions.”

Dr. Gilkey, along with EH undergraduate adviser Erin Reichert, advises students on multiple academic levels including:

  • developing a balanced schedule and workload
  • exploration and “passion finding”
  • providing a conduit to on- and off-campus resources
  • helping students detect, discover, and make inquiries
  • providing guidance in helping to make good life choices

Tools for success in life

“Young people have too much coming at them, and I find a lot of joy in helping them sort through all that information, and helping them develop the tools they need for success in life,” said Gilkey, who is an associate professor and director of Undergraduate Education for ERHS.

“From career fairs, to interview practices, and communicating with faculty members, I hope to impart the idea to our students that 80 percent of good things come from the relationships you form with others.”

Advocate for students to gain practical experience

He is particularly proud of how undergraduates are making their mark in faculty research laboratories in the department where they gain practical experience while developing a better understanding of life in a laboratory.

“There was some concern that the undergraduate students wouldn’t be mature enough, but what we are finding is that the laboratory experience helps them connect what they learn in the classroom to what they will be doing in real life, and helps connect students to their areas of passion,” said Gilkey. “Our faculty members now appreciate the work ethic and desire undergraduates bring, and it’s so rewarding to be a part of that.”

Advising, teaching, human health research

Dr. Gilkey received his Ph.D. in industrial hygiene and ergonomics from Colorado State University, his M.S. in environmental policy management from the University of Denver, and his Doctor of Chiropractic from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic.

In addition to an active advising and teaching role in the department, Dr. Gilkey’s research interests include:

  • environmental and occupational human health
  • complementary and alternative human health
  • construction safety and ergonomics
  • back pain and musculoskeletal pain syndromes among workers

Originally published in the Winter 2010 ERHS Emitter newsletter.