Dr. Shalaka Kotkar recently was named director of Environmental and Laboratory Safety at Baylor. Learn more about her and the role of the office in this Q&A.
What is the role of BCM’s Office of Environmental and Laboratory Safety?
Put simply, we exist to help people go home as healthy and safe as when they arrive on campus each day. We are here to assist the BCM family in accomplishing their and BCM’s goals of improving health through science, scholarship and innovation.
What are your goals as director?
My goal is to provide the support, tools and resources to my team to accomplish their tasks and goals, which range from fit testing individuals on N95s, to getting rid of radioactive waste, to overseeing the safety of more than 2,000 research labs through surveillance and protocol reviews here at Baylor.
How has the Office been impacted by the pandemic?
The biggest impact has been how our office has had to increase our fit testing capabilities. In a normal year, we would fit test around 500 personnel on N95s; however, last year we fit tested over 1,000 individuals during the first two months of the pandemic. In addition, the Office of Environmental Safety conducted more than 5,400 routine “all hands on deck” surveys of laboratories across campus when Baylor curtailed laboratory activities at the beginning of the pandemic.
What do you want faculty and staff at Baylor to know about the Office of Environmental Safety?
To start with, I want everyone at Baylor to know we are here to help. They can contact our office about any safety or compliance issue they have in their classroom, laboratory or clinic. We are here to assist and not to police issues.
What is your favorite thing about working at Baylor College of Medicine and in your Office?
Baylor has been a great place to work. There is so much fascinating research being done here and it is amazing to be a part of. Also, it is such a privilege to work for a large organization that still feels like a small family.
What is your professional background / experience?
I graduated with my Ph.D. in microbiology from Purdue after which I received a Master of Public Health from UTHealth. From there, I moved into the field of biosafety and accepted a position at UTHealth (just across the street). I was there for almost seven years when I moved over here to Baylor to take on the role of the biosafety officer prior to becoming the director of OES.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Outside of work, I am constantly trying to keep up with my two kids, husband and our dog Rex. We love to travel, hike and explore new areas. When at home, I enjoy reading and trying new recipes.
Anything else you want to add?
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