CTEH Spotlight: Kelly Scribner Tuttle, Ph.D
Kelly Scribner, PhD, has extensive experience in the fields of human and environmental toxicology; mechanistic toxicology; cell and systems biology and cancer research. We recently had the chance to learn about Dr. Scribner’s role as a toxicologist and how she’s helping build CTEH’s presence in the Dallas-Forth Worth area:
You received your bachelor’s degree in veterinary and biomedical science. What encouraged you to pursue a master’s in toxicology and a career in this field?
During my last year of college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I took a Pharmacology / Toxicology course and immediately fell in love with the topic. I’ve always liked science, and toxicology was a perfect mix—combining biology, microbiology, chemistry and other fields. So, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. at Texas A&M. Mike Berg, PhD, CIH, CSP, my current colleague and graduate school friend, later introduced me to CTEH. I applied for a toxicology position and have been a member of the team now for three and a half years.
In addition to specializing in toxicology, risk assessment and emergency response, you participate in the Toxicology Emergency Response Program (TERP) and Worker Exposure Response Program (WERP). What does this entail?
As a responding toxicologist for TERP, I travel nationwide, and sometimes globally, to respond to chemical emergencies. I help design sampling and analyses plans and work with a team of environmental scientists to conduct air monitoring, sampling and other safety procedures. Once the data comes in, I work with regulators, as well as local, state and federal government entities, to interpret the results and ensure the appropriate steps are taken.
WERP is a worker exposure hotline that is staffed 24-hours a day by a Ph.D. toxicologist. When a worker is exposed to a chemical such as diesel exhaust, fire smoke or other chemicals, I provide the manager and worker with information about the chemical (i.e., what it is, its everyday uses) and answer any questions they might have. If they are seeking medical attention, I call the hospital or physician to give details on the chemicals and, if needed, the necessary testing and treatment methods. Our occupational health nurse then follows up with the worker to see if they have any additional concerns.
From mercury contamination to diesel exhaust exposure, you’ve conducted research on a wide range of topics. How does this research benefit CTEH and its clients?
A lot of my current research is based on what I encounter in the field or during day-to-day projects including unanswered questions about human health or unique conditions related to chemicals, workplace scenarios or exposures. These windows of need give me—and others in the field—the opportunity to collaborate with regulators, Unified Command and colleagues to grow our knowledge base, improve responses to chemical emergencies and promote safe-working practices to better protect human health and the environment.
You are an active member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Specialties. Are you a part of any other professional or community organizations?
I’m a proud member of SOT and the Lone Star Regional Chapter. Each year, I join hundreds of toxicologists at the Annual Meeting and ToxExpo to present research, form collaborations and hear updates from others in the field. I’m also a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) North Texas Chapter, which is composed of commercial, industrial and academic industrial hygiene professionals. Both SOT and AIHA are a great way to support the next generation of scientific leaders through education and training.