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Palak Raval-Nelson, MPH, PhD (Candidate)

Assistant Chief

Office of Food Protection

Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Philadelphia, PA 19104


Palak Raval-Nelson has been with the Environmental Health Services Unit of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health for almost eleven years.  She started out as a Sanitarian in 1996 and she has rapidly progressed in responsibility to become the first woman to hold the position of Environmental Health Program Manager or Assistant Chief. In her role as the Assistant Chief, Palak is responsible for the Plan Review Unit, special events and a variety of other Office of Food Protection programs. Palak has received the AFDO Achievement award for her work as a Sanitarian.


Palak also serves as adjunct faculty at Drexel University's School of Public Health and teaches Environmental and Occupational Health.  She has presented many papers at both PPHA and APHA and has had several publications in the National Journal of Environmental Health.  She is also Vice President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials and Editor of their newsletter.


Palak has a BS in Biology from Temple University and her MPH from MCP Hahnemann University graduating with the distinguished Hiega Society Award. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Environmental Health and Policy at Drexel University.  She was recognized in 2006 by the Society of Women Environmental Professionals as an outstanding woman environmental professional for the Delaware Valley.

Leadership Development Opportunities

It is hard for me to believe that the year is almost over; I remember not too long ago working on my application for EPHLI and dreaming about being a part of the Institute.  For me Environmental Public Health is my life's calling and having the opportunity to attend EPHLI has been a dream come true. 


Though I have spent a decade working in the Environmental Public Health field and many years expanding my educational horizons, it was not until EPHLI that I was able to define "leadership" in the context of this field. EPHLI has not only defined leadership in Environmental Public Health, but also given me the opportunity to meet and work with individuals that are leaders in this field.  I have been able to conduct a thorough self assessment using various tools to determine the gaps I need to fill to emerge as a leader in this filed.  I have also been equipped with tools like Systems Thinking and communication techniques, such as Verbal Judo; that help me to evaluate environmental problems and motivate stakeholders and partners to form collaborative solutions. 


Most of all I have met and worked with the current leaders in this field and gained knowledge and wisdom from them; learned from the instructors, presenters, mentors, and other fellows to have hope for this field; and that I should continue to "plant acorns" even if the trees and eventual forest are not yet visible.