The words “chemical safety” conjure up negative images of hazmat suits and flashing warning lights for some. But thanks to one dedicated UT Health San Antonio staff member, no one has to witness such a frightening sight.
Meet Rebecca Bloodworth, chemical safety manager at UT Health San Antonio. Bloodworth and her team of three specialists are responsible for chemical safety at UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine, Medical Arts & Research Center, Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute, Texas Research Park, UT Health Hill Country, UT Health Laredo, and Mays Cancer Center. “We meet with every laboratory technician, researcher and faculty member from clinics, research labs, and classrooms at UT Health San Antonio. Our division ensures that all chemical safety standards and regulations are met every day,” she said.
Bloodworth is a Texas native who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of the Incarnate Word and a master’s in public health from UT Health Houston. “I majored in biology so I could attend medical school, but life happens,” she said.
She got married and started to raise a family right after college graduation. In 1989, Bloodworth shifted her career focus and started to work as a research assistant in the Department of Pathology at UT Health San Antonio with Linda McManus, Ph.D. While she worked as a research assistant, Bloodworth gained valuable experience in running a research laboratory. She credits her supervisor and colleagues for her success as a research assistant. “Working at the laboratory, you often feel isolated in the setting. But I really like the fact that everyone at UT Health San Antonio made every experience like I was part of a community,” she said.
In 2002, Bloodworth transferred to the Environmental Health and Safety department as a Chemical Safety Specialist, where she started to conduct laboratory evaluations on 500 labs at UT Health San Antonio. Two decades later, Bloodworth and her team inspect a staggering 1,500 labs annually. She believes that without the help and support of an amazing staff, she would not have been able to meet such rigorous demands of the university. She is especially proud of her team’s ongoing efforts to eliminate chemical accidents. “UT Health San Antonio used to have 30 to 40 chemical spills a year. Now that number is down to four to five spills at the entire campus,” said Bloodworth. “It’s all about teamwork. I can’t take all the credit.”
Bloodworth is also proud of personal achievement during her career at UT Health San Antonio. “The Environmental Health and Safety department had weekly chemical safety training with all the laboratory and house cleaning personnel. But I’m a very shy person who was not a great public speaker,” she said. While taking public speaking classes at UT Health in Houston, she had to watch herself presenting on a video and eventually was able to overcome her challenges in public speaking.
Now, she even manages to break the ice with the participants at a major training session: “I want everyone to go home at the end of the day with all 10 fingers and 10 toes intact, so please listen carefully,” she says with a smile.
Despite her soft-spoken nature, Bloodworth became a passionate leader who dedicated her career to ensuring the safety and well-being of others. Her relentless dedication and attention to detail have allowed us to discover, innovate and advance at UT Health San Antonio. Safety isn’t just a job for Rebecca Bloodworth, but a way of life to make everyone’s lives better.