Ken Tuckwell, CHIP mentor, inspires study of environment

By Alissa Siegenthaler, Wisconsin AHEC statewide communications assistant

MADELINE ISLAND – With Ken Tuckwell’s lead, the Ashland County Health Department contributes in preserving the beautiful beaches and nature of Madeline Island.

And Ken Tuckwell, head of the environmental health division for Ashland County, in turn relies on AHEC interns to maintain the health safety levels of Madeline Island.

Tuckwell is the only registered sanitarian working for Ashland County and is responsible for the county’s restaurant and retail food inspections, environmental concerns, and the drinking water laboratories.

During the summer months, Tuckwell, with the help of an AHEC intern, samples over 250 wells on Madeline Island and inspects the tourist rooming houses.

“The island has around 100 various tourist rooming houses, most of which are seasonal, opening in May and closing in October. All of those rentals are required to be inspected each year and have an annual SAFE water test. The vast majority of that work is accomplished by our AHEC intern under my training, help, and guidance,” Tuckwell reports.

This year, he also assigned his AHEC intern to do beach sampling at Big Bay State Park in Madeline Island, a procedure that was formerly done through the state but recently cut from funding. This experience introduced Ashland County’s 2013 AHEC intern, Jessica Duma, not only to water sampling but also to testing of the water at the Northland College lab.

Ken says the AHEC internship program has provided invaluable assistance to the Ashland County Health department. Until 2010, Ashland County funded an environmental internship program but was no longer able to afford it. At that time, Ken discovered AHEC and the opportunity to apply for funding through the summer CHIP internship program.

Based on his personal internship experience with the State of Wisconsin in 2002 while he was finishing his master’s degree, Ken initiated the internship program at Ashland County because he believes that a small county health department can offer more experiences for students and provide them with a broader idea of what can be done with their degree.

“Depending on the interests of the particular intern, I try to expose them to restaurant inspections, temporary food events, swimming pool inspections, campground inspections and plan review, retail food inspections, human health hazard violations, dirty house problems, lead paint cases, and anything else that may come up in a small rural health department. Needless to say, it is a very busy eight weeks for them,” Ken said.