Dr. Pokhrel Inducted Into 23rd Educators Hall of Fame

As a seasoned educator and researcher who brought decades of teaching experience to East Carolina University (ECU) to support the newly established Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) Environmental and Occupation and Health (EOH) program, Dr. Lok Pokhrel has been inducted into East Carolina University’s 23rd Educators Hall of Fame.

The Educators Hall of Fame is a way the College of Education and the College of Education’s Professional Advisory Board have chosen to permanently honor professionals who have made distinguished contributions to the field of education. Members of ECU faculty, alumni, and friends have been instrumental in creating the Educators Hall of Fame and its affiliated scholarship fund.

For Dr. Pokhrel, the Hall of Fame induction affirmed a career decision he made soon after completing 10th grade in Nepal. Growing up in a lower-middle class family, he soon realized the need to support his family financially and the only option for him was to be a private tutor. He would teach kids in his village during the mornings and evenings, while attending the college himself during the day. Soon he was invited to teach Science and Math at a local private school, where he served for eight years; the last two years in the role of Vice Principal. Then in 2003, he joined the most prestigious school in Nepal, Budhanilkantha School, as a Zoology lecturer and taught biology for Cambridge University’s A-level students as well as at the secondary (9th and 10th grades) and higher secondary (11th and 12th grades) levels. All this happened amidst the decade long Maoist insurgency and civil war when teachers were predominantly targeted. With 14 years of teaching experience and a master’s degree (Zoology) from Nepal, he then decided to emigrate to United States in 2007 in pursuit of further education and training. He received his second master’s (2009) and a PhD (2013), both from East Tennessee State University, where he continued his passion for teaching as a graduate teaching assistant. Soon after graduation, he joined the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Ecological Systems Division (PESD) Laboratory under the National Academy of Sciences’ Research Associateship program, a highly prestigious and competitive scholarship, and served as a resident expert in Nanotoxicology. The following year, Dr. Pokhrel joined the faculty of Temple University’s College of Public Health, where he taught Environmental Health and Toxicology for four years and received merit award for teaching each year. Dr. Pokhrel joined ECU as a tenure-track faculty in the fall of 2018 and has since been teaching Toxicology and Risk Assessment courses which he developed.

“This is my 28th year in academia and I have enjoyed every bit of it, so frankly, I was kind of in awe of it honestly,” he said of the honor. “Despite early adversities, both financial and societal, I was fortunate enough to receive quality education from kindergarten through PhD with full scholarship, and I am aware that everyone is not as fortunate as me. Serving our students through education and inculcating in them new skills is one (best) way I could think of giving back to the community, and that fulfilling feeling is what drives me and gives me inner peace,” said Pokhrel.

The Educators Hall of Fame, “signifies excellence in education and service. But I think it also recognizes those who have touched the lives of students and broader communities in a more meaningful and positive way and have made a difference,” said Dr. Pokhrel.

Pokhrel rightly fits that description.

At ECU, Pokhrel directs Public Health Foundations and Practice Certificate program, serves in several departmental and university’s committees, and advises master’s and doctoral students. He also volunteers as an expert reviewer for national and international granting agencies, including for over two dozen international journals in the field. Pokhrel was also recently elected to the board, as a council member for a three-year term (2021-2024), of the National Environmental Health, Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC), the only non-profit organization in the United States that accredits Environmental Health Academic Programs. He has received many awards, including the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Early Career Award for his decade of contribution to Nanotoxicology and Sustainability.

The Educators Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, November 20, 2021, in Fletcher Recital Hall at ECU with a reception in Speight Building. A plaque honoring his Hall of Fame membership will hang in Speight Hall, home of the ECU’s College of Education.

The inscription celebrates Pokhrel as “In recognition of outstanding contribution to education, superior performance, and unconditional mentoring and care that touched the lives of many and shaped their path to success.”