Aggressive recruitment grows occ-health ranks

Programs mentor college students

Areas of health care specialty are all competing for a limited pool of nurses, but a pair of programs are hoping to introduce nurses and nursing students to the field of occupational health and safety. NIOSH mentored nine college students during this year’s summer break, as part of the CDC Project IMHOTEP.

Project IMHOTEP is a CDC mentoring program for minority students, named after an ancient Egyptian physician, mathematician, and architect who established some of the first recorded public health practices. He was deified as the god of medicine. The program is designed to enhance the skills and experience of minority students in the public heath areas of epidemiology, biostatistics, and occupational safety and health.

The program is sponsored by the Public Health Sciences Institute at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and is designed for undergraduate students (rising and graduating seniors) who have some training in public health and/or quantitative or science disciplines. The program provides participants with two weeks of intensive classroom training in epidemiology, biostatistics, writing, biochemical techniques, and various computer statistical packages, and nine weeks of research and data analysis in biostatistics, epidemiology, and occupational health and safety with experts at the CDC and Morehouse College. Project IMHOTEP sponsors interns in Spokane, WA; Morgantown, WV; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; and Atlanta.

Bill Jenkins, PhD, a founder of the project and faculty member at Morehouse College, said Morehouse and CDC personnel who work with the program seek to instill "religious fervor" among students that will drive them to want to establish careers in public health.

Recruit, mentor new generation

The Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP), administered by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC), graduated its first class of interns last summer with the support of NIOSH. OHIP seeks to recruit, train, mentor, and inspire a new generation of occupational safety and health professionals who are dedicated to preventing job injury and disease through partnerships with workers.

Student interns are assigned to work in interdisciplinary teams to promote better understanding of how the different professions interact to identify, assess, and resolve occupational hazards. OHIP has training centers at the University of California, San Francisco and Hunter College in New York City.

"We believe that students of occupational health need direct experience with workers to fully understand the complexity of health and safety issues and problems in the workplace," says Gail Bateson, MS, OHIP Program Coordinator. "OHIP offers funding for students to work with union and other nonprofit worker organizations, and teams of students from medicine, nursing, public health, and related fields receive training and will collaborate with the sponsoring union/worker group and local occupational health and safety mentors to address occupational health and safety problems."

She says OHIP will play a vital role in shaping the future of occupational health by developing the next generation of leaders in the field and give future occ-health professionals grounding in "the reality of the workplace."

OHIP is based on the premise that occupational health nursing requires a nurse to have a broad knowledge base not only in assessment and treatment of injured workers, but also in public health issues and regulations. Interpersonal skills are necessary for dealing not only with healthy, sick, or injured workers, but also with employers, insurers, and program directors, and exposure to these dynamics early on helps students build strengths in these areas, Bateson says.

For more information, contact:

  • Bill Jenkins, PhD, Morehouse College Public Health Sciences Institute, 830 Westview Drive, S.W., Box 121, Atlanta, GA 30314-3773. Phone: (404) 215-2733. Web: www.morehouse.edu.
  • Gail Bateson, MS, OHIP Program Coordinator, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. Phone: (510) 525-6421. E-mail: batesong@pacbell.net. Web: www.aoec.org/OHIP/Home.htm.