ColoradoSPH offers key residency program
Demand for occupational and environmental medicine physicians increases
A healthy workforce is needed to drive the global economy and support the financial underpinnings of the nation’s health care system; however, the workforce is ailing and aging with a rapid rise in chronic diseases across all age groups, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Consequently, the pipeline of healthy, productive workers is threatened and the country’s capability to thrive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace is being diminished.
Today, trained occupational medicine physicians are needed more than ever. The reality is there are not enough occupational medicine physicians to keep our workplaces and environments safe. The Colorado School of Public Health’s (CSPH) Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program (OEM) is working to meet that demand.
“Occupational and environmental medicine is an area that is in need of trained physicians,” says Dr. Cecile Rose, co-director of the OEM residency program. “We don’t want workers being taken care of by people who aren’t trained in occupational medicine.”
Established in 1992, the OEM residency program trains three to five physicians every year. The co-directors of the program, Dr. Rose and Dr. Bibi Gottschall, say they actively recruit physicians who have completed at least one year of clinical training in an ACGME-approved residency program and are looking to specialize in the field of occupational and environmental medicine.
“We are very keen to attracting well-trained physicians who have a strong interest in public health and are seeking training in occupational and environmental medicine,” says Dr. Rose. “Our long-term goal is outreach to help people understand that occupational and environmental medicine is an underrepresented specialty.”
“We have one of the best programs in the country right here in Colorado and access to local practicum sites such as the regional offices for OSHA and NIOSH,” she continues.
The residency is an ACGME accredited two-year training program that provides residents with the qualifications to meet the American Board of Preventive Medicine eligibility requirements for board certification in occupational medicine. The first academic year of the residency program focuses primarily on completing requirements for the masters of public health degree (MPH) at CSPH and the second year focuses on clinical and policy practicum rotations and research opportunities.
Practicum sites include National Jewish Health Consultation Clinic, Denver Health’s Occupational Medicine Clinic, National Renewable Energy Laboratories, NIOSH Regional Office, Denver, OSHA Regional Center, Denver; Colorado Department of Labor, Division of Worker’s Compensation; Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Denver really is the capital in terms of regional offices and access to the leaders in occupational and environmental health like OSHA and NIOSH,” explains Dr. Rose.
The program attracts physicians who have already been practicing for many years as well as physicians just coming out of medical school. All of the physicians come with different goals they want to accomplish in the program, says Dr. Gottschall. The program directors say they work very hard to meet their residents varying agendas.
“We offer flexibility to accomplishing the various goals our residents have and work hard to make sure our residents meet the required competencies in occupational and environmental medicine,” says Dr. Gottschall.
The residency program’s strengths include clinical training in pulmonary medicine and toxicology; epidemiologic and translational research opportunities; and interaction with longstanding industrial hygiene, ergonomics, occupational health psychology and health physics programs. The OEM residency is one of NIOSH-funded Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center’s (MAP ERC) five training programs.
Residents complete their clinical work at National Jewish Health’s Occupational Medicine Medical Surveillance Clinic and the Miners Clinic of Colorado. The Minors Clinic of Colorado provides medical screening, diagnosis, treatment, pulmonary rehabilitation, and education, counseling, and prevention services through two free screening programs—Black Lung Clinic and Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP) Clinic.
Through various rotations the residents learn to diagnose diseases, manage exposure and consult with industry in order to prevent injuries in the workplace. Residents are also trained in population-based medical surveillance and are required to produce publishable research findings through their practicum. “I strongly believe our program’s applied research focus is one of the strongest in the nation,” says Dr. Rose.
Past residents have researched the health hazards in art; emerging lung diseases due to chemicals in public pools and hot tubs; respiratory diseases in returning Iraq military personnel; and medical guidelines for worker’s compensation.
“We hope that all of the residents over the years feel they were well mentored, that we responded to all of their needs, and that we helped them meet their goals,” says Dr. Gottschall.
With the Colorado School of Public Health introducing the new MD/MPH program this year, Dr. Rose and Dr. Gottschall hope this will open the doors to more physicians becoming interested in occupational and environmental medicine.
“With an MD/MPH program the School is going to train clinically minded physicians to be public health oriented and that is very exciting,” says Dr. Rose.