Talking about genomics

Dr. Mitch Turker presents.

On Friday March 6, 2015, approximately 170 scientists gathered at OHSU for a symposium on Genomic Instability.  The event was co-sponsored by the Oregon Institute for Occupational Health Sciences, the Knight Cancer Institute, and the Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine.

Participants heard ground -breaking research from OHSU researchers including Occupational Health Science’s investigators Drs. Lloyd, McCullough, and Turker.  Each of these presentations focused on the mechanisms through which exposures to chemicals and radiation in occupational and environmental settings can lead to mutations in DNA structures that can ultimately lead to cancer.

A highlight of the event was keynote speaker, Dr. David Pellman, a Howard Hughes Investigator from Harvard University who spoke on “A new mechanism for mutagenesis”.  His investigations described evidence that catastrophic genetic events can occur in a very small subset of cells, the result of which could be the conversion of a normal cell into a tumor cell in a single step, rather than a slow multi-step progression.

There were also opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to exchange scientific ideas through a series of excellent posters.  Overall, this meeting provided an outstanding forum for a free-flow of ideas and data concerning the origins of canceer and insights into prevention and treatment.

Dr. Stephen Lloyd joins in discussion.

 

 

Dmytro Grygoryev, Ph.D., shares his poster.

Dr. Amanda McCullough presents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anu Kumari, Ph.D.,  explains her poster.

 

GOSH 2015: A success

Oregon OSHA’s Michael Wood trades notes with Kent Anger and Steven Shea.

Congratulations to ASSE Columbia Willamette Chapter, Oregon OSHA, and all of the sponsors, exhibitors and presenters of the Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health Conference of 2015.

What a terrific week it has been. Between the exhibit hall interactions, diverse technical sessions, forklift challenge, O[yes]-sponsored Student Day: wow! The Oregon OSHA Conference Staff has again demonstrated their ability to organize and facilitate a thriving event.

So what now? Put into practice some of what you may have learned in a technical session – whether it be on fall protection, ergonomics, Total Worker Health or some other topic. Continue to be involved in networking with other safety, health, and wellness professionals that you may have met through associations like ASSE Oregon and Washington Chapters, Oregon RIMS, AIHA, OSAOHN, and the Worksite Wellness Network. And…it’s not too early to think about being part of the interactive team that will begin planning GOSH 2017 later this year.

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Mentoring Students in Science

Congratulations to Grant Thomas, of the Oregon Episcopal School. Grant recently presented the results of his study entitled “Using Drosophila melanogaster to Assess the Pathogenic Characteristics of Familial Neuropathy Target Esterase Mutations” at the Aardvark Science Expo.  This project was mentored by Occupational Health Sciences’  Doris Kretzschmar and Lizzy Sunderhaus.

In this study Grant used Drosophila to investigate how mutations in the Neuropathy Target Esterase protein that cause spastic paraplegia, ataxia, or blindness in patients interfere with the function of this protein.  Grant won 1st place in the Medicine & Health Sciences category and will now advance to the Intel Northwest Science Expo. We congratulate Grant on his efforts and success, and wish him well in his future science investigations.

Submitted by Doris Kretzschmar, Ph.D. Learn more about Dr. Kretzschmar’s Lab here at Occupational Health Sciences.

Another successful PhD graduate!

Stacey Lin poses with Drs. Stephen Lloyd (L) and Institute Director Steven Shea (R) during her PhD thesis defense.

Congratulations to newly minted PhD Stacey Lin for successfully defending her graduate thesis, which explored the mechanisms by which a potent liver carcinogen, Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), produces DNA mutations that eventually lead to cancer of the liver. She is interested in the mutagenic spectrum of AFB1 and the ability of cells to bypass and repair genetic damage. The results of Stacey’s work opens new avenues of research that will allow scientists to further probe and understand how environmental factors cause cancer, and ultimately leading to better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancers.

Stacey grew up in Taiwan, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Forestry from National Taiwan University. After receiving her degree, she worked as a technician at the University of Pittsburgh where she grew to enjoy molecular biology in the lab of Dr. Tawbi. She came to Portland in 2010 to enter the Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at OHSU, where she joined the laboratories of Stephen Lloyd and Amanda McCullough. Her work with Dr. Lloyd focused on DNA repair enzymes known as glycosylases and polymerases. When not in a lab, Stacey enjoys hiking, music and trying new foods from a variety of cuisines.

Kudos to Dr. Lloyd as well – Stacey is the 21st graduate student to successfully complete a PhD program under his mentorship.

What do we do for fun?

Our last blog on the importance of disengaging outside of work seemed to strike a chord with many of us. What do our researchers and partners do outside of work? See if you can locate our Director, Dr. Stephen Shea. And just who was that “anonymous” tram rider who sparked last week’s blog?

You might find PSU/OHWC’s Leslie Hammer enjoying family time on the slopes.

Look for Kent Anger joined by his wife if you spot this boat on the Willamette.

OHSU’s William Wilson, MD, might pop up on stage as in this role of “The Old Actor” in the Fantasticks at H.A.R.T.

We know our partner Paula Jones of SAIF Corporation is always game for outdoor fun.

If we’re really lucky we might pass Brad Wipfli and his growing son on the trail.

Ryan Olson takes in the outdoors with his family.

Fred Berman makes some new friends.

Watch the video about our Director Steven Shea’s research
and learn what other career he might have chosen!

If you need information about canine nosework trials, better ask Diane Elliott, OHSU/OHWC.

 

Tell us – what do you do?

Do you work too much?

The author enjoys down time with her family in Oregon’s Wallowas.

I often overhear conversations on my daily tram commute that relate in some way to the mission of our Institute and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

Today was no different as I heard two colleagues trade notes about work hours. The first quite enthusiastically shared how, since he had retired to a half-time work schedule, he is enjoying other enriching activities outside of work – specifically mentioning contributions to a local theater. His younger friend described how he’s had so many 70-80 work hour weeks, that he’s almost forgotten what it is like to have time for anything else.

Our workforce is populated with so many people racking up an exhaustive array of hours, some with jobs they like and others piecing together multiple low-wage jobs.

Must we wait until we are of retirement age to hope to pursue enriching activities outside of our daily work? It is all well and good to love what we do – we are lucky when our passions match what we do for a living. But do we sell ourselves short when we don’t have time to also develop other passions – mountain climbing, chess, or acting, not to mention having time to develop real relationships with our children, a good friend or an elderly parent? If we are lucky enough to live into retirement we hope to be financially, mentally and physically sound to be able to enjoy our “time off.” Sadly, some of us won’t make it to that sweet retirement age.

This formula does nothing to address the compelling research on how important disengagement from work is to our overall health, a research focus of our partner Dr. Charlotte Fritz, of Portland State University and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center. Dr. Fritz focuses her research on what keeps employees happy, engaged, healthy, and productive. Some of her research questions address how work experiences impact us during our non-work hours, and how employees can be supported in our recovery from work.

Illustrative of this are the real practices some companies are beginning to follow as they recommend weekends off and enforce mandatory vacations, in hopes of protecting employee health, happiness, retention and productivity.

What is your organization doing to support your work-life balance and overall health?

Resources:
OccHealthSci subtopic page: Work/Life Balance
Work, Family and Health Network

Check out ASSE’s Health and Wellness Branch

So many people are talking about health and wellness. We are flooded with news about why and how to address health at work. More than ever, the networking and connections within and between our disciplines are critical to get up to speed and keep up with the momentum.

One of the groups actively networking on safety, health and wellness is the American Society for Safety Engineer’s (ASSE) Health and Wellness Branch. ASSE has been around since 1911, and has more than 36,000 members worldwide who are occupational and safety professionals. We have blogged before about the activities and richness found within our Oregon ASSE Branches, including the Columbia Willamette Chapter, St. Helen’s Section, Santiam Section, Cascade Chapter, Southern Oregon Chapter, and student chapters at both Oregon State University and Mt. Hood Community College.

ASSE’s Health and Wellness Branch was approved at the Safety 2011 Council on Practices & Standards (CoPS) meeting and is sponsored by the Healthcare Practice Specialty. This Branch provides a forum to raise awareness and educate its’ members on personal and global health and well-being and the connection to safety. Ways you can be active with this group:

  • Visit the Branch webpage and join (no additional cost if you are already a member of ASSE’s Healthcare Practice Specialty).
  • Attend the Branch-sponsored sessions at ASSE’s annual Professional Development Conference.
  • Join the Branch on Linkedin.
  • Receive its newsletter and join in on monthly phone calls.

I have found it to be yet another great connection as we pursue safety and Total Worker Health. Check it out and let us know what you think!

PNASH meets at Oregon Health and Science University

The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health (PNASH) Center Advisory Committee is meeting at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), pictured below.  PNASH is a NIOSH-funded regional Center that supports research projects and outreach in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho.

The current PNASH project in Oregon is designed to study stress in agricultural workers and develop and test an intervention to reduce stress in workers. Drs. Diane Rohlman and Kent Anger of OHSU and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC), sited at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at OHSU, direct the project. Collaborators include Leda Garside, RN, Salud Services of Tuality Healthcare.

While may seem to be a dizzying list of organizational names, it does reflect the degree to which federal and state funding enables linkages between scientists at different organizations and projects are developed that require the expertise of scientists from different organizations. Each scientist is partly funded by NIOSH and state funding streams.  PNASH Director Dr. Rich Fenske is on the left.

A sample of PNASH-funded projects are being presented today. Examples are:

  • OHWC Director Kent Anger noted the OHWC’s recent review of Total Worker Health (TWH) research and revealed that there is no research to evaluate TWH interventions (to improve health and safety and wellness/wellbeing) in agricultural settings. TWH is a possible new area of focus for the
  • Evidence of an association between asthma and elevated ammonia in air in farming areas, especially animal feeding areas (Catherine Karr of the University of Washington (UW), PI).
  • Dr. Christopher Simpson (UW) described a new rapid measure of organophosphorus compound exposures, useful for workers applying the most widely-used agricultural pesticides worldwide, including some in Pacific Northwest tree fruit farms.
  • Dr. Alice Larson spoke about her census of indigenous agricultural workers.
  • Dr. Laurel Kincl described her new project with Dungeness crab workers(below).
  • Nargess Shadbeh of the Oregon Law Center described the 10-year project to provide information on pesticide safety to Oregon’s indigenous workers through promontoras speaking directly to the workers, a project in danger of ending due to the end of grant funding.  Other funding mechanisms to maintain the human resources to present the information on, essentially, the Worker Protection Standard to indigenous workers, included state government and industry.

Hearts at work

February is heart health month. I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart-health-and-work connection while noticing how many of the reported workplace fatalities in Oregon were caused by heart attack, and a smaller number, stroke. We’ve had several conversations at the Oregon Construction Advisory Committee about responding to heart attacks and the importance of having Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) at work.

While we know there are many personal and individual factors impacting the health of our hearts, can we in fact imagine workplace connections? Stress, long work days without exercise, fewer healthy eating choices, and poor sleep caused by shift work are among a few. And while the causal connection may be harder to identify, we know we can create and support heart healthy workplaces and solutions.

The CDC Initiative, the National Healthy Worksite Program, provides employers resources to adopt workplace health improvement programs to prevent heart disease and stroke and related conditions among employees. Here are some things suggested by CDC:

  • Provide places to purchase healthy food and beverages, including choices in vending machines.
  • Provide an exercise facility onsite or subsidize or discount the use of offsite facilities.

    Supporting Employee Health. Photo credit: Go By Bike

  • Encourage employees to use the stairs.
  • Provide organized individual or group physical activities.
  • Provide free or subsidized one-on-one or group lifestyle counseling for those who are overweight.
  • Provide dedicated space where employees can engage in relaxation activities – yoga, meditation, biofeedback.
  • Provide Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) onsite and training for CPR and AEDs.

To this we would add, support healthy and safe commuting, recognize the role of stress and lack of sleep on heart health, and seek ways to engage employees to create a culture of health at work and beyond.

What is your organization doing to address hearts at work?

Resources:
Heart Health info from CDC
Warning signs from American Heart Association.

OR-FACE presents at logging and construction safety events

Clark Vermillion thanks Illa Gilbert-Jones on behalf of the CSS.

Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) presented at the January meetings of the Washington Contract Loggers Association (WCLA) and the Portland Construction Safety Summit (CSS).

Jeffrey Wimer, OR-FACE Safety Consultant and Oregon State University Manager of Student Logging Program, presented OR-FACE logging data and resources to over 500 attendees at the annual WCLA Safety Conference held near Olympia on January 17. The resources created by Jeff and OR-FACE will contribute to the Washington State Logger Safety Initiative.    The Oregon forestry/logging industry had 91 FACE cases from 2003-2013 and ranks second in the highest number of total fatalities.

The Oregon construction industry ranks third with 84 fatal occupational cases.  Illa Gilbert-Jones presented OR-FACE construction data and resources to 40 members at the CSS January 20 meeeting.  Construction and logging are high risk industries in Oregon and providing outreach information to these two industry groups aligns with the OR-FACE mission to “prevent occupational fatalities through surveillance, targeted investigation, assessment and outreach associated with traumatic work-related deaths in Oregon.”   You can find both presentations and resources on the OR-FACE website.

Submitted by Illa Gilbert-Jones, CIH, CSP, Oregon FACE Program Manager/Field Investigator.

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