WestON brings news and humor

The 8th WestON (Western States Occupational Network) meeting in Denver (9/17-18) brought us important news, new ways of thinking … and humor.  NIOSH Director John Howard’s (below) appointment has been renewed for 6 more years.  Responding to a question about his reasons for staying at NIOSH, he said that he wanted to be sure there was continuity during the Executive Branch change in 2016 – many recognize that he has brought visionary and strong leadership to NIOSH. Dr. Howard also confirmed the creation of the NIOSH Western States Division in Denver during his update.  The Division is looking to partner with OSH specialists in the West to accomplish the NIOSH mission.

John Howard speaks at podium
National Public Radio reporter Daniel Zwerdling (below) encouraged scientists to present the human picture when talking to reporters.  He often starts off his interviews with ‘make me a movie’ of your story.  Often he has to ask for a simpler explanation over and over until people get there (he illustrated that with recordings from interviews that began with very wordy descriptions). In the meeting sum up, one attendee said ‘I resolve to not fear talking to reporters any more, and to get my stories out.’  This keynote accomplished it’s goal. Daniel’s recent series on lifting injuries in nursing workers has led to an OSHA program to investigate those injuries.

Daniel Zwerdling of NPR at WestON 2015

Chuck Easterly, Loss Control Manager of SAIF (shown below speaking with Lauren Mayfield of California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund), was one of three workers’ compensation insurance organization representatives invited to speak about their role in workplace safety and health.  Chuck gave an inspirational endorsement of his philosophy for making Oregon the safest and healthiest place to work.   It was a highlight. Worker’s Compensation insurance companies have a major role in workplace safety, health and wellness.

Chuck Easterly (SAIF) and Lauren at WestON

Meeting convener Bob Harrison (below) of the University of California at San Francisco combined important information about silica exposures to workers making the new engineered kitchen countertops, with humor.  To make his point, he struck the pose of the “Toxic Avenger” (“TA” on his cape) drawn from the lead character of a series of B movies from years ago, as Bob has in the past. The picture is modified. The problem is serious.

Bob Harrison at WestON

Also attending from Oregon was Kent Anger representing the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center to extend it’s recognition throughout the western US state region, and Dan Cain of the Oregon State Health Department who described the Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition (O[yes]).

The meeting presentations will be available here; the agenda is on this site now.

NIOSH renews Oregon occupational health grant

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the awards on September 14. The proposal submitted by multiple-principal investigators, Curtis Cude (Oregon Health Authority) and Ryan Olson, PhD (Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences ) to NIOSH for a five-year (2015-2020) grant was fully funded. With this funding there is a new level of partnership.

The overarching goal of the partnership that began in 2002 is to provide quality surveillance data and intervention recommendations to reduce work-related illness and injury. The multiple-principal investigators proposed to accomplish reduction in work-related injury and illness through an innovative strategy with the following specific aims:

  1. Implement an expanded vision and strategic plan to advance occupational public health surveillance, research, and outreach in Oregon;
  2. Support the success and growth of existing state-level occupational health initiatives and programs;
  3. Invest in innovative areas for future occupational health surveillance research through speaker series and conference panels; and
  4. Develop and implement surveillance and outreach innovations in Occupational Health Indicators (OHI) and Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) sub-projects.
grant blog

L to R: Ryan Olson; Xun Shen; Illa Gilbert-Jones; Dede Montgomery; David Dreher; Curtis Cude. Missing from photograph is Dan Cain.

Institute postdoc receives First Award Fellowship

biomedSaurabh S. Thosar, Ph.D, a postdoctoral researcher at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences has been awarded a First Award Fellowship from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

Adverse health outcomes resulting from sleep loss and circadian desynchronization is an area of importance for both astronauts and shift workers. The goal of this ground-based study is to identify an endogenous circadian rhythm in vascular endothelial function. Further, this project will test the effect of circadian misalignment on vascular function.

Steven A. Shea, PhD is the mentor and principal investigator of this project and Saurabh S. Thosar, PhD is the First Award Fellow. The work will be performed in a new facility recently built as part of the Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Center at OHSU.

Sleep research at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences
OccHealthSci Topic: Sleep and Shiftwork



PDX Wellness inspires

What's your why? copyWellness is something we do with and for people. It isn’t something we do to them,” shared WELCOA’s Ryan Picarella, the keynote at this week’s American Heart Association’s Worksite Wellness Summit. He reminded us that it is really all about living happier, fuller lives. So often we talk clinically: the need to lower blood pressure – lose weight – eat vegetables. Isn’t it really about feeling better every day? Perhaps living long enough to know our grandchildren? To be able to simply enjoy life’s offerings, and perhaps be better prepared to deal with its challenges.

Ryan went on to talk about how we create trust within our workplaces. Trust is truly the backbone of just about everything. Though he didn’t speak about it, we know that the culture of both safety and health require trust as a basic tenet. And finally, he reminded us of purpose. Purpose matters. How do we in fact measure it? Grow it? It matters for me as it does for you – just as it does for my twenty-something daughters and my eighty-something mother. Do our workplaces support our human need for purpose?


AHA’s Lanette Trickey welcomes attendees.

What I was reminded during this year’s Summit is the question of who is missing? What if I don’t work for an organization that has invested the money or attention to a worksite wellness program? What if I work two or three jobs – all of them part time? What if I am out of work? This is where our Institute and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center need your help – uncovering community partners that we are missing. Along with our Total Worker Health partners, including SAIF Corporation, Wellness@Work, OEA Choice, Worksite Wellness Network, Oregon Public Health Institute, among others – we are eager to expand our collaborations. Are you a community partner new to us? Contact us and help us better understand how we can work together. And let us know – what is your why?

OccHealthSci topic: Total Worker Health and Well-being
NIOSH Total Worker Health
Worksite Wellness Network


Protecting our wildland firefighters

fema photo copy

FEMA Photo Library

I heard a radio interview earlier this week about the challenges facing those fighting wildfires.  A journalist covering the topic shared her belief that it is inevitable that we will lose firefighters in our race to protect forests, structures and the public. Was I alone, wearing my safety professional hat, to be disturbed by this comment? Many of us have been in the safety business long enough to remember when we heard the same comment applied to construction workers working at heights. We know now, that with appropriate planning, training and equipment, no construction worker should die on the job.

As our lands get drier and fires burn hotter, all more closely encroaching on areas where we live and work, what else can we do to best protect these men and women working tirelessly to protect us and the land that we love? I am no fire expert. Traditional emergency response identifies our response priorities to be: 1) life, followed by environment and property or product protection. Most of our firefighters love what they do – and they do it well. Wildland firefighting has always been an unpredictable business – something as common as quick shifting winds creating scary traps.  As we have multiple fires burning for longer periods of time, our resources become strapped. Are we to expect these challenges to become even more difficult to address as our climate gets hotter and drier?

We thank those working so hard to protect what we love. We grieve for Tom, Andrew and Richard, and their families and friends. We are hopeful that safety and incident command experts can help us imagine a time when we don’t believe it inevitable to lose a firefighter during our hot fire seasons.

OccHealthSci subtopic: Wildland Firefighter
Oregon Smoke Information
NIOSH Fighting Wildfires Topic Page

Oregon Building Trades Council is 75!

OreOregon Building Trades 75th year bookgon Building Trades Council celebrated it’s 75th anniversary at the Portland Convention Center on August 20-21.  They are the second oldest building trades council in the US, representing about 25,000 construction workers in 30 affiliated local unions and district councils, and 6 regional councils. They celebrated their history with a book (pictured right) that depicts the leaders and activities over the decades, including construction projects Building Trades members have built such as the Tilicum Crossing bridge and the tram at OHSU.

Their annual meeting began with updates on workers compensation, health care and safety issues. Shown below is their meeting (on right) and the vendors (left) providing information and services.

The signature event was the celebration dinner on Friday evening where Council Executive Secretary John Mohlis (pictured at the podium, below) led the presenters with his stirring endorsement of the value of the Council through its best-in-class training programs that have provided highly skilled workers in the many construction trades over the years.  Over $50M has been invested by industry and labor in Oregon’s joint apprenticeship training programs that train the construction workers.OR Building Trades 75th Celebration Dinnner

Oregon Governor Kate Brown (pictured at the podium, below) led the after-dinner presentations focusing on the many accomplishments of the program.  She particularly featured Oregon Tradeswomen Executive Director Connie Ashbrook and their recent award that will expand their program for women.

OR Governor Kate Brown and OR Building Trades Council 2015 75th year celebration

OR-FACE 2013 Annual Report is out

imageOR-FACE published its 2013 annual report on occupational fatalities in Oregon.

OR-FACE began surveillance over a decade ago and this report includes graphs of cumulative data from 2003 through 2013 as insets of respective graphs for the year. To download the report, go to the OR-FACE website or click on the following URL: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/research/centers-institutes/oregon-institute-occupational-health-sciences/outreach/or-face/upload/OR-FACE-2013-Annual-Report-final-sm.pdf

2015 Summer research poster presentation

Congratulations to our eleven research interns, who presented the results of their work in a poster session.

Poster session in progress

Poster session in progress

Summer Student Research Awards are three-month paid summer internships designed to introduce undergraduate students to biomedical and occupational health research across a range of basic and applied research areas. Whether studying molecules, cells, organ systems, non-human organisms, or out gathering data in the community, our students gained valuable experience conducting projects aligned with their host faculty member’s research program.

The 2015 interns were:

Rachael Barton – Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA – Shea Lab
Colin Boehnlein – University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA –Rohlman Lab
Jared Cayton – Oregon State University, Corvallis, WA – Lim Lab
John Donlan – Northeastern University, Boston, MA – Kretzschmar Lab
Aaron Greenfield – University of Oregon, Eugene, OR – Truxillo Lab
Kasey Ha – University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA – Olson Lab
Afsara Haque – University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA – Olson Lab
Christiana Huss – Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR – Turker Lab
Allison Schue – Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR – Anger Lab
Kaycee Smith – Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX – Wipfli Lab
Julia Yu – Emory University, Atlanta, GA – McCullough Lab

*All of the students chosen for the internship program are Oregon residents or attend Oregon schools.

Our 2015 Summer interns.

Our 2015 Summer interns.

Co-winners of the 2015 best poster award, Sara Haque and Kaycee Smith, pose with Institute Director, Steven Shea.

Co-winners of the 2015 best poster award, Sara Haque and Kaycee Smith, pose with Institute Director, Steven Shea.

Jared Clayton describes his research.

Jared Clayton describes his research.

Kasey Ha

Kasey Ha

Kaycee Smith

Kaycee Smith

Steve Shea at Julia Yu's poster

Steve Shea at Julia Yu’s poster

Summer Equity Research Program provides research opportunities

2015 Equity Intern Poster Session

2015 Equity Intern Poster Session

L to R: Amanda McCullough, Eleonora Juarez, Graduate Student in Amanda’s lab, and 2015 Equity Intern, Jose Esquivel, in front of Jose’s poster.

The Summer Equity Internship Program presents an exciting opportunity for underrepresented minority students to spend eight weeks working with OHSU faculty, scientists, and graduate students in a research setting. Equity interns learn new research skills and gain hands-on lab experience in a variety of laboratory settings. This year, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences faculty Dr. Amanda McCullough, participated as a science mentor to Jose Esquivel. The internship ended with a poster session in which all the interns presented the results from their eight week laboratory experience.

Jose described his experience this way: “If I were to describe these last 8 weeks, I would use the words growth and opportunity. Working in Dr. McCullough’s lab allowed me the opportunity to better understand myself on several levels. I feel that as a lab intern, I have learned a lot about my style of learning and in doing so it has given me a new outlook and appreciation for science and what being a “scientist” really entails. Lab techniques in general were a skill that I did not possess, but I feel that I gained so much more than lab techniques, I have now developed a new mode of thinking. This mode of thinking is invaluable in life, for to really think about what you’re doing, and why you are doing something is to fully understand what may be next. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to grow and learn about, not only their project, but about themselves. “

See you on September 1?

AHA copyHave you registered yet for the 2015 American Heart Association Worksite Wellness Summit? We are eager to attend again this year as a sponsor and exhibitor. This is a terrific opportunity to connect with others in the region who prioritize healthy workplaces, many of whom have begun initiatives integrating safety with wellness and well-being.

AHA exhibit '14

Staff from the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center exhibit at the 2014 Summit.

This year’s theme is Building a Culture of Health, with the event to be held at Portland’s Oregon Convention Center. It will kick off with a pre-keynote event to get your body moving and your mind ready to be engaged. Our Institute is pleased to be the sponsor of this pre-event. Then join us as we hear from the keynote presenter, Ryan Picarella, the President of Wellness Council of America (WELLCOA.org), followed by other presenters, sessions and a full exhibit area.

We appreciate our partners in health, American Heart Association, Worksite Wellness Network, and conference sponsors, for initiating and supporting this great networking event. We hope to see you there! Learn more.

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