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A university's contribution to occupational health.
  1. R S Schilling

    Abstract

    The first Chair of Occupational Health in the United Kingdom was established by Manchester University in 1945 and held by Ronald Lane, a consultant physician and experienced factor doctor. In his department, occupational medicine was taught as a clinical discipline to both undergraduates and postgraduates. Research was based mostly on clinical observation of workpeople in the field or as hospital outpatients. Although work has become less hazardous, with major risks like pneumoconiosis and lead poisoning brought under control by better occupational hygiene and more effective epidemiology, there is still much work related illness and injury. Promoting occupational health in its broadest sense still depends on clinical skills to assess fitness for work and to identify responses to adverse factors in the environment. A university department, through its teaching and research, needs to ensure that occupational health is practised as a clinical discipline. Opportunities for research are extensive and include: (1) identifying the extent and severity of injury and illness due to adverse environmental agents and psychosocial factors; (2) assessing fitness among the disabled and the elderly in an aging population enabling them to be gainfully or otherwise employed, (3) improving techniques for measuring work exposures and human responses to adverse work factors, and (4) evaluating intervention procedures. To fulfil its teaching and research commitments, an occupational health department has to maintain contacts with other disciplines in the university and with the industrial world outside. Isolation can be fatal. Academic departments of occupational health offer information to employers, trade unions, and health professionals seeking advice on health and safety problems. Such an Information and Advisory service provides topics for research and earns an income. It should not become the main activity otherwise teaching and research will suffer.

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