Lorraine Conroy (ScD, CIH), the Center Director for the Illinois Education and Research Center, began a sabbatical in Washington, D.C., this month. Dr. Conroy, a Professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences division at the University of Illinois Chicago, School of Public Health, will be working with both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Dr. Conroy received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts. She also attended the Harvard School of Public Health, where she studied Industrial Hygiene.
Dr. Conroy began her work in occupational health and safety as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1988. Her initial work at UIC focused on industrial ventilation systems. In addition to teaching, her current work focuses on exposure assessment and control and training effectiveness. While working with NIOSH and OSHA, Dr. Conroy will concentrate on both regulation and science policy in occupational health, with the goal of developing a new graduate-level course on occupational health policy.
During the last 10 years as Director of the Illinois ERC, Dr. Conroy has added academic programs to the Center, doubled funding and increased the number of students. Most significant to her, Dr. Conroy initiated and implemented an interdisciplinary Targeted Research Training program for students interested in research methods. She describes the program as “getting at the heart of interdisciplinary work. It’s structured to facilitate collaboration to solve occupational health problems and use a team approach to teaching research to students.” She also enjoys working with a creative group of people and interacting with students in and out of classroom.
When Dr. Conroy isn’t working, she enjoys cooking, entertaining and traveling. Over the next few months, she is particularly looking forward to trying something new. “I’m excited to be in D.C., an interesting, new place, and the center of the policy world,” she says.
Health Organization to provide training
materials during disasters
The Global Environmental and Occupational Health e-Library (GeoLibrary) provides environmental and occupational health and safety resources to workers, employers and individuals. Collaborating with PAHO during the Influenza A H1N1 outbreak and in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, the GeoLibrary expanded its databases, gaining new relevancy and a wider audience.
The GeoLibrary, available at www.geolibrary.org, is a database of occupational safety and health and environmental health training materials and resources that are available free of charge to the public. Materials are available in six languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic) and include fact-sheets, complete courses, slideshows, checklists, and guidelines, among others. The database is divided into three branches: environmental health related materials; occupational health and safety materials; and road safety materials, a branch of the library created in collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Since 2009, the GeoLibrary has worked closely with PAHO during emergency situations to coordinate the inclusion of relevant, disaster-related materials, particularly the Influenza A (H1N1) global pandemic in 2009 and the earthquake disasters in Haiti and Chile in 2010. Together, the two organizations requested training materials and resources from PAHO’s network of Collaborating Centres. The resulting disaster-related resources were compiled and presented in two new library categories: the first, “Hot Topic – H1N1” within the occupational health branch; and the second, “Special Focus: Haiti” within the environmental health branch. Many have already benefited from the free public access to these materials, especially public health workers, occupational health specialists, environmental health specialists, health care workers, employers, workers and individuals exposed to the hazards of these particular situations, and situations similar in nature.
The PAHO–GeoLibrary collaboration has also raised awareness among organizations and individuals of the GeoLibrary’s unique and useful function. During the H1N1 pandemic, the GeoLibrary had five times more users than the previous month, and was accessed by individuals in 89 countries, a growth of nearly double. The success of these initial collaborative efforts laid the foundation for further initiatives, currently in development.
The GeoLibrary is a project of the Network of Collaborating Centres Work Plan in support of the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy “Occupational Health for All,” and is maintained by the Great Lakes Centers for Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health.
Site visits to work places help students understand the challenges of health and safety.
What makes the Illinois ERC's Talk and Tour series a success? "Exposure to industry," says Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Safety Program Director Steven Lacey. "We want to give our students as much practical experience as possible," and what better way to do it than getting them into the field, he adds.
The Process Talk and Tour series, formally established at the Illinois ERC two years ago, allows Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Safety students to learn about and travel to active worksites. Individual students describe the process used to manufacture a product at a particular worksite to occupational medicine doctors at the Occupational Medicine Conference held weekly through the ERC. They research a particular industry and learn about how workers perform tasks, as well as what injuries and illnesses might be associated with those tasks. Students present their research to practicing physicians, allowing them to work on interdisciplinary communication skills.
After the presentation, Hala Ismail, the Process Talk and Tour coordinator, helps students to set up a tour at an active site. "The Process tours are important, especially for students who are new in this field," says second-year Occupational Safety student Matt Hornyak. “You get to see in a real sense how health and safety feeds into the workplace. It’s an opportunity to see what we’re learning in class.”
Past site visits have included pharmaceutical manufacturing at Abbott Labs, agricultural operations at the University of Illinois-Urbana Farms, construction at a site in Wisconsin, and a leather tannery in Chicago. Upcoming tours include Goose Island Brewery and Underwriter Labs.
Questions or comments about any of these projects? Email us.