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The Academic Occupational Physician as Consultant: A 10-Year Perspective

McCunney Robert J. MD MPH
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 1994

The academic community has long served the private sector in a consultant capacity in engineering and in the sciences. With respect to occupational medicine, physicians, when working for industry, have generally practiced in a health care setting. Within the past 10 years, however, the business sector has placed more attention on the health implications of its operations as a result of regulations, liability, and rising health care costs. These issues, which go beyond traditional clinical responsibilities, have furthered the need for businesses to receive strategic medical advice to effectively operate and to maintain a competitive edge. One particular business sector, the chemical industry, has been challenged seriously because of legitimate as well as perceived health risks associated with the production and use of its products. This paper describes the professional experiences over a 10-year period (1983 to 1993) of an occupational physician working as a consultant to an international chemical company. Services have related to epidemiology, health policy, toxicology, plant oversight as well as serving as a health advisor on matters involving the relation between business and health. An academic affiliation with an occupational medicine residency program has facilitated access to related occupational health professionals to assist in problem solving and research. Opportunities for consulting in occupational medicine will depend upon the nature of the organization as well as the personal and professional characteristics of the physician. Requests for these types of services, however, are likely to expand in the near future, primarily as a result of wider awareness of the implications of work on health, increased litigation, and government regulations.

©1994 The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine