‘Focus is prevention’ in Occupational Health Program


‘Focus is prevention’ in Occupational Health Program
The Occupational Health Program has undergone significant expansion in the last year to provide comprehensive occupational health services to researchers and students on both campuses. The OHP was initiated in 2008-2009 to provide in-house services to the researchers.

While the initial scope of the OH program was focused on several small groups of researchers working in specified areas, the program has rapidly expanded during the last year to include nearly all researchers at the Anschutz Medical Campus and many at the Denver Campus, said Beth Strimpel, RN, manager of the Occupational Health Clinic.

Starting in January of this year, “We went from one full-time employee to 2.5 full-time employees,” Strimpel said. “A lot of the support for the expansion came from the NIH and other accrediting agencies and regulatory partners. They have high expectations that the university staff and researchers are protected when carrying out their research. However, we couldn't have expanded without the support from our vice chancellor for research, Dr. Richard Traystman, and our vice chancellor for administration and finance, Jeffrey Parker. They were instrumental in making it happen.”

The National Institutes of Health grant support provides the OHP with the bulk of its funding, allowing researchers to receive OHP services at little or no cost, Strimpel said.

The OHP is administered by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. It is designed to promote a safe work environment by minimizing the risk of illness and injury associated with working with or around research animals, toxins/venoms, infectious agents, anesthetic gases, anti-neoplastic drugs, teratogens/carcinogens, radioactive materials, heavy metals, lasers, formaldehyde or human blood, tissues and cells.

The OHP now has about 1,500 researchers enrolled in its medical surveillance service -- more than double the number previous to the expansion. The program includes initial and annual enrollment and general education for personnel exposed to research animals or other hazardous materials, as well as providing any vaccines or blood work needed for surveillance.

The surveillance begins with an appointment at the clinic, 1784 Racine St., Building 401, Anschutz Medical Campus.

“We go over their medical history, allergies and other risk factors,” Strimpel said. “We provide information on safety and how to report injury or illness. Our focus is on prevention.”

The OHP was able to lower prices for vaccines by working with its suppliers and the student health insurance program, Strimpel said. This year, for example, the insurance fully covers tuberculosis skin tests, which are an annual requirement for graduate students in the School of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistants and College of Nursing. A full list of OHP program fees is available here.

The OHP's services extend to working with the Infectious Disease Group Practice at the University of Colorado Hospital, as well as the Designated Medical Providers through the University Risk Management program. This allows researchers to get quickly evaluated in the event of a needle stick or sharps injury. The OHP also counsels women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant on concerns about exposure to chemicals or toxic substances in the lab.

Go to the Flu Season Alerts page for a full schedule of flu shots this fall. Flu vaccines cost $20 and are available from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday (no appointment needed), at least through the month of October, in the OHP clinic. Flu shots will be administered from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Education 1 Building, Room 1100, on Oct. 3 and 4 (next Wednesday and Thursday), and from 8 a.m. to noon on Oct. 11 at the Lawrence Street Center on the Denver Campus.

“We're also available to do traveling flu clinics,” Strimpel said. “So if a department or area wants us to come there -- and there are a number of people who want it -- they can call us.”

The OHP clinic can be reached at 303-724-4663. More information about OHP and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety can be found on the EHS's new Facebook page.

The expanded clinic hours are:

Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; noon to 2:30 p.m.; 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Friday: 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.