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When the general public think of the origins of occupational medicine, their thoughts might turn to excluding small boys from going up chimneys, children rummaging around the floors of cotton mills, or industrial nurses stemming the blood from lost limbs in dangerous machinery. In the past 50 years occupational and environmental medicine has become a very distinctive practice and now involves a highly specialised team.
Why did this Specialty emerge when it did? What has been achieved? What do current practitioners see as the path for the future?
In 2018 the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM) compiled a history of occupational medicine in Australia to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and last year Dr Farhan Shahzad undertook a series of oral histories with occupational physicians transitioning to retirement, published in the AFOEM President’s newsletter.
In 2023 we will be celebrating the 30th year of recognition of the specialty of occupational medicine in Australia and 2024 will be the 30th year since the foundation of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).
It would seem that now is an opportune time to draw together and build on existing efforts to describe our professional history, especially as the second generation of occupational physicians in Australia and New Zealand are in the process of transitioning to retirement. In this project an archive will be established in the RACP Library.
A joint initiative of the RACP and ANZSOM, the archive will feature a timeline listing key events in our heritage and linking to information including documents, images and audio/video histories.
Members are now invited to contribute to this work, which will be managed through the RACP Library.
Click here for more information about the project
We invite doctors and nurses, and other members of occupational health professions to read the draft timeline and add to it. You can upload notes, photos, memorabilia, your memories and recollections. Where were you working 30 years ago? What was it like? Why did you choose occupational health? The ongoing development of the timeline will be managed through the RACP Library.
Click here for skeletal timeline
On November 21 we will be holding a witness seminar at the ANZSOM ASM. In a lively forum, we will be inviting those who were witness to this history to recall their place in these historical events of the past 50 years, and at the conclusion we can all see from where we have come and reflect on the question: Occupational medicine - ‘are we there yet?’.
Nominations for witnesses, with your reasons for doing so are welcome.
Are you a trainee with an interest in occupational medicine? We are seeking research assistants to work with the medical historian advising this project, Dr Cate Storey, Chair of the RACP Library Committee. There is potential for this work to be recognised for the research component of AFOEM training.
Professor Niki Ellis
Professor Niki Ellis has worked in the Commonwealth and State public services, the private sector and most recently in academia. She was the last President of ACOM and the Inaugural President of AFOM. The daughter of a museum director/archeologist and a historical biographer, and brought up in a museum, it is perhaps not surprising that she has a long standing interest in history. A highlight of her career was an appointment as an honorary research fellow at the Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine in London from 2002 – 2005. She is now writing an historical novel set on Lord Howe Island.
Associate Professor Cate Storey
A/Professor Cate Storey is a retired neurologist, who developed a passion for history while working as a registrar at Queen Square, London, the birthplace of British neurology. She has a post-graduate degree in the History and Philosophy of Science which led to an academic career in the history of the neurosciences. Currently her aim is to demonstrate that there is a place for the integration of the history of medicine into modern medical practice, by supervising medical students in related history projects, as Chair of the Library committee of the RACP promoting the Colleges’ historical resources and bringing to life the Rare Books Collection at Sydney University.
If you have any photos, videos, documents etc relevant to the history of occupational medicine, please submit them using the form below. For multiple documents, please upload separately. If more than 4 uploads, please submit additional forms.