Since 2004, the Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) has played a crucial role training, mentoring, and inspiring a new generation of occupational safety & health (OSH) professionals as well as providing worker organizations and unions resources to strengthen their health and safety efforts. OHIP is housed within the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) and has training sites across the country including: the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. New sites will be announced in 2021.
Each year OHIP receives hundreds of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences and admits roughly 25 student interns each summer. Since the first group of interns were admitted to the program in the summer of 2004, 332 OHIP interns have been placed with 107 community-based organizations and unions to work on 177 occupational health and safety projects in 28 locations across the country and U.S. territories.
Many OHIP alumni have gone on to work in health and safety at different worker agencies and organizations and credit their OHIP experience as having an influence on their academic and career paths. See results from a 2015 survey that evaluated the impact of OHIP on alumni.
OHIP began in 2004 with support from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). AOEC receives a NIOSH Training Program Grant (TPG) for OHIP which is the only training grant from NIOSH specifically designed to recruit occupational health professionals through a summer internship experience.
In addition to core support from the NIOSH TPG, OHIP receives financial support from different labor organizations, occupational and environmental agencies, and private donors which has been crucial to the expansion of the program across the country.
The National Advisory Board was established in 2003 to provide strategic guidance on the goals, organization, and administration of OHIP. Our diverse board members are selected from the core occupational safety and health disciplines (research, education, policy), as well as from labor and employer organizations, academic institutions, and federal and state agencies across the country.
The Board reviews problems and successes of OHIP, funding, and discusses upcoming projects and improvements. Support of the members is key to developing our national reputation, promoting student recruitment, and encouraging collaborations with new project sites.
OHIP History & Inspiration
OHIP is modeled after the successful union-based internship program that was established in the 1970s by Tony Mazzocchi, a former leader of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW). Often referred to as the father of the modern-day health and safety movement, Mazzocchi brought public health professionals and activists together to work on problems faced by workers and their communities.
In collaboration with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Montefiore Hospital, student interns investigated health and safety problems while immersed with workers in labor unions during the summer. Many of these former interns have become leading occupational and environmental health experts and credit their internship experience as formative in choosing their career path.
The Birth of OHIP
The Montefiore and OCAW Internship Program ended in the early 1980s, but by the early 2000s it had become clear that the need for a new internship program was greater than ever. Jobs were shifting toward the service sector, the American workforce had become more diverse, and the number of new health and safety professionals had slowed to a trickle.
With a grant from NIOSH, detailed interviews were conducted with the 1970’s internship students and leaders in the occupational safety and health field. Two national meetings were held to conceptualize the structure of a new program that had similar goals to the 1970’s internship: to inspire and train the “next generation” of occupational health professionals and prevent job injury and disease through a partnership with workers.
Following the interviews and meetings, a report that assessed the impact of the 1970’s program on the careers of medical and public health students occurred. Soon thereafter, OHIP was established as a national program. In 2004, under the leadership of Robert Harrison (Principal Investigator), Gail Bateson (OHIP Advisory Board Chair), Katherine Kirkland (AOEC Executive Director), and a group of health professionals, including several former interns, OHIP recruited its first class.