VISIONS: A Journey as the Voice of Occupational Health

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

—Benjamin Franklin

By Karen O’Hara

After more than 26 years of publication, VISIONS still features stories about something worth writing about best practices in occupational health. Those of you who are relatively new to the field can judge for yourself by reading this edition. If you have been around a while, you may recall that I was editor-in-chief of VISIONS for 22 years, beginning with the inaugural edition, Vol. 1, No. 1 (July/August 1990). VISIONS started at 12 pages, grew to 20 within two years, and expanded to 24 when the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals (NAOHP) launched its Vendor Program. At six editions per year, that means the NOAHP published 132 editions while I was editor and NAOHP Executive Director Frank Leone was executive editor. During my tenure, I worked with only three graphic designers, Nanette Boyer, Kathleen Baushke (who became my best buddy), and the current designer, Erin Strother, with whom I still do freelance work. Today, VISIONS is published quarterly in paper and electronic formats. It is overseen by Editor-in-Chief Isabelle Walker, Executive Editor Emeritus Leone, and a new management team at RYAN Associates and the NAOHP.

“One of the smartest things I ever did in my professional life was hire a journalist.”

—Frank Leone
Mark Rothstein

The cover story of the first edition was by Karen Sandrick, a Chicago-based writer. The topic: Getting a Grip on Workplace Drug Testing. In the article, experts refer to drug screening as “an occupational health service fraught with both promise and pitfalls.”

Mark Rothstein, at the time a professor and director of the Health Law and Policy Institute at the University of Houston, made a prediction: “Drug testing is going to be legal on a much wider range of employees than it is wise to test.” He also said, “Providers have to realize that drug testing is totally alien to the kinds of tests healthcare professionals are used to performing.”

The landscape had changed dramatically three years earlier with the passage of the Drug-Free Workplace Act, paving the way for the adoption of the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. Yes, there was a learning curve, but it didn’t take long for drug testing to make the transition from an alien concept to a product line to a commodity in occupational health centers.

Kent Peterson

Kent Peterson, M.D., a prominent occupational medicine physician and former president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine was on hand to help facilitate the process. In that first VISIONS cover article, he warned providers to “anticipate change and be able to get updated information from one source or another and implement Kent Peterson, M.D. VISIONS: A Journey as the Voice of Occupational Healthchanges in Practice.” Dr. Peterson had the foresight to become one of those sources; he developed and taught a popular Medical Review Officer (MRO) training course for occupational physicians.

RECURRING THEMES Without realizing it, I took Mark Twain’s advice. I learned about occupational health from my colleagues at RYAN Associates/NAOHP and through research, consulting, and curriculum planning, it became possible to “write what I know.” Recurring themes occur when one writes a newsletter for so long. Yet there are always new angles and emerging issues to write about. I attribute this to the multi-layered aspects of occupational health as a business entity and clinical service.

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