The Occupational Health Internship Program (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 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (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 — 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.
Each year OHIP receives hundreds of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences and admits roughly 25 students each summer. Since the first group of students were admitted to the Program in the summer of 2004, over 300 OHIP interns have worked on nearly 150 occupational health and safety projects.