The primary goal of the Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) program is to identify and provide training for the next generation of occupational health professionals. Three major training objectives underlie the program. Over the course of a summer, each of the OHIP trainees gains an understanding of: the importance of work-related health and safety hazards in determining the health of workers and the general community;the changing nature of the workforce and importance of designing health and safety interventions to meet the needs of specific and diverse worker groups;and the role of occupational health and safety professionals in reducing workplace health and safety hazards. The second goal of OHIP is to increase diversity in the occupational health disciplines by aggressively recruiting and mentoring students from minority and immigrant backgrounds. Many of the over 300 applicants we receive each year are from underrepresented minorities (URMs), and the majority we accept into the program are from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Of the 157 students over the nine years of the program, a majority (85%) is fluent in a second language and 17% speak a third language. Thus, many of our students bring special language and cultural skills that are essential to the success of the project. In addition, the majority of our field-based projects serve low wage and immigrant worker populations. Each OHIP team completes three "deliverables" during their 9-week project: (1) Educational materials that can be used by their host organization (union, community based organization, agency, etc.) to improve worker knowledge of safety and health hazards;(2) Summary of their findings in PowerPoint format to be presented at the end of the summer through videoconference links;and (3) Written summary reports of project objectives, methods, results and recommendations. OHIP project personnel and mentors from around the country, each with considerable health and safety experience, work to ensure that the internships will be successful. This includes extensive national recruitment for applicants, careful selection of student projects, conduct of a three-day national orientation training, and effective mentorship and supervision throughout the summer. Post-summer communication with the trainees solidifies their interest in occupational health. A national advisory board composed of nationally recognized educators and scientists continues to play a key role in overseeing the program.
The overall purpose of OHIP is to increase the number of under-represented minorities in the occupational health professions through a summer enrichment experience. Students are provided with an experienced-based learning opportunity that motivates and inspires them to continue their academic training through graduate programs in the occupational health professions. The training program also serves to increase awareness of work-related injuries, illnesses, and hazards among immigrant and low-wage populations, and provide content information and background experience for further study in occupational health and related fields.