Heart Disease and Work: What is the Connection?

Highlights from the UCSF Occupational and Environmental Medicine CME Conference, March 2015

Story by Raj Puri, MD
Fellow Physician, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, UCSF

There were numerous highlights in this year’s annual UCSF Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) and Continuing Medical Education (CME) conference. The theme focused on Cardiovascular Health and Disease and was held in March at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. It was organized and chaired by Drs. Paul Blanc and Robert Kosnik. Conference participants benefited from the diverse number of lecturers from occupational medicine, cardiology, dermatology, allergy and immunology, psychiatry, pharmacology, nursing, and others. The conference was fortunate to gain a large international presence from Sweden, both as attendees and as lecturers. Course participants also included OEM specialist physicians and nurses, industrial hygienists, PhD researchers, and others from across the United States as well as participants from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Iceland, Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

The conference was prefaced a day in advance by a colorful poster presentation session illustrating interesting and unique links between cardiovascular diseases and occupational medicine. Posters from all the current UCSF OEM trainees were included.

Photo: Abdullah Khafagy, MD (UCSF OEM, left) and Raj Puri, MD (UCSF OEM, right ) pose with Denis Vinnikov, MD, PhD. Abdullah Khafagy, MD (UCSF OEM, left) and Raj Puri, MD (UCSF OEM, right ) pose with Denis Vinnikov, MD, PhD.

The conference began with one full day focused on “Cardiovascular Health and Disease.” The remaining day and a half comprised of “Updates” in OEM. The first day was launched by Dr. Mia Soderberg from Sweden who discussed epidemiological issues related to occupational heart disease. Later in the day, Captain Bruce Bernard, MD, a Public health Service officer from NIOSH, gave an insightful lecture on cervical artery dissection and vascular diseases. Dr. Stefanos Kales, Residency Program Director and Chief of Harvard’s OEM program, discussed “Sudden Cardiac Death in Law Enforcement and Firefighting.” Finally, a panel discussion concluded the day with an interesting question and answer session.

The second day began with Dr. David Claman, Director of the UCSF Sleep Disorders Center. He discussed shift work disorders and presented a brief example of a “sleepy firefighter.” He highlighted issues relating to airline pilots, truck drivers, and other demanding transportation professionals. Later, Dr. Katherine Gundling, UCSF Professor of Allergy and Immunology, shared a memorable video on how to use an epi-pen. A full roster of other topics was covered, ranging from migrant health to bipolar affective disease in the workplace. The second day’s final lecture by Dr. Neal Benowitz captivated the audience with its focus on toxins associated with E-cigarettes.

The concluding half day was led by the always-on-point Dr. Howard Maibach, UCSF Professor of Dermatology. He commanded the audience’s attention with his calm presence, famous bow tie, brevity in slides, and ability to field the numerous questions posed throughout his interesting talk. World renowned in Occupational Dermatology, Dr. Maibach discussed the toxic effects of fragrances, metals, and chemical burns as well as proper testing methods. Dr. Denis Vinnikov, an MPH student in the Berkeley Environmental Health Sciences program, shared his vast experience with high altitude health effects in his work as a physician in the gold mines of Kyrgyzstan.

The attendees walked away with a new fund of knowledge and an unmatched networking opportunity in the field of occupational and environmental medicine.

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