Wilson Announced as New Director for LOHP

Michael Wilson (Photo Mabel Jimenez)

Michael Wilson has been appointed as the new Director of the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), stepping into a role held by Robin Baker for some 30 years. LOHP is a public service program of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) within the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Its mission is to protect the health and safety of workers and communities worldwide. The appointment was announced by John Balmes, Director of COEH, and is effective July 2011.

Wilson holds a PhD and MPH in Environmental Health Sciences from UC Berkeley, and a bachelors degree in Biology from UC Santa Cruz. He is also a graduate of the Trade Union Program at Harvard University, the Pre-Hospital Care Program at Stanford University and the Projecto Linguistico Francisco Marroquin in Antigua, Guatemala.

Since 2007, Wilson has served on green chemistry and biomonitoring science advisory panels for the California Environmental Protection Agency. His 2006 report to the California Legislature, Green Chemistry: A Framework for Leadership1, and his 2008 report to Cal/EPA, co-authored with UCLA colleagues and COEH researcher Megan Schwarzman2, helped frame the state's Green Chemistry Initiative and its implementing legislation.3 Wilson has testified before multiple hearings in Sacramento, California, and Washington, D.C., on the role of green chemistry and chemicals policy in protecting worker health and safety.

"LOHP is a community of people who embody the best of Berkeley," says Wilson. "It applies the resources of the University to a meet a critical social need, here in California and internationally. The work environment in the U.S. produces nearly 50,000 disease deaths each year, on top of some two-and-half million emergency rooms visits; we need to solve that problem, both in the near term and at its root cause," says Wilson.4 "Workers need training and tools to act effectively, and root causes are usually tied to political economic decisions and public policy; LOHP has a role in both areas."

Under his direction, Wilson hopes to increase LOHP's role internationally and in public policy debates. "As the global South continues to industrialize, I think we have an obligation at Berkeley to advocate on behalf of these workers and communities, which are often one in the same."

In addition to his role at LOHP, Wilson will continue to serve as an Associate Director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC), organizing interdisciplinary green chemistry research, education and public engagement. "I expect the relationship between LOHP and the BCGC to grow over time," notes Wilson, who sees the BCGC, with its explicit public interest focus, as a natural way for LOHP to strengthen its ties on campus.

"LOHP provides enormous benefit to California," says Wilson. "I'd like decision-makers in Sacramento to know that, on behalf of the University of California, there is an extraordinary group of people working with little support but with great benefit to the people who live and work here."

David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, was the first person to congratulate Wilson on his appointment. "LOHP is widely recognized as an organization that delivers," points out Wilson. "Thats a testament to the staff and to former Director Robin Baker's good work over many years."

Wilsons own relationship with LOHP goes back more than two decades. As a fire fighter-paramedic and union officer in the early 1990s, he caught the attention of former LOHP health educator Betty Szudy while testifying at a hearing on the federal Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response regulations. "We need to talk," was the opening line of a conversation that would convince Wilson he had a future at Berkeley. Now, the Center that first beckoned him to graduate school welcomes him in his new role as Director.

1 Wilson M, Chia C, Ehlers B. 2006. Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation. Special Report to the California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. University of California, California Policy Research Center.

2 Wilson M, Schwarzman M, Malloy T, Fanning E, Sinsheimer P. 2008. Green Chemistry: Cornerstone to a Sustainable California. Special Report to the California Environmental Protection Agency. University of California Centers for Occupational and Environmental Health.

3 Iles A. Greening Chemistry: Emerging Epistemic Political Tensions in California and the United States. Public Understanding of Science. 13 July 2011

4 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review, April 29, 2011 / 60(16);497.

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