Established in 1995, the Mount Sinai / Queens College International Training Program in Environmental and Occupational Health strives to endow the environmental and occupational health sciences in Brazil, Chile and Mexico with an enhanced capacity to identify, document and ameliorate environmental and occupational health problems of major public health significance. The aims of the program are three-fold:
To promote the acquisition of knowledge and skills in key disciplines of environmental and occupational health by individual scientists in order to increase the number of trained environmental and occupational health professionals in the chosen three countries.
To improve the capacity of leading national institutions to recognize and address problems of occupational and environmental health via targeted research projects.
To promote the development of a network among environmental and occupational health professionals, such that cooperation between Latin American countries and between the USA and Latin American countries is optimal.
The Program achieves the proposed goals through the Irving J. Selikoff Scholarship, courses in the home country and support for conferences on environmental and occupational health. The Program also functions to strengthen scientific collaboration in the area of environmental and occupational health between the United States and participating countries.
As part of a unique 24 – 36 month training program that avoids the infamous "brain drain", Irving J. Selikoff scholars work on designated research projects in their home countries, while intermittently attending a sequence of three, one month training visits to Mount Sinai and Queens College in New York City. Mount Sinai/Queens College faculty visit scholars in their home countries and maintain close electronic communications with scholars throughout their research project. The Program Steering Committee is in charge of selecting Scholarship recipients and participates in mentoring activities.
As of 2003, the Mount Sinai / Queens College International Training Program in Environmental and Occupational Health has had the privilege of training over 25 scholars. Scholars have benefited from the fellowship in many ways: research publications, career advancement into positions of authority, successful grant applications, completion of post-graduate degrees, and pursuit of new degrees in environmental and occupational health. Particularly impacting accomplishments include the establishment of a national surveillance system for occupational traumatic fatalities – the first of its kind – in Chile as well as research that has promoted policy changes.
Through the training it provides scholars, the Irving J. Selikoff scholarship also supplies the human capital needed to promote skill advancement in other scientists in the home country. Former scholars are active participants in teaching and organizing courses in their home countries. They thus share their newly acquired or refined skills with others and also promote the discipline among younger scientists. Past courses have included topics such as: industrial hygiene for engineers and safety personnel (Chile), extension courses on environmental and occupational health (Mexico), ethical conduct in research/institutional review boards (Mexico, Brazil, Chile) and scientific and grant writing and management (Mexico, Brazil, Chile).
Conferences are also an important part of the Program, as they facilitate international exchange and support between environmental and occupational health scientists. Past conferences have included a two-day conference co-sponsored with the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The papers from the conference were published in a Special Supplemental issue of Salud Pública de México in 1999.
Luz Claudio, PhD
Department of Community and Preventive Medicine
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029