Keeping the Movement Young and Healthy

July 01, 2013

Letitia ‘Tish’ Davis is kind of a big deal. Few others can say they founded the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Occupational Surveillance Program, serving as its sole director since its inception in 1986. Nor can many say that over their career they have developed numerous programs that have provided the foundation for regulatory policies that have promoted occupational health and saved lives. However, even winners of the Douglas Award for Public Health Practice like Davis know that at some point, she and her pioneering colleagues will have to hand over the reins to a new generation of labor leaders – young individuals ready to take the occupational safety to new heights.
Last February 19, at Davis’s Cambridge home, she and other MassCOSH Health Tech committee members gathered with these future pioneers at a convening entitled: From Research to Action – how professionals and students can be involved in making workplaces safe and healthier. MassCOSH’s Health Tech Committee helps the organization strengthen its technical assistance capacity – helping staff respond to health and safety questions from workers, unions and community coalitions, conduct worker safety assessments, and analyze workplace chemicals and exposure reports
For many attendees like Emily Sparer, this evening was an eye opening experience. As a
doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health studying ergonomics and occupational safety, Sparer was only familiar with MassCOSH though the organizations mailing list. However, her academic focus on construction site injury prevention through communication and engagement led her professor to forward her an email advertising the MassCOSH event. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to become more involved,” explained Sparer.
Naturally, MassCOSH Health Tech Committee Members made a great impression.
“[Attending the event] was great!” said Sparer. “I was able to match faces to the names I have heard about and read so much about.”
The evening included a review of the latest occupational health and fatality data for upcoming Workers Memorial Day, and recommendations for improving safety on the job that would be included in the upcoming MassCOSH report ‘Dying for Work in Massachusetts.’
“One thing that really interested me was MassCOSH’s link to this kind of work and to the community,” said Sparer. “As a student there can be a disconnect between the academic world and the real world, the Workers’ Memorial Day report conversation was very interesting.”
Health Tech Chair Elise Pechter, a long-time Department of Public Health Occupational Health Surveillance program employee, found the event inspiring.
“It was great mix of young people that are new to the movement and the future leaders of the field,” said Pechter. “The combination of long-time experienced occupational health professionals and active, bright, innovative students will really contribute to a powerful and sustained movement for safe, secure jobs.”
MassCOSH’s Health Tech committee in already planning its next meeting for early June and is always looking to expand its membership. If you would be interesting in joining us or would like to forward information to a friend who may be interested in MassCOSH’s work like Emily Sparer, please contact Tolle Graham Labor & Environment coordinator at for more information.