Residency program optimizes learning through clinical application

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The USF College of Public Health’s Occupational Medicine Residency program recently held a luncheon to celebrate the graduation of its second-year residents, Dr. Delphine Fontcha, Dr. Vikas Jindal and Dr. Seth Parrish.

The OMR Class of 2014 pictured with program administrators

The OMR Class of 2014 pictured with program administrators. Front row, from left: Dr. Joan Watkins, OMR faculty; Dr. Eve Hanna, OMR faculty; Dr. Pratiksha Vaghela, 2014-2015 chief resident; Kelly Freedman, program coordinator; and, Dr. Khin Chit, first year resident. Back row, from left: Dr. Thomas Truncale, program director; Dr. Seth Parrish, second year resident; Dr. Delphine Fontcha, second year resident and outgoing chief resident; Dr. Vikas Jindal, second year resident; and, Dr. Thomas Bernard, chair of Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

A specialty that is not very well known even in the medical industry, occupational medicine is a sub-specialty of internal medicine that concentrates on prevention and the management of illness, injury or disability in the workplace.

Influential leaders in public health, physicians in this specialty are involved in monitoring employee health and wellness.  Accordingly, they impact the health and wellness of entire workforces.  They typically serve as medical directors in major corporations, manage employee health programs, work as physicians in occupational health clinics or hospitals, or may be in private practice.

The OMR program at USF is a two-year concurrent physician training and academic program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.  Located within the Morsani College of Medicine, Department of Preventive/Occupational Medicine, the program is in collaboration with the College of Public Health, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

Each resident works during the day (30-40 hours a week) and takes courses for the MSPH in occupational medicine, ultimately completing a minimum of 46 credit hours and defending a thesis project.  The advantage of the work-study approach is that residents get to use their educational coursework in clinical settings and optimize their learning in both academic and practicum settings.

Founded at USF in 1991, the program has had 60 graduates.  Its director, Thomas Truncale, DO, MPH, also is one of its graduates.  Many other program graduates are serving as clinical faculty to the program, including Dr. Eve Hanna, program chief of occupational health at James Haley VA Hospital; Dr. Rachel Williams, medical director of occupational health services at Florida Hospital Carrollwood; Dr. Melville Bradley, chief of the occupational health clinic at Bay Pines VA Hospital; and Dr. Joette Giovinco, medical reporter for WTVT channel 13 in Tampa.

“I earned my MSPH in conjunction with the two-year residency program in occupational medicine,” Bradley said.  “The MSPH portion of the residency program was academically rigorous, challenging and very rewarding.  I was fortunate enough to have my thesis research accepted by Delta Omega for poster presentation at the 2009 APHA Conference in Philadelphia.

Dr. Melville Bradley

Dr. Melville Bradley

“Subsequently, I was inducted into the Delta Omega society and passed the CPH examination.  After a thesis re-write, I had the manuscript published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.”

Bradley said he uses public health concepts and the training he received via the MSPH to run population-based health programs for workers at the Bay Pines Veterans Hospital.  Additionally, he assists occupational medicine residents with their thesis projects, nursing students with their community health projects when they rotate on his service at the hospital and mentors public health graduate students as a field experience supervisor.

“I also share my knowledge of positions, internships and programs on the federal side that students might be interested in pursuing after their MPH,” he said.  “My last student was accepted into the Patient Safety Fellowship program and will begin this July.”

USF’s program offers training rotations not available in other parts of the country, including a month at Kennedy Space Center to train with its medical director and an away rotation in Jacksonville with CSX Transportation, a leader in the railroad industry.

Because of all the places they can work and the types of illnesses and injuries they may see, occupational medicine residents train in a variety of settings including hand-surgery centers, occupational medicine clinics, poison control centers, emergency medicine, pulmonology, dermatology, audiology, neurology and many more.  They also become certified in spirometry to perform physical exams for the Department of Transportation.

About the spring graduates:

Dr. Vikas Jindal will be working as an occupational medicine employee physician at the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Lancaster, Calif.

Dr. Seth Parrish will be a staff physician and wellness program developer at the Eli Lilly and Company corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind.

Dr. Delphine Fontcha, the program’s most recent chief resident, is planning to take the board exams this fall and seek a position in Florida.

Story by Kelly Freedman and David Brothers, USF College of Public Health. Photos courtesy of Kelly Freedman and Dr. Melville Bradley.