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6.30.2015

M.D./M.P.H. Student Awarded NIOSH Grant to Study Osteoarthritis in Hispanic Construction Workers

Samuel R. Huntley, a first-year M.D./M.P.H. student at the Miller School of Medicine, was awarded a Pilot/Small Project Grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for his proposal titled, “DOLORES – Determinants of Osteoarthritis Linked to Occupational Radiography: Epidemiologic Surveillance.” Through this pilot project, Huntley and his faculty mentor, Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., C.P.H., assistant professor of public health sciences, will develop and evaluate an innovative osteoarthritis screening method among Hispanic construction workers in South Florida.

The construction workforce is exposed to numerous worksite hazards that contribute to the development of chronic musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis. Despite being the most common form of arthritis, and its strong correlation to excessive wear and tear on the joint due to heavy mechanical loading and workplace exposures, few studies have examined the relationship between self-reported arthritis status, workplace exposures and its clinical validation using ultrasonography and clinical examination in this group of workers, particularly those of Hispanic descent.

“The U.S. construction workforce is already older, aging and largely obese, furthering the need for researchers to investigate how different workplace exposures and ergonomic practices can act independently on the frequency, severity and reporting of osteoarthritis,” said Huntley. “Through this NIOSH pilot study, we hope to collect some preliminary data that helps us understand if self-reported, doctor-diagnosed knee arthritis is associated with workplace physical exposures and ultrasound-guided knee imaging in order to develop worksite-based prevention strategies in the long term.”

This pilot grant award is part of the Pilot/Small Projects Research Training Program, a competitive research grant program at the NIOSH Education and Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The purpose of these grant awards is to encourage new and innovative research by students, postdoctoral trainees and new investigators in topics related to occupational health and safety that are among the priorities set by the National Occupational Research Agenda and established by NIOSH.

“Training the next cadre of young public health physicians in environmental and occupational medicine is critically important,” said Caban-Martinez. “These research training grants create the opportunity to show medical students how an individual’s work environment impacts their physical and mental health and how to develop workplace interventions to prevent these disorders in minority worker populations.”

Huntley and Caban-Martinez will be collaborating on this pilot project with Ty Subhawong, M.D., assistant professor of clinical radiology; J. David Pitcher, Jr., M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery; and Kristopher L. Arheart, Ed.D., associate professor of public health sciences in the Division of Biostatistics.

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