Rounds to Residency

What is Occupational & Environmental Medicine? with PD Alya Khan, MD

Chase DiMarco talks to Dr. Alya Khan, an Occupational Medicine Residency Program Director and Assistant Clinical Professor at UC, Irvine. They talk about challenges facing OEM residents, how to stand out during OEM residency applications, and the best-kept secrets in medicine.

  • [00:57] Challenges Facing Residents in Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • [05:14] What is Occupational and Environmental Medicine?
  • [08:37] Physician Opportunities in OEM
  • [10:10] The Shortage of OEM Physicians
  • [12:50] How to Stand out During OEM Residency Application
  • [14:45] What to Avoid when Applying for OEM Residency Positions
  • [18:09] Networking Tips for a Career in OEM

Challenges Facing Residents in Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Specialists in occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) spend more time tackling issues affecting healthy workers, employers, or companies, and their time is spent addressing ill or injured patients. Sadly, not many students know about OEM, even though the specialty ranks amongst the highest in job satisfaction and the lowest in professional burnout. Nonetheless, Dr. Khan believes that the students who often land residency programs are the ones that show a keen interest in the world of OEM. She adds that the profession, just like all other medical specialties, is subject to the ever-changing patient demands. The good news is that medics in OEM can develop niche areas and create unique career pathways such as disability experts or public sector health experts.

What is Occupational and Environmental Medicine?

Occupational and environmental medicine is a board-certified specialty that focuses on diagnosing and treating work-related injuries and illnesses. Careers in OEM are intellectually challenging and present medics with opportunities to significantly impact disease prevention among workers. Most residents relish the prospect of becoming leaders in a wide range of settings such as corporate worksites, regulatory agencies, academia, hospital-based clinics, government and military institutions.

Physician Opportunities in OEM

OEM residency programs are accredited two-year training programs that provide residents with the qualifications to meet the eligibility requirements for Board Certification in Occupational Medicine. One major highlight of OEM residency is that students can step out of clinical medicine and pursue the business side of medicine. Further, OEM physicians were poised to take the lead when addressing issues related to the pandemic. Employers in essential industries such as food and healthcare require support when returning their employees safely back to work. OEM physicians boast special training and expertise in return-to-work procedures such as epidemiology and testing measures to address infectious diseases.

The Physician Shortage in OEM

There is a massive shortage of trained OEM physicians in the corporate world, academic medical centers, communities, and related agencies. To address this shortage, industry leaders need to increase the number of academic OEM specialists necessary for training sufficient numbers of specialists and primary care physicians. However, increasing the number of academic OEM specialists won’t be enough if sufficient efforts are not put in place to enhance the attractiveness of OEM as a career option. Thus, it would be best if undergraduate and graduate medical trainees are exposed to OEM material where OEM concepts are repeatedly introduced throughout pre-clinical and clinical years.

Links and Resources

Alya Khan’s Instagram

Alya Khan’s LinkedIn (The Western Component)

The OEM podcast

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Chase DiMarco

Chase DiMarco is an MS, MBA-HA and MD/Ph.D-candidate. He is the founder of MedEd University, a free medical education resource, the host of the Medical Mnemonist & Rounds to Residency podcasts creator of several medical education platforms, and CEO of FindARotation clinical rotations service.

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