Western Occupational & Environmental Medical Association
Leading Occupational & Environmental Medicine

Welcome to the WOEMA WINDOW.  This e-newsletter is sent to members by email on a monthly basis. The e-newsletter provides links to this page. Below are the items that appeared in the December 2018 issue.


A Message from WOEMA’s President Elect




“The future is written not for us, but by us”

It is an honor and privilege to serve as your WOEMA President in 2019. Following in the footsteps of Dr. Sachin Kapoor, I am launching our upcoming year with the quote above from former President Barack Obama. As I stated when I became an ACOEM Fellow – we in OEM should be the hub of healthcare.  By contributing to a healthy workforce with prevention and education (lifestyle, sustainability, environmental responsibility, as well as safety), we can be the driving force of wellness within our communities.

As such, I dedicate 2019 to the next generation. My mission is to support and promote those coming into our profession to advance within and beyond the parameters of OEM.

The world is evolving faster and less predictably than before in business, healthcare, technology and climate. Although there are challenges such as obesity, shrinking business margins, global warming, and competition (retail clinics, offshore services, etc.), the opportunities are endless and exciting including lifestyle medicine, built environments, reducing the carbon footprint, and using technology to reach underserved areas. No one can deliver on the opportunities as well as an OEM specialist — each of you.

I believe that WOEMA adds an additional value — we are a family, a community, and a safe haven. One can always come home to WOEMA, and we warmly welcome new members and guests into our community. The light is always on and the door open! My only request: take care of, and look after each other, especially our occ doc clinicians who are my heroes!

Warmest aloha,

Bernyce Peplowski, DO, MS, FACOEM


Add Your Voice! California Occupational Research Agenda (CORA) Survey



WOEMA urges members to add your voice to California’s occupational health research agenda by participating in a statewide survey.

The Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) would like your assistance in a statewide effort to develop a California Occupational Research Agenda (CORA).

California’s burden of occupational injuries and illnesses takes a substantial toll on workers, who lose work time and wages and may suffer permanent disability or even death. Employers are also negatively impacted by lost productivity and higher workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

CHSWC with its partners, the California Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Branch (CDPH OHB) and the University of California’s Centers for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH), are interested in identifying a set of research priorities specific to the needs of California’s workforce.

Your participation in this brief survey will help us gather information from stakeholders, primarily employers, worker representatives, insurers, and researchers about broad research topic priorities, barriers to collecting or sharing information, and identifying effective prevention measures.

We invite you to share your insight and opinions based on your professional experience. The survey will take no more than 10 minutes of your time. All responses are optional, anonymous and will be kept confidential. We will share the results with you after the aggregated analysis is completed and made public.

We hope that you or your designee will take the time to complete the survey. Your voluntary participation is greatly appreciated.

 The link below will take you to the online survey which is due by January 18



Thoughts on Resilience

an editorial by Sarah Mansell, MD, WOEMA Member



Sitting in the room across from me was a friendly, very overweight 45-year-old female.

She had a history of chronic right knee pain with a past work injury causing an anterior cruciate ligament tear. She reported that for many years, she had walked only with pain and was barely managing her sedentary job and activities of daily living.

I was worried. She had slipped walking in her office and had re-injured her right knee.  It was swollen and tender and although X-ray showed no fracture, I was sure this was going to be a long and difficult recovery.

Imagine my surprise at our 4th follow up appointment when she walked in with no cane, sat down and informed me that she was better than she had been in years and was ready to be discharged.

For weeks she had been doing the isometric exercises I had given her, she had bought an exercise bike from Craig’s List and was riding on it every day. She had gone from 1 minute of cycling and was now riding up to 25 minutes at a time. She had taken this difficult time and turned it to something magical.

This story tantalizes me — why was this lady so resilient? How did she get better when her history and other medical issues made it so unlikely? When I think of her, I can’t help comparing to a multitude of other patients with similar stories who had the recovery I had expected for her: long, slow, and very arduous.

While I probably will never know what drove this lady to work so hard — the answer to my question is likely her ability to find her strength in the face of adversity. For a woman with a prior serious knee injury, chronic pain and immobility, her story is remarkable.

When I asked her for her secret, she shared she had felt hopeful when she heard there were exercises that would help her. She enlisted family to cheer her on while she rode the bike and her friends bombarded her with encouragement on social media. As her knee improved, she saw that she was regaining a sense of self and independence. Walking across the store was less of a chore than it had been a year ago and her pain was improving every day. She saw herself as successful and the better she felt, the harder she worked.

When I looked up resilience to see how I could learn from her, I found that this women’s story was almost a textbook example of how to handle adversity. Her ability to find humor, enlist her friends and family and take ownership of her injury really helped her make this miraculous recovery.

The question I ask: is how do I replicate this outcome for other patients? As an Occupational Medicine provider, should I be offering tools for resilience at the same time as splints and anti-inflammatories?

Although I know that it may be some time before I see another such a glorious recovery, this transcendent story reminds me of why I love my job.


WOEMA Member Spotlight: Dr. Dabi Gurmu




Dr. Dabi Gurmu is an Occupational Medicine specialist with a unique path that brought him to WOEMA.

He grew up in Ethiopia and when he graduated from high school, he knew that he wanted to seek adventure. At that time in history, the Soviet Union played a role in the region, and with that he was able to receive a scholarship to attend college in Ukraine. From there he went on to attend medical school in Belarus. After graduating, he returned home to Ethiopia, where he practiced primary care medicine from 1991-1997.

In 1997, Dr. Gurmu emigrated to the United States, still in search of adventure. He completed a General Surgery internship at USC in 2004, and then needed to choose his medical career path. As he relates it, he discovered OEM by accident. Once he stumbled onto it, though, he knew that was where he belonged. He earned an MPH from Loma Linda University and then went on to complete his OEM residency. He quickly got involved in OEM and Preventive Medicine professional societies and looks forward to doing his part to contribute to the fields.

After taking advantage of opportunities to advance his career in several different clinical settings, he found an occupational medicine practice to settle into in the Fresno area. Dr. Gurmu knew from early in his career that he wanted to own his own business, and shortly after starting in his newest position he was given that chance. One day, with no notice, he and the staff were informed that the clinic was being closed. Dr. Gurmu jumped at the opportunity and purchased the practice. He has just recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of Gurmu OccMed Services and he looks forward to continued growth.


WOEMA Webinar Series 2018




If you have missed any webinar topics over the past year, you can visit our webinar library to view slides and recordings of the webinars offered this year:

You can also view past webinars. Check back next month for information on our first webinar of 2019!



COEH Builds Bridges: Impacts of New Policies in Occupational Health
January 25-26



Friday, January 25, 2019 – Saturday, January 26, 2019
Bancroft Hotel, Berkeley, CA

Occupational health is fundamental to public health. In 2016, there were a total of 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in the U.S., a 7% increase from 2015, and the third consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities since 2008. In 2017, private industry employers reported approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, a rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In the years ahead, the changing world of work will present even more new challenges to health and safety professionals tasked with protecting public health.

The joint symposium presented by UC Berkeley and UC Davis will explore the impacts of new policies on occupational health, emerging standards in California, and provide updates in occupational and environmental medicine to improve provider competence in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of worker-related injuries.

On Friday, January 25th, learners will discuss occupational health policies in California, new and emerging standards unique to California, and how the impact of these policies might be assessed over time. This portion of the activity is intended for occupational and environmental health and safety professionals including registered environmental health specialists, industrial hygienists, certified safety professionals, and other allied health professionals.

On Saturday, January 26th, learners will review commercial driver case studies, preliminary data from the NorCal Fire and Health Impact Survey, health and safety of cannabis workers, evidence-based treatments for traumatic brain injury, the MTUS formulary, and more. This portion of the activity is intended for clinicians including MD, DO, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Registered Nurses, and allied health professionals.