Workers Comp Zone


Hey, it’s the weekend and my mind works in strange ways.

Remember the 1950s/1960s Japanese monster films, many of which are now cult classics? Mothra vs. Godzilla was in 1962:

I couldn’t help thinking of those classic monster films this week as I saw ACOEM doing battle with IJOEH in the press. The battle of the acronyms.

ACOEM is the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. ACOEM’s cookbook of medicine is now the official standard for treatment for California’s workers’ comp system (with a few exceptions, such as for acupuncture and chronic pain treatment, which will have other guidelines).

ACOEM is now under scrutiny by academics specializing in occupational and environmental health.

ACOEM appears to be a professional organization in service to industry.

The charge is made by researchers including University of California at San Francisco professor Joseph LaDou in an article in this month’s International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH). LaDou is a professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at UCSF.

The IJOEH charges against ACOEM are serious and detailed. Here’s a long quote from the preface to the article summarizing the full
contents on ACOEM:

“The American College of Occupational and Environmental (ACOEM) is a professional association that represents the interests of its company employed physician members. Fifty years ago the ACOEM began to assert itself in the legislative arena as an advocate of limited regulation and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards and laws, and environmental protection. Today the ACOEM provides a legitimizing professional organization for company doctors, and continues to provide a vehicle to advance the agendas of their corporate sponsors. Company doctors in ACOEM recently blocked attempts to have the organization take a stand on global warming. Company doctors employed by the petrochemical industry even blocked the ACOEM from taking a position on particulate air pollution. Industry money and influence pervade every aspect of occupational and environmental medicine. The controlling influence of industry over the ACOEM physicians should cease. The conflict of interests inherent in the practice of occupational and environmental medicine is not resolved by the ineffectual efforts of the ACOEM to establish a pretentious code of conduct. The conflicted interests within the ACOEM have become too deeply embedded to be resolved by merely a self-governing code of conduct. The specialty practice of occupational and environmental medicine has the opportunity and obligation to join the public health movement. If it does, the ACOEM will have no further purpose as it exists, and specialists in occupational and environmental medicine will meet with and be represented by public health associations. This paper chronicles the history of occupational medicine and industry physicians as influenced and even controlled by corporate leaders.”

Way to go, Mothra! Take that, Godzilla!

You can read the entire paper online by clicking here:

You can see ACOEM defend itself in this “open letter” from its President:

Don’t count Godzilla out, but Mothra has definitely drawn blood in this fight. ACOEM’s defense will undoubtedly be subject to further scrutiny in the academic press.

The IJOEH article notes that ACOEM refused to share information in its archives with the UCSF researchers.

Why does any of this matter? ACOEM has adopted a smug patina of invincibility as the arbiter of “best practices” in workplace medicine.

But the emperor may have no clothes.

Stay tuned. You can subscribe to the blog via RSS by clicking on the buttons at the lower right menu bar.

Julius Young

Category: Medical treatment under WC