I mentioned about OHD a while back. The reason why I chose this field was because:
- It’s a relatively unknown field
- It’s something quite different
- No oncalls. Yass!
Chance had it that I was given the opportunity to pursue this pathway so I give thanks to God for that. Truth be told, I had zero inkling what occupational health is all about before I went for the course conducted by NIOSH.
Occupational health was and still is one of the subspecialty under the domain of Public Health in Malaysia. However the pathway now to become a recognised Public Health specialist is much more difficult compared to few years ago.
I got a lot of new knowledge after attending the Occupational Health Doctor course. For your information, NIOSH (short form for National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) acts as the agency responsible for training and research, whereas DOSH (Department of Safety and Health) is the enforcement arm that swings down the bat of justice hard on those unscrupulous employers that exploit and harm workers.
The current training format of OHD is one of short course where training takes place over 9 days split over 3 weekends. In this very short period of time, the amount of information they’ll cram into you is staggering. One would have to learn about the different terminologies, new way of thinking, adapting clinical knowledge into industrial setting, relevant laws and regulations and so on. Not to mention the myriad occupational diseases – which would be the clinical side of things.
The course I went for costed me about RM3k and it included all textbooks and food. It was held at the NIOSH office. We also had the opportunity to conduct a mock workplace assessment at a construction site (which is normally closed to the general public) to try our hand at identifying workplace hazards and come up with control measures, which is bread and butter for a practising OHD.
The exam has 2 parts – a written component and the WPA (workplace assessment). The written component is the typical exam which I took at NIOSH Bangi HQ. As for WPA, you have to choose a workplace and conduct a proper assessment, much like a project work. The physical coursework will then have to be submitted to NIOSH for marking.
If only you pass both parts of the OHD exam can you get the OHD certification.
I came to understand that OHD is a very popular supplementary qualification sought by a lot of doctors in the country. After attending the course, I realised why. A lot of the laws and regulations which employers and industrial companies have to adhere to require some interventions of which only qualified OHDs have the authority to conduct.
The lecturers allude to the lucrative side of the career- hard to see why. OHDs are high in demand by big multinationals and GLCs, and having this qualification puts you in good stead of clinching a good job offer in the private sector should you think of quitting the government at some point in the future.
That being said, becoming and OHD doesn’t mean you become a specialist. It’s just an extra qualification which qualifies you to do certain things the general public or practitioners from other fields couldn’t. While it can potentially be lucrative, it’s completely up to the resourcefulness of the doctors themselves to venture into business (depending on which side of the country you’re in).
UPDATE – Since publishing this article in 2018, OHD is becoming a very competitive field. I’m assuming many people are inspired and went for the course, haha! However, most practising OHD I know are employed with big corporations or chain clinics.
Some final thoughts – OHD is one of the things I’m glad I forked out my hard-earned money for. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air compared to the usual things you see in the hospital wards. It can be dry at times, but the exposure to the technical side of things is essential for you to grasp the intricacies of this field and become an expert in it.
Always remember the adage, if you’re good at something, never do it for free.