In the 1980s, Dr. Ernest Hodgson of NC State University and colleagues recognized the need for a program that would merge the disciplines of agriculture and health to serve the needs of those working in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The result was a program known today as agromedicine.
Though retired for 12 years, Hodgson, professor emeritus and former head of NC State’s Toxicology Department, and other colleagues have released the first Dictionary of Agromedicine, available online. The dictionary will provide agromedicine practitioners with a common language for their field and help further define agromedicine as a discipline of its own.
The dictionary is available through the website of NC State’s Department of Applied Ecology at http://agromedicinedictionary.ces.ncsu.edu/. This first-ever dictionary for agromedicine includes 2,200 terms, and the editorial committee invites those in the field to propose additional entries.
Interpreted broadly, agromedicine represents the field of occupational health for those who work in farming, forestry and fisheries, said Dr. Greg Cope, co-editor of the dictionary, who was recently named William Neal Reynolds Professor in applied ecology. Agriculture and related occupations are among the most dangerous.
In the 1980s, agromedicine was a new idea in the field of agriculture and toxicology, driven largely by concerns over pesticide pollution, as defined by the Clean Water Act. Hodgson, then head of the Toxicology Department, recalls traveling around the state with Dr. Billy Caldwell, retired NC State crop science professor and Cooperative Extension associate director, and Dr. Paul James, a physician at East Carolina University.
The three met with professional groups, commodity groups, hospital leaders and other medical personnel about the need to develop a program in agromedicine. Hodgson recalls that some were interested and others were not. Ag-related illnesses and injuries are not uncommon to medical professionals in rural areas, who understood the need for an agromedicine program.
The effort led to the establishment of the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, a partnership of East Carolina University, NC State University and N.C. A&T State University. The institute collaborates with many state and community partners, including N.C. Cooperative Extension. The institute’s mission is to promote the health and safety of those who work in agriculture, forestry and fishing through research, intervention and prevention, and education and outreach.
When asked how long it took to develop the dictionary, Hodgson responds, “Forever. Basically, I came to the conclusion I wasn’t going to finish it in my lifetime. I was lucky enough that Greg Cope was willing to get involved. Then Julia Storm and the editorial committee got involved.”
Hodgson was also editor of the Dictionary of Toxicology, now out in its third edition. Holding the rights to that dictionary helped with toxicology terms that Hodgson wanted to add to the agromedicine dictionary. The agricultural terms were more challenging, Hodgson said, and so he turned to an editorial committee for support.
The project moved along quickly after the editorial committee was in place. NC State faculty on the committee are, from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Julia Storm and Catherine LePrevost, applied ecology; Ted Feitshans, agricultural and resource economics; Mike Waldvogel, entomology; and from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Ronald E. Baynes and Barrett D. Slenning, population health and pathobiology.
Other editorial committee members represent East Carolina University, the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Agromedicine Institute. (See the full committee here: http://appliedecology.cals.ncsu.edu/extension/toxicology/dictionary-of-agromedicine/editorial-committee/.)
“The Agromedicine Institute is a systematic partnership between the land-grant and medical institutions to address the occupational and environmental health and safety issues for people who work in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. That is really the key that binds everybody together,” Cope said.
Annually, the institute offers an agricultural medicine course, originally developed in Iowa. Many of the terms in the dictionary are also topics that are taught in the course, which is offered as a combination in-person and continuing education course through East Carolina University.
“The course is intended not only for nurses and those who want to become AgriSafe Network-certified nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers, but also we’ve had extension agents take the course, we’ve had other health and safety professionals, industrial hygienists,” Storm said.
Institute Director Robin Tutor-Marcom said the dictionary will be a great asset to the field of agromedicine. “The dictionary will be an invaluable tool going forward for both students and professionals working in the field,” she said. “Many thanks are due to Dr. Hodgson, other faculty members and community partners who assisted in making the dictionary a reality.”
Technical expertise for making the dictionary an online resource was provided by N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Mike Vysocka and Rhonda Conlon and web designers Neil McCoy and Shane McCoy.