November 20, 2006

Safety Center expands injury prevention efforts

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Safety Center, long known for its motorcycle rider training program, is expanding its scope in a move aimed to establish more interdisciplinary research pertaining to injury prevention.

"This will allow us to take advantage of some of the funding, research and training opportunities out there, to get our faculty members involved in more interdisciplinary work and to address needs in the region, state and nation — perhaps even internationally," said David A. Birch, chair of the Department of Health Education and Recreation, which houses the center.

"We're definitely looking at prevention and control initiatives not limited to just this region."

Birch said the center's new director, Associate Professor Bart J. Hammig, who joined the faculty in 2000 and has served as associate director for the past year, will lead the expansion push. Hammig replaces Dale O. Ritzel, who retired Sept. 1.

"Bart has a strong research background and a very productive record, evidenced by a number of peer-reviewed articles in professional journals," Birch said.

"He also works well with others in other disciplines and is a strong teacher."

Hammig received a yearlong post-doctoral fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in 1998 and following that took a position as an epidemiologist in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's injury prevention program. As director of SIUC's Safety Center, he is seeking out other campus injury specialists interested in working on joint research projects.

"Injury prevention is what the Safety Center is all about," Birch said.

Hammig said he already has begun a joint project with Hussein Soliman of SIUC's School of Social Work to create a certificate program in emergency training. This past summer, Soliman taught an intensive course designed to teach social work graduate students to help people deal with the many problems created by a raft of disasters both manmade and natural.

"With the certificate, we're going beyond just responding to an event," Hammig said.

"We want to train people to be well rounded in their approach in addressing the needs of a community — things like the psychological needs, response to employment problems, and rebuilding not just homes but sewer, water and solid waste disposal systems. If we teach people to be jack-of-all-trades, they will know how to respond appropriately when an event occurs.

"The goal is to look long-term instead of short, to think beyond the next week. Depending on the nature of the disaster, assistance could take months or even years. The goal of the certificate program is to train people to be coordinators for meeting all those needs."

Soliman is now surveying the region's health-based agencies to find out what needs to address specifically in training. He will then seek funding to provide it.

In other changes at the Safety Center, Peggy A. Wilken, a clinical assistant professor of health education, has become the coordinator of Safety Center training programs. For several years, she has coordinated the University's annual disaster simulations and has taught first aid and safety classes.

Hammig is a three-degree graduate of the University of Kansas, earning his bachelor's in 1991, his master's in 1993 and his doctorate in 1998. He also earned a master of public health degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1998.


Bart J. Hammig

Bart J. Hammig
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