Before there was an IAM, there was a Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health (DPMEH) in the College of Medicine, University of Iowa, The Department dates from 1885 when its name was the Department of Hygiene. Dr. Robert Wallace penned a short history of the DPMEH, titled Notes, Reminiscences, and interpretations: A Brief History of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health (Wallace 2002 and Appendix A). Wallace briefly describes the activities of the IAM as it evolved within the Department. In this manuscript, I describe in more detail the evolution of the IAM.
Public attention to acute occupational farm injuries in the U.S. dates from the mid-20th century (before the fields of medicine and public health were involved). The Land Grant Universities Extension safety programs along with the National Safety Council, insurance companies, and the Farm Bureau led agricultural safety beginning in the mid-1940s. Dennis Murphy of Pennsylvania State University has documented the history of agricultural safety in two publications (Murphy 1992, Murphy 2003). More recently, Derek Oden wrote a book on the subject, titled Harvest of Hazards (Oden, 2017). Oden describes the movement in agricultural safety, which led to the formation of the National Institute for Farm Safety (NIFS), a professional organization that was a leader in the field from the mid 1940s into the early 2000s. This early activity focused on acute occupational injuries, not occupational health or medical conditions associated with agricultural work. The safety efforts of the group mentioned produced a quantity of educational material and programs, through written materials, farmer-oriented safety meetings and demonstrations, safety engineering, and agricultural safety specialist’s professional development.
However, it was not until 1955 with the founding of the IAM that the medical and public health professions entered the field of agricultural health and safety. Occupational medicine generally had its roots in Italy 1760 with Bernardo Ramazzini (often referred to as the “father of occupational medicine”). His book DeMorbis Artrificum Diatriba is a foundational work in the history of the profession of occupational medicine. Although Ramazzini wrote of occupations generally, there were several references in his book to farmers and their occupational-related illnesses. It was not until the 1900s that occupational medicine became a field of practice in the U.S. (Gochfeld, M, 2005). Agricultural medicine evolved independent of the agricultural safety activity. Note that there have always been philosophical, cultural, and practice divides between those who claim their profession as either Farm Safety or Farmers’ Health. Stemming from the foundation of the IAM in 1955, the expansion of the agricultural medicine (health) concept and practice grew nationally and internationally. Agricultural Medicine emerged at Iowa with a public health concept and approach. The concept included prevention in farm populations for both health and safety concerns. An example of the IAM influence on national/international involvement was the effort to include both health and safety professionals together. This effect was noted by the change in the name and demographics of the membership of NIFS. In 2016, NIFS adopted a new name “The International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health” (ISASH). This organization brought together medical, public health, and safety specialists professionals in one professional organization.