Dr. John May, director of the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, was honored with an award for his leadership and the vision he shared with fellow pulmonologist Dr. David Pratt 25 years ago when they founded NYCAMH.
Originally known as the Bassett Farm and Safety Health Project, official designation as the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health came from the New York State Legislature in 1988.
“The history of this effort is a remarkable one,” said Dr. William F. Streck, president of the Bassett Healthcare Network, at a dinner celebrating NYCAMH’s 25th anniversary. “May and Pratt did more than simply understand a disease, study it and publish their findings. They recognized a much larger need for an occupational health program devoted to understanding and preventing injuries and illness that occur on the farm.”
Pratt, who left Bassett in 1992 and was most recently commissioner of health for Schenectady County before retiring, said, “The farmers were critical to our success early on. They taught us about their occupation, allowing us in their barns and at their kitchen tables. Without their patience and dedication, we couldn’t have created the program. Twenty five years later, we are all in John’s debt for his continued commitment to NYCAMH and the agricultural community.”
As he prepared to honor May with the award, Streck quoted Thomas Edison, saying “Opportunity is missed by many because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
NYCAMH’s founders seized the opportunity to address an unmet need over two decades ago and worked hard to realize their vision for helping the farm community.
Today, that work has touched the lives of thousands of individuals and farm families.
Throughout its 25 year history, NYCAMH has provided:
• Research into the causes and prevention of agricultural injury and illness;
• Education and prevention activities within the farm community;
• Education of professionals serving the farm community; and
• Clinical help for farm-related health problems.
The impact NYCAMH’s work has had on farm families and individuals is significant. Numerous accounts of lives saved and injuries prevented have been shared with NYCAMH staff, including those of Dan Kaiser, Paul Storey and Gilbert Chichester.
“I was pulling a silage wagon and the tractor began sliding down the hill backwards out of control,” says Kaiser, a 30-year farming veteran from Newfield. “I had taken advantage of NYCAMH’s ROPS rebate program to install a roll bar and seat belt, which I was wearing at the time. It’s amazing I didn’t roll over, but I probably would have been thrown from the tractor if I hadn’t been wearing the seatbelt. I wear it all the time now.”
Page 2 of 2 - Tractor overturn deaths, the leading cause of death and injury on the farm, are effectively prevented by rollover protective systems.
In 2011, Storey took advantage of a skin cancer screening clinic offered by NYCAMH at Empire Farm Days in upstate New York. As a result, he was later diagnosed with melanoma, had surgery and is cancer free.
“I have NYCAMH to thank for that. So, from a farm machinery salesman from Exeter, Ontario, thank you all so very, very much. I am forever grateful,” he said.
Chichester of Nagimor Farm in Warnerville feels NYCAMH’s value can’t be overstated.
“Growers often come from generations of farmers who have lived and worked in their local communities. The work is difficult and profit margins are tight - less than 20 percent of farms gross more than $100,000 in farm income. Farming is primarily done by small family businesses, which speaks to the need for a strong dedicated organization to bring focus to safe operations on New York farms. This has been a mission of the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health,” he said.