Recognizing a pioneer in farm health and safety

Published online: Nov 01, 2013
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Recently the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America recognized Dr. Dean Emanuel of Marshfield, Wis., for his dedication to solving medical problems faced by farmers and other rural residents.

Dr. Emanuel joined Marshfield Clinic as a cardiologist in 1958. Shortly after his arrival, the police department called the emergency room saying they needed a doctor immediately to help a young farmer with an arm and leg caught in a corn picker. Dr. Emanuel took the call, "My job was to stop the bleeding and get him out of there. I wound-up amputating his arm right there." He says it was "a real eye-opening experience" which he says got him started in farm medicine and helping farm families.

Another factor was a couple of his colleagues at Marshfield Clinic who were doing research on Farmers Lung disease and the molds and dust on the farm that contributed to it. They received a federal grant to help finance the research. They eventually pinpointed the source of Farmers Lung and developed ways to protect the farmer. This was the impetus for research into other health threats on the farm and eventually led to the creation of the National Farm Medicine Center in 1981.

At 90 years of age, Dr. Emanuel remains an emeritus medical director of the NFMC. He says things are certainly much safer on the farm today thanks in large part to changes in the agriculture industry. He is concerned though that fewer doctors seem to be interested in agriculture these days, "I hope we can change that."