OEMAC is an association of physicians with an active interest in occupational and environmental medicine. It serves as a unified voice for Canadian occupational and environmental medicine and holds a national scientific conference each year to exchange scientific and professional information.
OEMAC can trace its beginning to the early 1940’s. At that time two groups of occupational physicians, the Ontario Section of Industrial Medicine and the Industrial Medical Association of the Province of Québec, joined forces for combined annual conferences held alternately in each province. Annual meetings followed this format for nearly forty years. During this period the names of both organizations were changed, one to the Section on Occupational Health of the Ontario Medical Association, and the other to “L’Association des médecins du travail du Québec”.
These early meetings provided educational opportunities and social contacts, and eventually attracted physicians from other parts of Canada. There developed also a concern that not enough was being done to advance the profession of occupational medicine. At the same time, governments and universities were talking of moving into this field but were not involving experienced occupational physicians.
In the early 1970’s, several senior occupational physicians formed an ad hoc group with the blessing of the two provincial associations. Out of this came the first national grouping called the Canadian Council of Occupational Medicine (CCOM), and all provinces and the territories were asked to send a representative to the annual business meetings. As membership grew, a formal decision was made to make the annual Ontario-Québec meeting a national event. The name chosen was the Occupational Medical Association of Canada (OMAC). In 1983, OMAC held its first annual meeting and national scientific conference. By 1985, OMAC was federally incorporated as a non-profit organization with Constitution and By-laws in place. In 1994, the name was changed to Occupational and Environmental Medical Association of Canada (OEMAC).
The Bylaws provide for a Board of Directors of nineteen representing all parts of Canada. Each province, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories has one Director appointed to OEMAC for a two-year term by the appropriate provincial/territorial body. Six other Directors are chosen at large and tend to represent those areas of Canada where the majority of occupational physicians are located. The President of the Canadian Board of Occupational Medicine is an ex-officio Director. An Executive Committee consisting of the President, two Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, a Treasurer and the Past President is responsible for carrying on the activities of the Association between annual meetings.
As well, OEMAC (and its predecessor CCOM) worked hard to become the voice of occupational medicine in Canada. In 1980, with funds from CCOM, the Canadian Board of Occupational Medicine (CBOM) was established to certify occupational medicine practitioners through a formal examination procedure. As well, OMAC/CBOM lobbied the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and succeeded in having occupational medicine recognized as a specialty with the first examinations held in 1988.
Much work remains to be done in the field of occupational medicine with employers, unions, government and universities. If you are interested, we ask you to join the Association and be part of a mission to make occupational medicine a strong and viable profession.