One of the fascinating parts of her work, says Diane Liu, is finding out what other people do for their work. As an occupational health physician, it is her job to treat people for their work-related illnesses or injuries and-just as important-to help prevent injury or illness on the job.
Liu, who recently joined University Health Services as the head of the Occupational Health Clinic, said she first got interested in occupational medicine when she was doing a residency in internal medicine at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. There she had a mentor who was an occupational health specialist.
"It opened my eyes," she says, "about how much time people spend at work and how much health and illness are related to work."
Liu proceeded to do another residency, this one as chief resident in occupational medicine at UCSF, followed by fellowships in the same field and in clinical toxicology. She became board certified in both internal and occupational medicine and has made impressive strides in her early career.
In her last job, as the clinical programs director of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at UCSF, she served as the medical director of both the UCSF/Mount Zion Occupational Medicine Clinic and the San Francisco Occupational Health Service, which provided injury and illness care for the 30,000-plus city and county employees. She remains a UCSF faculty member. Her research includes studies of potential health hazards among subsets of workers exposed to smoke or fumes or, in one study, to hot peppers.
"She is the perfect fit for this campus," says Pete Dietrich, medical director of University Health Services. "Berkeley has unique needs, with its breadth of research and kinds of jobs. Diane has the clinical skills. But she also has the administrative and supervisory experience."
In her brief time here, Liu already has come into contact with a number of people on campus through her committee work. She participates in or acts as a consultant for groups related to laser safety, radiation safety, lead exposure prevention, animal care and use-and a new one: "We call it the 'antidote committee,'" she says, explaining that, along with representatives from Environment, Health and Safety and others on campus, they look at emergency response measures to accidents and exposures.
In the clinic, employees are seen by a group of specialists that, besides Liu, includes physicians Thomas Gamsky and Jim Cone, and nurse practitioners Carole Plum and Karen Hipkins.
Among the most prevalent of the problems these days, says Liu, are repetitive strain injuries, commonly called RSIs, to the upper extremities and neck. She estimates that more than half the cases they see are RSIs-and not just from working on computers. Custodial and grounds workers are among those who seek help for RSIs.
Liu brings RSI treatment and prevention expertise from UCSF, where she worked with ergonomics specialist David Rempel, who has faculty appointments at both Berkeley and UCSF.
With a well-developed treatment and prevention program for staff already in place, Liu has been assisting with the further development of the program for students.
Liu's arrival, says Dietrich, brings a happy ending to three national searches conducted over as many years. Since his own arrival four years ago, Dietrich has been putting into place a core of clinical leadership that, he says, "represents a fresh, progressive and energetic outlook well-suited to the students, staff and faculty at Berkeley."
With Liu, he says, the leadership team is now complete.
The Occupational Health Clinic serves all faculty and staff. Worker's Compensation covers the cost of medical treatment and other benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses. The clinic's services also include medical screenings and immunization programs for employees exposed to potential health risks and specialized medical evaluations such as pre-placement, return-to-work and fitness-for-duty evaluations.
For information or a newly published brochure, call 642-6891 or visit web site www.uhs.berkeley.edu/facstaff.