September 10, 1999

Occupational Medicine expert DeHart ready to guide new effort

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Dr. Roy DeHart

Occupational Medicine expert DeHart ready to guide new effort

He arrived here just this January to helm the newly created Vanderbilt Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, but Dr. Roy L. DeHart is no stranger to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Ten years ago, he visited VUMC as an occupational Medicine consultant — a field in which DeHart is considered a national expert. He returned again as a consultant in January 1998 and was subsequently invited to create and direct the new effort.

“I was immediately interested. This was an opportunity in an academic setting to bring together a center that would operate and oversee a seamless continuum of occupational health services.”

A large component of that continuum involved enhancing communications and integrating among various units of VUMC, including the Emergency Department, Neurology, Radiology, Surgery, and a multitude of other departments and divisions to create a system through which patients can move quickly and be managed appropriately, while at the same ensuring that communications with employers and insurance companies is optimized.

Another component is the announced joint-venture agreement with Concentra Health Services to open Nashville-area clinics devoted to occupational health. That, and the agreement with Concentra subsidiary Focus Healthcare Inc., one of the nation's largest workers' compensation preferred provider organizations, is all part of an occupational medicine strategy that stresses prevention and quick return to the job for injured workers.

"It's the same approach you see in athletics," DeHart said. "When an athlete is injured, the team responds with quick attention and proper management of the condition, all in an effort to get that athlete back on the field as quickly as possible. That's what Concentra is noted for and that is what we are doing with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine."

A former U.S. Air Force Colonel, DeHart left the service in 1983, having capped a 23-year career in the military with three years as commander of the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. Prior to joining Vanderbilt in January, DeHart had been at the University of Oklahoma since 1985, most recently as professor and chair of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, and director of the division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

His medical degree is from the University of Tennessee. He holds a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins. He’s also a graduate of the National War College, and holds a master’s in international affairs from George Washington University.

DeHart is also certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a senior aviation medical examiner, which qualifies him to perform flight physicals for airline pilots and all other licensed aviators.

A flight physical is required every six months for airline pilots, every year for other commercial pilots and every three years for private pilots. The FAA stipulates various points to be covered by the history and physical. For pilots, certain common medical concerns loom especially large, such as high blood pressure or reliance on various medications, including common medications such as antihistamines. Cardiac conditions, from arrhythmia to valve problems to a single heart attack, can disqualify would-be pilots.

DeHart is one of 14 doctors in the Nashville area certified either as an aviation medical examiner or senior aviation medical examiner. He is the only VMG member with either certification.