Inside, they look like most medical clinics where doctors, nurses and technicians conduct exams, check vitals and draw blood. But these two clinics have something more: wheels.
That’s because they are fully equipped, custom-built mobile clinics that transport medical teams directly to worksites for employee health screenings and injury prevention services.
Physician Sheri Belafsky is an occupational health specialist and director of the UC Davis medical surveillance program.
“My responsibility is to learn the risks related to a specific job and then design a medical monitoring program tailored to those risks,” Belafsky said.
Supporting worker safety and health
Named after the blue-collar characters of the 1970s TV show, “Laverne and Shirley,” the mobile clinics often are seen where jobs involve protective gear, repetitive activities, harsh environmental conditions or potential toxic exposures.
One recently parked in downtown Sacramento for exams with CalRecycle employees. Besides inspecting solid waste sites throughout the state, agency staff are removing debris from recent wildfires that turned structures, landscapes and entire towns to ash.
“It’s been really meaningful to help homeowners in a practical way after such devastating events,” said Michael Chen, the CalRecycle industrial hygienist who coordinates the assessment program.
“The UC Davis medical surveillance program has been essential in making that happen by clearing our employees to wear their respiratory protection,” Chen added.
Going wherever needed
Belafsky and her team work with about 30 employers and 7,000 employees throughout California — from as far north as Susanville in Lassen County to as far south as Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County. Even remote spots like Fortuna in Humboldt County, where they once traveled during a major snowstorm, are not a challenge.
Sophia Haro has been program manager of the medical surveillance program for over 20 years and experienced its growth firsthand.
"Back in the '90s, we had just a few hundred patients and and our equipment traveled on a trailer pulled by a tractor," Haro said. "We have definitely come a very long way."
— Sheri Belafsky
The team's most recent projects involve collaborating with researchers collecting data for studies on the health effects of wildfires and providing health exams to assist in hiring firefighters for the new wildfire season.
A weekly clinic on 33rd and C streets in Sacramento also recently opened for those who prefer a traditional doctor’s office experience instead of a visit at work from Laverne or Shirley. Plans are under way to expand clinic services to encompass prevention and lifestyle medicine.
“By providing occupational health services to employees throughout the state, our program upholds the core value that everyone is entitled to a healthy and safe work environment,” Belafsky said.
The medical surveillance program is part of the UC Davis Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, which unites leaders in medicine, nursing and public health for research, education and clinical services that help prevent work-related illness and injury. Information about the medical surveillance program can be requested via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 530-752-1281.