UGA’s DeJoy Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

University of Georgia professor emeritus Dr. David M. DeJoy was honored with the Lifetime Career Achievement Award by the American Psychological Association at the 2019 Work, Stress and Health conference in Philadelphia on November 7.

The award honors researchers and practitioners whose careers are characterized by a series of distinguished contributions that have significantly advanced the field of occupational health psychology.

A psychologist by training, DeJoy retired from UGA’s College of Public Health in 2010, where he devoted his career to understanding how to improve workers’ overall wellbeing.

Nationally and internationally known for his expertise in safety climate, his research laid the groundwork for the integration of behavioral sciences and occupational health to promote worker health and safety.

“Dr. DeJoy’s pioneering work established a legacy of innovation and collaboration that redefined our ideas of worker health and continue to resonate today. His contributions to the field of workplace health through research, training, and leadership are significant. I can think of no one more deserving of this award,” said Marsha Davis, dean of the UGA College of Public Health.

DeJoy has served on national scientific panels organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Institute of Medicine, as well as private foundations, and he currently chairs the Council on Healthy Work Design and Well-being that sets the agenda for research as part of the National Occupational Research Agenda.

“Dr. DeJoy has been a trailblazer in a number of research areas, such as safety climate and the idea of integrating health protection and promotion in his interventions,” said Dr. Naomi Swanson, award selection committee chair and chief of the Organizational Science and Human Factors Branch at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.

“We felt that his career was a prime example of how occupational health and safety research is benefitted through multidisciplinary approaches and the inclusion of public health ideas and approaches,” she said.

Forming a New Concept of Worker Health

In 1993, DeJoy authored a seminal paper in the Journal of Occupational Medicine that made the case for combining the perspectives of occupational health and safety and health promotion to improve workplace safety.

Until that point, the fields operated in silos. But DeJoy was at the vanguard of a movement to work across disciplines to improve workplace health and safety.

“A few years later, the Centers for Disease Control launched its total worker health model, which is now central to work, stress, and health,” said DeJoy. “Total worker health is the integration of health promotion and health protection, and that’s the foundation of the movement.”

Today many of the country’s largest employers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention among them, have adopted his model.

Throughout his career, DeJoy continued to propose and test new models that emphasized greater cooperation between unrelated departments to achieve common goals such as improved safety, and specifically explored changes that organizations could make to support a healthy work environment.

A New Kind of Research Team

To further study and test models for improving worker health, DeJoy and UGA College of Public Health colleague Mark Wilson formed the multidisciplinary Workplace Health Group (WHG) in 1998.

“Dave and I started the Workplace Health Group as a mechanism to foster collaboration on work-related research with a diverse body of scientists from varied disciplines.  This was the embodiment of his ’93 paper and the driving force behind our work,” said Wilson.

They wanted to show that the health of employees and organizations were interrelated and eventually recruited Robert Vandenberg, a management professor in UGA’s Terry College of Business, to the group.

Over twenty years later, the group has received over $13 million in funding from major national institutions like the NIH and the CDC. They have published over 60 papers and 14 book chapters, and their expertise has been sought after large companies like Home Depot, Union Pacific Railroad, and Dow Chemical.

“He has been as productive in retirement serving on national panels and directing national research efforts,” said Wilson. “These are just a few examples of how Dave has been a true leader in his field and worthy of this national honor.”

DeJoy sees the Workplace Health Group as one of his major contributions to the field.

“I am proud that we were in on the ground floor,” said DeJoy. “But I’m most proud of the people we’ve trained in it.”

DeJoy says the award was especially meaningful come from a committee of NIOSH members, an organization he has worked closely with for over four decades.

“It’s been the support and the common mission that’s been important to me,” he said. “At the end of the day, as hard as it is, I’m proud that I devoted my career to trying to make workplaces healthier and safer.”

– Lauren Baggett

Additional coverage ASPPH Friday Letter.

Posted on December 17, 2019.