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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

East Tennessee Alumnus Authors Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

Alumnus Dr. David Blackley is lead author of an article in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  The article, Resurgence of Progressive Massive Fibrosis in Coal Miners — Eastern Kentucky, 2016, discusses the resurgence of progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe form of “black lung” disease, which is an occupational lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable coal mine dust.

[Photo: Dr. David Blackley]

The goal of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-administered Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program is to reduce the incidence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and eliminate its most severe form, progressive massive fibrosis, which can be lethal. The program was established by the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, commonly referred to as the Coal Act.  Through this program, eligible miners can obtain periodic chest radiographs.

While surveillance data have indicated increasing rates of progressive massive fibrosis in Appalachia, this study examines cases from a single radiologist’s practice in Pike County, Kentucky.  The radiographic findings associated with this study conducted from January 1, 2015 – August 17, 2016 comprise a large cluster that was not discovered through routine surveillance.

Dr. Blackley and co-authors state, “The findings in this report serve as a reminder that more than 45 years after the Coal Act’s passage, one of its core objectives has not been achieved.”

According to the report, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health plans to focus “active surveillance measures on miners in central Appalachia” and continue to collaborate with stakeholders to “better characterize the scope of the problem, expand educational outreach to miners to increase their awareness of the right to confidential medical screening, and prevent overexposures to coal mine dust.”

The report findings were covered by the New York Times in an editorial titled “Black Lung, Incurable and Fatal, Stalks Coal Miners Anew” and by a National Public Radio investigative report that aired on All Things Considered.

Dr. David Blackley received a Doctor of Public Health degree from East Tennessee State University in May 2013.  He then began a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.  He is assigned to the Respiratory Health Division, part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is based in Morgantown, WV.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series is prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  It is agency’s primary vehicle for scientific publication of public health information and recommendations.