Thomas H Gassert, MD, MSc
Dr. Gassert’s current interests are twofold: international training in basic occupational and environmental health (OEH) clinical services in alignment with the UN 2030 SDGs, and climate change resilience for planetary health, using tools and roadmaps for both. He is focused on ways to help mitigate what he sees as the five global OEH crises: occupational diseases and deaths, climate change, pandemics, weapons and armed conflicts, and unethical use of artificial intelligence. As part of a recent 2018 initiative to advise WHO on Universal Occupational Health Coverage, the goal is to leave no one behind, and that its achievement requires parallel work on all five crises.
Over the past 26 years, Dr. Gassert has been board certified in Preventive Occupational Medicine and in Internal Medicine. Prior to medical training he was an occupational (industrial) hygienist, book author, journalist, NGO cofounder (Asia), secondary school teacher (Micronesia), and factory worker. He was for two years an Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and is an Instructor of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM) in the Environmental & Occupational Medicine & Epidemiology Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) where he has held an appointment for 25 years for training of OEM residents, doctoral students, and industrial hygiene and safety professionals. He has also held clinical academic appointments as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and at Dartmouth College School of Medicine, and as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine and Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. He served three years as President of the New England College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (NECOEM), a component of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) where he is a Fellow, a member of the International Section, and a faculty member of the new ACOEM Essentials of Occupational Medicine online course initiative.
Work experience in the US has included care of worker injuries and illnesses, medical surveillance, disability rehabilitation, work-site health hazard investigations, and as an independent examiner and expert witness in medical-legal toxic tort cases. He has served workers, labor unions and employers, including clients in heavy and light manufacturing, construction, transport, electronics & semiconductors, aerospace, biomedical R&D, pharmaceuticals, a variety of service industries, state environmental protection, hospitals and nursing homes, school districts, the Defense Department, and for city firefighters, first responders and police. He has served on three Institutional Biosafety Committees to assure health protections in infectious diseases and human gene therapy research at University of Massachusetts Medical School, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, and Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics. He consulted on construction work illness and hazard exposures on the Central Artery / Tunnel Project “Big Dig” in Boston from 1998-2001. He has published on health hazards in the global electronics industry, on long-term health and economic outcomes of occupational asthma, and on toxicological and industrial hygiene aspects of gassing incidents at Bhopal, India, the world’s worst industrial disaster, and recently on styrene gassing in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh, India. In September 2005, he assisted CNN with televising environmental health hazards and return to home and work dangers in New Orleans days after Hurricane Katrina.
Since 2013, he has helped to train medical, nursing and safety professionals in OEH in the Asia and Pacific region at venues in Thailand, Mongolia, S. Korea, China mainland, Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and via internet in Saudi Arabia through his affiliations with the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Harvard (HSPH), Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV), Asia Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), and Asian Network for Occupational Hygiene (ANOH). He has presented at global conferences of the International Congress of Occupational Health (ICOH), the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA), the Korean Industrial Hygiene Association (KIHA), and ANOH.
His interests have included writing and editorial work pro bono for Hesperian Health Guides Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety, 2015 (now in multiple languages), and support for miner pneumoconiosis compensation in South Africa in 2013.
Since 2017, he has served as a consultant technical expert for a U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region Basic Occupational Health Services (BOHS) training initiative in Fiji Islands, Cambodia and Lao PDR, Mongolia, China PR and Vietnam, and also as technical expert for a WHO Western Pacific Region consultation initiative on Universal Occupational Health Coverage (UOHC) hosted in S. Korea at Seoul National University in 2018, based on UN SDG-3 for Universal Health Coverage and SDG-8 for Decent Work. In 2022, he served on a WHO expert review panel in preparation for the Director General’s First World Report on Refugees and Migrants, providing input on OEH conditions and health service needs for migrant workers globally. During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic he served at a senior consultant level for a national manufacturing aerospace industry and for a special needs healthcare charity. In 2021-22, he has provided pro bono research assistance for a S. Korea initiative to assist with aspects of developing a national poison control centers system.
Dr. Gassert received a master of science degree in Occupational (Industrial) Hygiene from the University of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now Rutgers University) – New Jersey Medical School. He completed residencies and fellowships in Internal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and in Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) where he served also as chief resident. He has served on the HSPH OEM Residency Advisory Committee from 2005-present. He majored in Psychology and minored in Education for his undergraduate degree at the University of San Francisco in California.
Prior to his professional training and work in OEH hygiene and medicine, he served two years in Micronesia and two years in California as a secondary school teacher. In California, he also worked in paid and voluntary positions in three hospitals, and was certified as an emergency medical technician. He subsequently cofounded an Asia-Pacific regional economics research and publication NGO focused on labor conditions and transnational capital activity by country, based in Hong Kong where he worked from 1980-1985. There he developed a project on the chemical industries in Asia, and authored a 411-page illustrated book titled Health Hazards in Electronics – A Handbook (1985), versions subsequently published in Chinese and several other languages, including a version by International Metalworkers Federation (now IndustriALL-union.org), Geneva, 1986.
Dr. Gassert’s interest in occupational health began when he was as a teenage factory worker making metal parts for oil burners. He now resides in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA. While in Hong Kong he married a local Cantonese woman and they have been blessed with three adult children, first son a professor of pure mathematics, second son an environmental specialist on big data strategy and global digital mapping who works with NGOs and governments on water, climate change mitigation and food supply chains, and one daughter an organic farmer now in law school with career aspirations in international environmental law and NGO advocacy in the areas of food, agriculture and climate.