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ASSE’s Women in Safety Engineering Group Honors Rhode Island’s Marcella Thompson as One of 100 Women Making a Difference

Posted in , on Tue, Jul 19, 2011

The American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Women in Safety Engineering (WISE) Common Interest Group has honored 100 women from around the world for making a difference in safety, health and the environment (SH&E).  Marcella (Marcy) Thompson, PhD, MS, CSP, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, of East Greenwich, RI, was honored for her lifelong dedication to protecting people, property and the environment.

Dr. Thompson is Environmental Health State Agency Liaison for Brown University’s Superfund Research Program in Providence, RI and an Assistant Professor, Adjunct at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Nursing in Kingston, RI.  Thompson has a PhD from the College of Nursing, University of Rhode Island, a Master of Science degree in Occupational Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, a Master of Science degree in Occupational Health Nursing from Boston University and a Bachelor of Science degree magna cum laude from Salve Regina University in nursing.  She was one of the first of 10  people in the U.S. and Canada to be board certified both as a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and as an Occupational Health Nurse Specialist (COHN-S).  Thompson is a Fellow of the Academy of American Occupational Health Nurses (FAAOHN).

In 1982, as part of her graduate studies at Harvard, Thompson worked as an intern at a fiberglass boat manufacturing plant.  One day, the company’s human resources director bemoaned, “We really need someone like you to make work safe, but we can’t afford to hire you full-time.”  That gave Thompson an idea.  She returned to same healthcare facility where she had worked previously as an ICU nurse and convinced its President to initiate a hospital-based occupational health service, one of the hospital’s first community outreach programs and one of the first twelve such programs in the U.S.  For the next 10 years, she worked diligently to make workplaces safer and keep workers healthy by providing onsite medical surveillance, health promotion programs and safety education to a diverse workforce.  For some companies, Thompson was their only safety professional.  She concluded that to be truly successful in preventing work-related injuries and illnesses, the workplace environment itself needed to change; in other words, eliminate or control the hazard at its source.

In 1992, Thompson  became the principal safety engineer for a semiconductor fabrication facility with 1,100 employees.  For 12 years she worked with architects and facilities managers to build-in safety at the blueprint stage, guide purchasing decisions with ergonomic specifications for furniture, computers and workstations and implemented safety inspections of newly-installed process equipment.  She served on the Rhode Island’s State Emergency Response Committee, developed one of Rhode Island’s first industrial-based first aid teams to use emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and was instrumental in incorporating the use of the Morgan Lens© eye irrigation system in standard protocols by licensed EMTs throughout the state.

In 2000, Dr. Thompson and her husband, Michael G. Thompson granted an endowment to ASSE’s Foundation establishing the Thompson Scholarship for Women in Safety, an annual scholarship awarded to a woman pursuing graduate study in safety, environmental or occupational health.  Their endowment was the first of its kind for the ASSE Foundation and served as a catalyst for the Foundation’s successful fundraising efforts; annual donations now exceed $500M.  For this accomplishment, Thompson received the Foundation’s National Service Award in 2004.

When the semiconductor facility moved its operations to Slovakia, Thompson began teaching clinical nursing as adjunct faculty for Salve Regina University and the University of Rhode Island.  She brought SH&E to the classroom through simulated factory walkthroughs and real-life case studies.  She placed students in workplaces and occupational health clinics for field experience.  She received Southern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center’s Social Justice in Medicine Award for her work.

In 2004, Governor Carcieri appointed Thompson to chair the state’s Commission on Mercury Reduction and Education.  Through this experience, she became keenly aware that there were inequities and gaps in the research of exposures to multiple environmental neurotoxicants, particularly among women of childbearing-age.  Her doctoral research was entitled, Exposures to Multiple Environmental Chemicals (Lead, Methylmercury, Polychlorinated Biphenyls) Among Women of Childbearing Age Living in the United States, 1999-2004. She continues to develop her program of research.  In her new role as Environmental Health State Agency Liaison for Brown University’s Superfund Research Program, Thompson advocates for the public’s health through facilitating the flow of knowledge and information about environmental health research, practice and policy among the participating academics, government leaders, and community members in a true university-state-community partnership.

Dr. Thompson has been a professional member of ASSE since 1991 and is currently a member of the Academic and Management Practice Specialties as well as ASSE’s Greater Boston Chapter.  She has served as vice-chair of the Council on Practices and Standards and treasurer, assistant administrator and administrator of the Management Practice Specialty.  Thompson has served on ASSE’s Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, House of Delegates and was elected as ASSE’s Vice President of Finance.  She was appointed ASSE’s first representative to the Council on Accreditation for Occupational Hearing Conservationists.  “Today, I accept this award knowing it honors what I have achieved in the past.  I hope to accomplish greater achievements in the future,” Dr. Thompson stated.

The ‘100 Women, Making a Difference in Safety’ project honors women who have dedicated their careers to promoting innovation in safety, health and environmental issues.  The valuable contributions of women to the SH&E profession have been recognized through this project and later this year WISE will consolidate the profiles of all 100 honorees into a single publication, titled 100 Women, Making a Difference in the Safety, Health and Environmental Profession as part of ASSE’s (1911-2011) 100th anniversary.

WISE was established to foster the advancement of women in the SH&E profession.  For more information about WISE and upcoming events, please visit

Founded in 1911 and celebrating its centennial, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment.  Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, healthcare and education.  For more information, please go to and to view the new ASSE – A Century of Safety film go to



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