Making “The Deadliest” Safer
Alum gets her public health bearing on the Bering Sea.
Rolling waters, ferocious winds, and demanding work conditions mean mortal danger for commercial fishers in Alaska’s Bering Sea—and presented the ultimate challenge for Jennifer Lincoln. The Bloomberg School alum dove headfirst into safety research while enrolling the crew of the F/V Wizard, a vessel featured on “The Deadliest Catch” in one of her many research studies.
The Discovery Channel’s aptly named reality TV series tells the stories behind a grim statistic that personally concerns Lincoln as head of the Alaska Pacific Office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Fatalities occur at a rate of 117 per 100,000 workers in the commercial fishing industry, compared to 4 per 100,000 workers in the general worker population.
It was lessons learned on land—at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy—that solidified her approach to tackling and solving injury problems, said Lincoln, PhD ’06: “The diverse body of professors and students provide a unique perspective to practicing public health. Getting in the field and listening to the fishermen improve my study designs, ideas, and implementation.”
Her job now is to provide the best science available to support injury interventions and then evaluate them. “The work isn’t done with the writing of the paper,” she said. “We must also affect change and improvement.”
Under Lincoln’s direction, the Alaska Pacific Office has successfully translated research into practice to decrease dangers in the commercial fishing industry. One of the interventions instituted by NIOSH and partners (including the U.S. Coast Guard) that helped turn The Deadliest Catch’s Bering Sea crab fleet into a safer operation involved stability checks; specifically, enforcing load recommendations regarding how many crab pots can be carried on board, and how high they can be carried.
Lincoln uses descriptives like “amazing,” “intense,” “overwhelming at times,” and “life-changing” when talking about the experiences she had—not while being tossed about at sea, but while working toward a degree at the Bloomberg School.
“The diverse body of professors and students provide a unique perspective to practicing public health. It’s a perfect setting to learn about new fields of research, employment opportunities or areas of interest that will be beneficial as you figure out your career path,” she advises, with a bit of a warning: “What you come in thinking you want to do may always be modified!”