The 2021 NORA Online Symposium was a Record Breaker - Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education and Research Center

The 2021 NORA Online Symposium was a Record Breaker

The 2021 National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Online Symposium was held via online webinar on April 22, 2021. The theme was “COVID-19 in the Workplace: Creating Safe Workspaces.”  The keynote for this year’s symposium was Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).  Once again, the symposium was co-sponsored by the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (MCOHS) Education and Research Center and the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH).

Though the ongoing pandemic has caused us to shift our practices and perspective, moving to the online format proved beneficial. Nearly 500 participants joined the webinar from around the world, making it the largest and most diverse NORA attendance to date. Live-tweeting of highlights and key points during the event reached an even larger audience, as MCOHS and UMASH posted the live social media updates.

The entire symposium was recorded and posted to the MCOHS YouTube channel.
Links to the recordings are provided at the bottom of this page.



The symposium began with a virtual poster session. Students and partners from MCOHS and UMASH provided short video presentations on a variety of occupational health and safety research projects and topics. Following the videos, the presenters engaged with attendees in a live Q&A session, facilitated by Dr. Susan Arnold. This interactive exchange led to further discussion on the individual projects, as well as ideas for ongoing and future research.  The presenters were:

  • Subjective and Objective Assessment of Pharmacist Fatigue
    Taylor Watterson, PharmD, MS
    Advisor: Michelle A. Chui, PharmD, PhD
    University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy
    MCOHS Pilot Project
  • Aging on the Farm: UMASH Community Forums
    Averi Olson, Occupational Therapy Student
    Advisors: Cindy Anderson, OTD, OTR/L; Jeff Bender, DVM, MS
    University of Mary
  • An Evaluation of the Minnesota Safe Patient Handling Act
    Christina Rosebush, PhD, MPH
    Advisors: Patricia McGovern, PhD; Katherine Schofield, PhD
    Division of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Minnesota
    MCOHS Pilot Project
  • Assessing Occupational Risks of Manure Applicators in the Upper Midwest
    Devon Charlier, Masters of Public Health Student
    Collaborators: Melissa Wilson, PhD; Chryseis Modderman, MS; Erin Cortus, PhD; Jeff Bender, DVM, MS; Kevin Janni, PhD
    University of Minnesota
  • Protecting Livestock Workers, their Families, and Animals from Zoonotic Disease
    Jenna Gibbs, PhD, MPH
    Ag Health and Safety Alliance
  • Predicting Trends in Hypertension for Black and White Healthcare Workers
    Tongtan (Bert) Chantarat, MPH
    Advisors: Eva A. Enns, PhD; Rachel R. Hardeman, PhD; Patricia McGovern, PhD
    Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota
    MCOHS Pilot Project


Following the virtual poster session, UMASH Director, Dr. Jeff Bender, joined Dr. Osterholm for a “fireside chat” style keynote presentation. In his talk, Dr. Osterholm addressed the current state and latest developments of the global COVID-19 pandemic; the emergence of variants, increased spread in other countries around the globe, ongoing health and safety efforts, occupational risks, and the advancements and challenges surrounding vaccination, including efficacy, hesitancy, and equitable access and distribution.

Following Dr. Osterholm’s talk, Dr. Bender moderated an interactive Q&A session, during which participants submitted questions for Dr. Osterholm. The response from attendees was overwhelming as questions flooded in. Though time did not allow for all questions to be answered, the level of participation was encouraging, and Drs. Bender and Osterholm addressed a variety of concerns surrounding COVID-19 and workplace safety.



The symposium was capped off with a panel presentation by experts representing healthcare, agriculture, retail, and community engagement organizations. The panelists were:

  • Amira Adawe, MPH
    Founder and Executive Director, The Beautywell Project
  • Jonathan Sellman, MD, MPH
    Occupational Environmental Medicine Consultant & Clinic Medical Director, HealthPartners Medical Group; Medical Director, Regions Hospital Employee Health
  • Lourdes Villanueva
    Director of Farmworker Advocacy, Redlands Christian Migrant Association

The panelists gave short presentations on the impacts of COVID-19 in their industry and workforce, the various ways they have responded to the pandemic, as well as current efforts and challenges in protecting workers and community members, and access to vaccines.

Following the presentations, Dr. Marizen Ramirez, MCOHS Director, moderated a live Q&A discussion with the panelists and attendees. During this discussion, Dr. Ramirez shared questions from the participants with the panelists, addressing the relevant challenges in each industry or area of expertise, and incorporating the panelists’ unique perspective and experiences.

MCOHS and UMASH were proud to once again co-sponsor this annual event.

We wish to thank the presenters, as well as the faculty and staff who work together each year to make it happen, even in challenging times! We look forward to future symposia as we continue the engaging and vital discussions on occupational health and safety.



The entire 2021 NORA Symposium is available as a YouTube playlist, with individual videos for each poster presentation, Dr. Osterholm’s keynote talk, and the panel presentation.