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News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 4, 2014
Fishermen urged to take health assessment survey

by Faith DeAmbrose

The world of healthcare can be difficult to navigate, but, according to graduate student Miranda Rogers, it is even more difficult for fishermen.

She should know, she grew up in a fishing community, has close relatives who are fishermen and has witnessed first hand all the challenges and barriers to healthcare access that are both self-imposed (by the fishermen themselves) and exist in the community. To this end she has devised a survey that aims to collect baseline data that can then be used to target healthcare services for the population. “The research project is being conducted to understand the unique challenges experienced by Maine fishing families,” said Rogers, “The study will ask harvesters to fill out surveys and provide information about their stress levels, medical history, their use of healthcare services and their general understanding about accessing medical care.”

Rogers, who grew up in the Casco Bay town of Orr’s Island, is currently at Tufts University studying medicine. Her father and uncles are lobstermen and she has spent many summers working on a boat. She has seen what bait poisoning looks like, has seen some of the ways in which fishermen administer “medical care” while in the field and has also seen the toll the profession takes on the human body.

“This is a vulnerable population,” said Rodgers. “They don’t often seek care for themselves, and doctors aren’t always available during the hours fishermen can schedule appointments.” Rogers says she wants to learn more about the medical needs of fishermen so that the medical system can learn more about them and help direct care and services in the most appropriate way.

“Science is slow,” said Rogers in a recent interview, “and unless there is evidence-based research” to back up what most in the fishing community already know, it is hard to affect change.

Rogers has created an online survey that will be open to all fishermen for one year. She has mailed information to fishermen in larger fishing communities, such as Stonington, but said that any fishermen wanting to provide input would be welcome to do so.

The information provided through the study will be kept confidential and used only to create a baseline data set for research purposes. Rogers said she would also like to obtain grant funding using the data to enable a mobile medical van that could provide services to fishermen.

For more information, to request a paper survey or to contact Rogers directly call 791-6376 or email

To find the online survey.