ALICE HAMILTON AWARD Established in 1993, AIHA’s Alice Hamilton Award honors an outstanding woman who has made a lasting achievement in the field of occupational and environmental hygiene through public and community service, social reform, technological innovation, and advancements in the scientific approach to recognition, evaluation, and control of workplace hazards. The complete list of Hamilton awardees is available on the AIHA website. The 2015 Alice Hamilton awardee is Renee Anthony, PhD, CIH, of Iowa City, Iowa. She is a professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health. What significance does receiving this award hold for you?
I am honored to be recognized by the industrial hygiene community for this award. I have always had great respect for Dr. Hamilton, and every fall we introduce her work to incoming students across all occupational health disciplines. In addition, the previous awardees are truly distinguished occupational health professionals, several of whom have provided guidance to me throughout my career, and I am honored to be in the same category as them. Which professional development course (PDC) was your favorite to teach and why? While I have taught in many PDCs over time, the size-selective aerosol sampling class has been a favorite. While many professionals understand that respirable sampling is important to characterize exposures to only the smaller particles, many still do not understand that the inhalable sampler is designed to collect more particles than the traditional 37-mm closed-face cassette (the classic “total” dust sampler). For the week at AIHce following the PDC, I enjoy running into attendees who make the air-quotes sign to indicate they understood that the “total” sample is missing some of the real total aerosol that may be inhaled by workers. What is your involvement with AIHA’s Student and Early Career Professionals Committee (SECP) and how do you see it growing in the next few years? I have been involved with this committee since it began in 2005. Our initial mission was to promote the profession to youth and undergraduates who have probably never heard of the field, while also supporting hygiene students who are in their field of study and those who have recently begun their professional career. The committee has made great strides in mentoring graduate students, improving relations between student and local AIHA sections, and providing professional support to those just starting their careers. It is extremely rewarding to see our recent hygiene graduates participating in SECP activities, taking active roles in mentoring new students, and participating in roundtables to share lessons-learned with the next generation of IH professionals. I hope to see more professionals participate in SECP outreach activities, where a coordinated effort is underway to make classroom materials available to AIHA members to facilitate in-class IH demonstrations that fit into traditional K-12 science curricula. The hope is to stimulate interest in STEM while promoting our profession to the next generation. What advice would you give to a young woman in the field of IH/OH? First, I congratulate them on selecting a rewarding field! My main advice is to work on self-confidence. The best way to build confidence is to do your research, ask questions, and consider all the evidence when making a decision. If you truly don’t know something, realize that you have an entire profession at your disposal to help you make the best decision possible. If you don’t have experts within your own workplace, you need to identify a mentor to help you develop your skills and build confidence in your actions and decisions so that you can make significant improvements in the health of the people you serve.
Mark of Excellence
HERBERT E. STOKINGER AWARD ACGIH presents the Herbert E. Stokinger Award each year to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the broad field of industrial and environmental toxicology. The 2015 Stokinger awardee is Nigel Walker, PhD, DABT, the Deputy Director for Science for the Division of the National Toxicology Program (DNTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). He is involved in the formulation, coordination and implementation of activities necessary to carry out the scientific goals of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), whose mission is to evaluate agents of public health concern by developing and applying tools of modern toxicology and molecular biology. In three words, please describe how you feel about being selected to receive this award at AIHce. Honored, surprised, humbled. What significance does receiving this award hold for you? One of my goals as a scientist in the National Toxicology Program is in the development of sound science that people can trust when making decisions that serve to protect the public from potentially harmful substances in the environment and the workplace. This award from ACGIH, a key partner in this effort, I see as recognition of the high regard held for NTP’s efforts in this area. What advice can you give to a young professional in the field of IH/OH? In my science career to date I have come to see that the big problems we face often takes a team with many different skillsets—for example, scientific, technical, administrative, or executive, to name but a few. A key thing to do is to figure out what it is that you bring to the table in any given situation. Once you know that, commit to giving that to the team 100 percent and follow through on that commitment. Secondly, as Heraclitus once said, nothing is permanent but change. As such, a key attribute to develop during one’s career is the acceptance of, and ability to adapt to, change: in the approaches one has to use to address a given problem; in the expectations that one operates under; and in one’s own skillsets and abilities.
Nigel Walker, PhD, DABT
Editor’s note: The Mark of Excellence is a monthly feature, special to the digital Synergist, that honors the recipients of the 2015 AIHA and ACGIH awards. Two individuals will be featured each month.
Renee Anthony, PhD, CIH
What Kind of Near-miss Was Ebola? As I write this in mid-October 2014, Americans are still getting used to the new and scary risk of Ebola. Ebola fears led to a number of airline passengers being yanked off planes because they exhibited flu-like symptoms and had some connection, however remote, to Africa. So far they’ve all tested negative for Ebola. If that remains true, the number of such disruptions will soon decline precipitously. 
Are these events warnings that we should continue to take seriously, “casting a wide net” to reduce the odds of missing an actual Ebola case onboard? Or are they false alarms that we should learn to stop worrying about? Most experts, officials, and journalists say they’re false alarms. But that answer will change in hindsight if a traveler from West Africa ever infects some fellow passengers with Ebola.
Ebola also offers an object lesson in learned overconfidence. The discovery that two nurses were infected with the virus while treating an Ebola sufferer at a Dallas hospital raised many questions. Did the nurses breach PPE protocols? Were the protocols insufficiently protective in the first place? Is it realistic to expect healthcare workers to be 100 percent meticulous in following such protocols? 
One relevant fact: every nurse has considerable experience with breaches of infection control protocols that didn’t end in infection. And all too often the lesson learned isn’t that “We need to be more meticulous.” It is that “Infection control is pretty forgiving. Even when we mess up, it doesn’t usually do any harm.” Then along comes a much less forgiving pathogen, Ebola, and learned overconfidence becomes life-threatening.
Peter Sandman