DEPARTMENTS
KUSNETZ AWARD
Named for AIHA Past President Howard Kusnetz and his wife, Florence, the Kusnetz Award honors an industrial hygienist certified by ABIH who is under forty years old, exhibits high ethical standards and technical abilities, and shows promise of leadership in the profession. View the complete list of Kusnetz awardees on the AIHA website.
 
The recipient of the 2015 Kusnetz award is Christine A. Hoehn, CIH, of Centuria, Wisconsin. Hoehn is an industrial hygienist with Praxair, Inc., and past chair of the AIHA Students and Early Career Professionals Committee. What significance does receiving this award hold for you? It shows that if you work hard, put positive effort into everything you do, and focus on what you can influence, you won't go unrecognized.
 
What advice would you give to a young professional in the field of IH/OH? Show up, show up on time, show up prepared. Challenge yourself to do things well at all times. Learn how to lead people to come with you. Know when to volunteer, and when to limit volunteering roles when your personal life could be affected. Take calculated risks. How would you describe the AIHA Future Leaders Institute and its role in the industrial hygiene profession? The content and learning structure of FLI took me from an early-career-professional level of thinking to a more mature professional level with a new tight-knit network of IH friends who are only a phone call/social media post away for advice. It was truly a turning point in my professional career.
 
What is the importance of mentoring in the industrial hygiene field? I have always had mentors, and I would not be the professional I am today if I didn't have those people to thank. The amount of insight you receive after having a conversation with a mentor is invaluable. The importance of having someone outside of your company to speak with will help you discern project questions, road blocks, and possible career choices. Those inside your company may not have the same views because of internal politics.
 
Mark of Excellence
JOHN J. BLOOMFIELD AWARD The John J. Bloomfield Award is presented to a young industrial hygienist who pursues the problem of occupational health hazards primarily by doing fieldwork, and who demonstrates significant contribution to the profession. Visit the ACGIH website for a list of previous Bloomfield awardees.
 
This year's Bloomfield Award recipient is R. Todd Niemeier, MS, CIH.
 
In three words please describe how you feel about being selected to receive this award. Honored, humbled, surprised.
 
What significance does receiving this award hold for you? I have been inspired by many of my colleagues over the years during my work in consulting and at NIOSH. Looking back at the list of past Bloomfield recipients, I realized that I have been lucky enough to work closely with several of them at NIOSH. I consider all of these individuals to be great industrial hygienists, and I am grateful that they have passed on some of their knowledge to me. In addition, many of the other past awardees have become leaders in our field. I am honored to be recognized among these individuals, and this award motivates me to continue to work to improve the health and safety of workers.
 
What advice can you give to a young professional in the field of industrial/occupational hygiene? I have a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that hangs in my office, and inevitably, my eye catches it nearly every day and provides me with focus. It reads:
 
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
 
My advice to young professionals: get in the arena. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to learn new things, and you will make mistakes; however, that is often the only way you make yourself better. I realized early on in my career that I chose a field that not only allows me to be a scientist, which I love, but also allows me to make a meaningful and often visible impact in workers' lives. For me, that is the driving force that makes this career great.
R. Todd Niemeier, MS, CIH
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.
Christine A. Hoehn, CIH
Hoehn_CNiemeier
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DIGITAL EXTRA
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