Each year, The Synergist asks candidates for the AIHA Board of Directors to participate in a candidates’ forum. This year’s candidates were asked to respond to the following question: The AIHA Board of Directors recently approved the association’s new strategic plan for 2016 through 2018. Given the priorities evident in the strategic plan, how do you see AIHA continuing to be the essential resource for worker health protection and the association that IH professionals trust to keep themselves current, connected, and credible?
The 2016 Board of Directors election will open in early March. AIHA members will use their e-mail address and membership identification number to access the online voting system. Members who require a paper ballot must submit their request by e-mail no later than Friday, Feb. 19. The paper ballot will be mailed by early March and must be returned postmarked no later than Friday, March 18, to be counted in the election. For more inf​ormation, please contact Judy Keithline at (703) 846-0702 or keithline@aiha.org.
AIHA Candidates’ Forum
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