DANIEL H. ANNA, PhD, CIH, CSP, is president of AIHA and senior industrial hygienist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. He can be reached at (240) 228-1980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Value of the AIHA Network
BY DANIEL H. ANNA, AIHA PRESIDENT
During the last weekend of January, 100 leaders from AIHA volunteer groups and local sections participated in the AIHA Leadership Workshop in Falls Church, Va. For many years, Leadership Workshop has been a nearly annual opportunity where AIHA members who lead many of the association’s activities come together to develop leadership skills, learn about the broader work of the association, and network with peers. This year the level of engagement, energy, and enthusiasm reached a new height. In hopes of sharing that spirit, here are a few key quotes that capture the essence of this year’s event and some thoughts about how all of us can apply lessons from the Workshop. “The AIHA community is hungry for professional engagement, and our association is the place for it.” The collaborative environment, the networking, and the passion about our profession and our AIHA community stayed at the forefront of activities throughout the weekend. “Protecting people is important to our nation, ourselves, and our economy.” Brian Riggs, the facilitator, admitted that he knew nothing about industrial hygiene before agreeing to the job. But as he prepared for the workshop, he recognized the significance of IH. When he shared stories of his family history that he tied to work-related exposures, it was obvious that our profession connected with him. The lesson from Brian’s experience is that helping workers and members of the broader community recognize how IH affects them personally is an effective way to raise the profile of the profession. How can we help others connect industrial hygiene with their life or work stories? “It’s okay to ask for help: you don’t know who might be able to solve your problem.” Teams of attendees, many of whom had never met, spent time developing solutions for each other’s professional challenges. Identifying actionable steps in a short period of time demonstrated the power behind the AIHA network. Groups took photos together, exchanged contact information, and committed to holding each other accountable for reaching their goals. At least two attendees planned to support each other as they pursue the CIH certification. The Workshop showed how AIHA’s strong network can benefit all of us; how often do we utilize it to solve our professional challenges?
Helping workers and members of the broader community recognize how IH affects them personally is an effective way to raise the profile of the profession.
The challenge: “Looking to start a professional career following graduation.” The first step toward a solution: “[I] made contacts for potential career opportunities in multiple cities.” These comments from a photo posted to Twitter by @secp_aiha summarized Leadership Workshop’s positive impact on students in attendance. These representatives from student sections and academic programs proved that we should have a positive outlook about the future of the profession. Collectively, older attendees embraced these new professionals, making an impression that leads to committed volunteers and a strong, lasting professional community within AIHA. We can all follow their example by actively encouraging future professionals to join our community. “Create momentum… we need to add mass in a short time.” Teams developed “engagement maps” that addressed a variety of topics. Growing the IH community was a common theme, but the tone was optimistic. Discussion focused on positioning the profession in a manner that demonstrates its value for reasons ranging from “it’s the right thing to do” to fiscal returns on investment. “AIHA has never hosted a more driven and leading bunch.” This comment on Twitter from @AIHAChicago should be true every year. AIHA is a successful association because of its volunteers’ contributions. As more members engage in association activities and volunteer for leadership positions, our collective voice strengthens, our visibility increases, and our value becomes more obvious. “Great time with great leaders.” This is how Brian Riggs summed up the Workshop on Twitter. The same could be said of any gathering of AIHA volunteers. As IHs, we have many opportunities to lead and grow professionally. When we make the most of those opportunities, the whole profession benefits.