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Mark of Excellence
Editor’s note: The Mark of Excellence is a monthly feature, special to the digital Synergist, that honors the recipients of annual awards presented by AIHA and ACGIH. Two award winners will be interviewed each month.
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Mary O’Reilly
AIHA ALICE HAMILTON AWARD The Alice Hamilton Award is presented to an outstanding woman who has been engaged in industrial/occupational hygiene for at least 10 years and is dedicated to public and community service, social reform, and technological innovation. Alice Hamilton Award recipients are recognized by their peers as competent in their chosen fields, dedicated to scientific truth, and committed to positive change for worker health. View the complete list of Alice Hamilton awardees on the AIHA website.
The recipient of the 2016 Alice Hamilton Award is Mary O'Reilly, PhD, CIH, CPE, of Manlius, N.Y. O'Reilly, who has been a CIH since 1990, is on the faculty of the SUNY School of Public Health in Albany and Empire State College in Syracuse, N.Y. She has a small consulting business, ARLS Consultants, Inc., and is on the board of directors for Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB). O'Reilly is currently the president of Workplace Health Without Borders-U.S., a branch of WHWB.
Q: How have you worked with AIHA in the past? A: I have enjoyed working with AIHA in many different roles. Early in my career I served as the treasurer for my local section, and I recently completed the five-year rotation through president of the local section. For many years, I have been on the organizing committee for the annual joint conference between our local section and the local Air and Waste Management Association. This past year, we held our 20th conference with almost 200 attendees and more than 20 exhibitors.
Working with AIHA committees has been a fabulous and rewarding experience. I discovered the Ergonomics Committee the year after I got certified and fell in love with the interesting and inspiring people on the committee. I still participate in the monthly calls and look forward to seeing the committee members every year at the annual conference. Because of my quantitative health risk assessment work at Syracuse Research Corporation, I was one of the founding members of the Risk Assessment Committee in 1995. I have seen the committee mature and evolve over the years. One of my most enjoyable opportunities with AIHA was to participate in the risk assessment subcommittee that organized a series of seven risk assessment symposia between 1997 and 2011. The quality and warmth of the people I have had the pleasure of working with through the Risk Assessment Committee is outstanding. I have also had the privilege of serving as chair for both these committees. More recently, I joined the International Affairs Committee and the Sustainability Committee, where I feel welcomed and integrated into the committee’s work.
AIHA has given me the opportunity to serve on the Z-10 Committee—not as its representative, but by making me aware of the application mechanism; has allowed me to serve on the Red Iguana Project and the Standards Development Advisory Group; has provided the structure for publishing and developing webinars; and has provided the platform from which I can interact with other organizations such as the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA). AIHA’s annual conference provides a mechanism to craft various educational programs, from presentations to professional development courses, as well as a way to interact with people dedicated to worker health from around the country and the world. But even more important than these excellent opportunities are the fellowship, mentoring, and inspiration I have received from the many wonderful people who make up AIHA. 
Q: What three words describe how you feel about being selected to receive this award, and what significance does this award hold for you? A: When I heard that I had received the Alice Hamilton Award, I felt delighted, honored, and humbled. I looked up the names of the previous winners and was awestruck by how renowned they are and how well they have served the industrial hygiene community. I have always respected Alice Hamilton, not only for her outstanding intellectual ability, but also for her commitment to social justice. I always thought she was a good role model, so the award is extremely meaningful to me.

Q. What advice would you give young women in your industry? A. My advice to young women—which is no different than it would be to young men—in our profession is to use your brain and follow your heart. The world needs you now more than ever. Make your own path. What was needed in the past may not be what is needed in the future. The world always needs intelligent, caring, and joyful leaders, and you need to envision leadership in a way that will transcend greed and corruption. You need to seek to understand rather than to be understood. You need integrity and enthusiasm to imagine and create a better world. That should be the goal of all work, including occupational hygiene.
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