is retired senior vice president and now principal consultant at The EI Group, an environmental health and safety consulting firm in Morrisville, North Carolina. Send feedback to The Synergist.

Moving to an All-Virtual AIHce
Last month, AIHA announced that AIHce EXP 2021, originally planned as a hybrid event with both live and virtual components, would switch to an all-virtual format. No doubt some of you were disappointed by this news. The Board of Directors and AIHA staff share your disappointment. For months, we had prepared to host a contingent of speakers, attendees, and exhibitors in Dallas at the end of May, and we were confident that we could hold a high-quality hybrid conference that protected the health and safety of all participants.
Nevertheless, given the slow rollout of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, many members indicated that they were uncomfortable traveling in May, and many others reported that company restrictions prohibited them from attending in person. Conference registrations reflected these realities. By the end of February, it was clear that the potential audience for the live event would not be sufficient to hold a hybrid conference that met attendees’ expectations.
The Board and staff considered moving the conference to the autumn, when presumably a significant percentage of the U.S. population will be vaccinated, potentially alleviating concerns about the safety of traveling. But such a change would trigger thorny logistical issues. The availability of our speakers was a critical consideration; many had already received approvals from their organizations to travel in May. In addition, changing the dates of a conference the size of AIHce has complicated financial ramifications. Our analysis was that an all-virtual format was the best solution.
LESSONS FROM LAST YEAR Although this change of plans is not what any of us had hoped for, there are many reasons to remain excited about AIHce. As always, the education sessions cover the wide range of responsibilities of IH and OEHS professionals, featuring leading research and a wealth of practical information that attendees can use to improve their work and advance their careers. You can read about some of these sessions elsewhere in this issue; for the full agenda, visit the conference website.
In preparation for AIHce EXP 2021, staff selected a new event platform that is a better fit for virtual learning than the legacy platform used last year.
The switch to virtual does not affect a key benefit of conference attendance: the opportunity to earn credit toward certification maintenance. Attendees can earn up to 18 contact hours through the virtual event and additional hours by watching recordings of sessions through AIHce On Demand, which is free for those who register for the full conference.
Our staff learned a lot about hosting a virtual conference from last year’s AIHce, which was held under challenging circumstances with significant time pressures. They are eager to apply those lessons to this year’s conference, and new tools are available for running a successful virtual event. In preparation for AIHce EXP 2021, staff selected a new event platform that is a better fit for virtual learning than the legacy platform used last year. Hundreds of organizations have used the new platform to provide access to education sessions, creative networking options, extensive virtual expo halls, and other features.
HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION After a year of pandemic-related restrictions, no doubt many members miss the camaraderie of a live event. I count myself among them, and I eagerly await the time when circumstances again allow safe in-person gatherings. But in the meantime, the virtual AIHce will give us all an opportunity to benefit from the highest quality education available to OEHS professionals. I look forward to sharing that time with you.