JOHN MULHAUSEN, PhD, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, retired in 2018 from 3M where he worked for 31 years in a variety of global health and safety risk management roles, most recently as director of corporate safety and industrial hygiene.
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Education in Unprecedented Times
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become intimately familiar with both the promise and the pitfalls of technology. When the real world was locked down, we turned to the virtual one to do our work and live what we could of our lives. We might joke about “Zoom fatigue,” but technologies like video call platforms filled an urgent need, and when they failed, we deeply felt their absence.
As you surely know, this May, AIHce EXP was held entirely online. Unfortunately, the technology we relied on to deliver presentations did not work as intended for a portion of our attendees. The vendor’s platform had come highly recommended by organizations that used it successfully for virtual conferences similar to ours, but during AIHce, a previously undetected fault in the underlying code caused failures that disrupted access to several presentations. The vendor has acknowledged culpability, and AIHA is offering attendees a choice between a partial refund on their 2021 conference fees or a credit toward next year’s conference, scheduled to be held in Nashville, Tennessee. We also extended access to recordings of the presentations for several weeks so attendees could have time to get the education they needed.
On behalf of the AIHA Board of Directors and staff, I am deeply sorry for the problems, and I understand the frustrations of members whose plans were upended by the platform’s instability. But I also heard from many members who found the quality of the sessions in this year’s conference to be the highest ever. Coming off a year-plus of unprecedented challenges for occupational health and safety, AIHce delivered a stunningly diverse and superior collection of educational information that demonstrated the OEHS profession at its finest. I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved, including the volunteers on the conference planning committee, the staff who worked through the disruptions, the exhibitors and sponsors who made it all possible, and the speakers whose expertise helped so many of us increase our knowledge and prepare for the challenges facing our profession.
To fulfill AIHA’s mission, we must reliably deliver our best-in-class education in whatever formats our audience needs.
That expertise earned high marks from attendees on session evaluation forms. The average rating for the educational sessions was 4.47 out of 5. Professional development courses did almost as well, earning a 4.43 out of 5.
AIHce EXP 2021 was also a success from the perspective of attendance, with more than 2,500 attendees, including 575 nonmembers and approximately 300 students or early career professionals. For those who didn’t attend, you can still benefit from this great content through AIHce EXP OnDemand. Information on how to take advantage of this opportunity will be posted to the AIHA website.
Looking ahead to next year, I’m sure many of you are as excited as I am for what I expect to be a fabulous face-to-face AIHce in Nashville. This sentiment isn’t based solely on Zoom fatigue: it’s been far too long since we gathered in person, and I look forward to the benefits that only a live, real-world event can bring. That said, it’s likely that our conference will have a virtual component moving forward. Some people won’t be able to attend in person for various reasons, possibly because they can’t receive a COVID-19 vaccination or because they simply have too far to travel. To fulfill AIHA’s mission—empowering those who apply scientific knowledge to protect all workers from occupational hazards—we must reliably deliver our best-in-class education in whatever formats our audience needs. As my term as AIHA president begins, I’m looking forward to working with you to meet this challenge and others facing our profession.