DINA M. SIEGEL, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is semi-retired and is currently a guest scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she worked for 25 years in a variety of management and contributor roles. Her previous experience included OEHS for federal, contractor, and consultant firms.
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Instilling Passion for OEHS
I found my way to industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) by total accident. My undergraduate studies at Colorado State University were in environmental health, and I was planning a career in public health. Then I connected with a longtime AIHA member, Harry Beaulieu, who was a professor at CSU. As my first mentor, he opened my eyes to a career in OEHS. I earned a master’s degree after 10 years in OEHS, and from then on, I was proud to call myself an industrial hygienist and an EHS (now OEHS) generalist.
Many OEHS professionals share a similar origin story. Typically, we went to school to prepare for a different field and discovered OEHS through good fortune or the intervention of a mentor.
Of course, it’s common for college students to switch majors and for people to discover new passions as they age. But many young people don’t even know an OEHS career is possible. How many talented students would join our ranks if they were introduced to OEHS earlier? How many more talented early career professionals would contribute their knowledge and skills to “a world where all workers and their communities are healthy and safe?”
The work of informing the next generation about OEHS falls to each of us. That’s why AIHA has relaunched the I Am IH Leadership Challenge, which encourages members to spread the word about our wonderful profession in local schools.
ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE The goal of the challenge is to share your insights with as many students as possible, including those in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, and universities. AIHA can help you streamline the logistics: tell us the name of the school, institution, or after-school program where you’d like to present, and staff will identify the appropriate contact, reach out on your behalf, and make an online introduction so you can finalize your visit. The full details, including how to sign up, how to earn points, and the prizes you can win, are available on AIHA's website.
How many talented students would join our ranks if they were introduced to OEHS earlier?
Once you have contacted educators, plenty of materials are available on the AIHA website to help you:
IH Heroes. This comic book series is a great way to introduce kids between the ages of 12 and 18 to our profession. From AIHA's website, you can download free digital copies of the books, bite-sized graphics for social media, biography cards with information about the characters, and a game that simulates a scenario faced by OEHS professionals.
Resources for presentations. A video on Catalyst describes practical tips for delivering an engaging presentation to a student audience.
Stacy’s story. Nothing better illustrates the impact we have in our communities than this moving video of how an OEHS professional helped AIHA staff member Stacy Calhoun and her family overcome losing their home in a disaster. The video is available on YouTube.
Salary information. The results of AIHA’s latest salary and compensation survey can help undergraduates understand the earning potential of an OEHS career.
IH Professional Pathway. Visit the AIHA website for links to resources that can help university students and recent graduates get started on their OEHS career.
Core competencies. The free publication Core Competencies for the Practice of Industrial/Occupational Hygiene describes the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for success at different OEHS career levels. The book is available from AIHA's website.
I Am IH video series. These personal stories, collected on the AIHA YouTube channel, showcase the tremendous variety of OEHS work.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION AIHA’s mission of empowering and advancing those who apply scientific knowledge to protect all workers and their communities from occupational and environmental hazards can only continue by adding new OEHS practitioners to the workforce. By participating in the I Am IH Leadership Challenge, you may help inspire the next generation of students to try an OEHS career. And maybe, when people ask how we found our career, more of us will say that we always wanted to be in OEHS.