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.
Send feedback to The Synergist.
Help Students Discover OEHS
Those of us who attended AIHce this year were treated to an unforgettable closing keynote by Fredi Lajvardi. The story of how Lajvardi, an educator in the Phoenix area, inspired high school students to embrace science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) should resonate with everyone who has wondered how to encourage young people to pursue a career in occupational and environmental health and safety. Since joining the Si Se Puede Foundation, Lajvardi has been applying his motivational skills to college-aged students—a demographic that also has great potential to help secure the future of the OEHS profession. What’s needed is a commitment from each of us to introduce these students to the exciting, fulfilling world of OEHS.
A REWARDING CAREER Thanks to the recently relaunched I Am IH Leadership Challenge, it is easier than ever for AIHA members to spread the word about OEHS. As I explained in last month’s Synergist column, the challenge encourages AIHA members to make presentations to receptive audiences like college students. By filling out a form on the AIHA website, you can request help from AIHA staff in setting up meetings with the institutions you’d like to visit.
My article in the August issue focused on materials about OEHS for children in elementary and secondary schools. AIHA also has resources for older, college-age students. The hub for much of this information is AIHA’s OEHS Science Careers website. The site includes resources that explain why students should pursue a career in OEHS, the varied educational backgrounds of OEHS professionals, the personality types best suited to an OEHS career, and the kinds of things that students can do with an OEHS degree. Links on the site help students find accredited university programs in OEHS and AIHA student sections.
If you’re giving a presentation to college students, consider sharing the material (PDF). This short presentation explains how OEHS professionals are needed in every industry, in every part of the world. It gives students a sense of the varied settings where OEHS professionals work, from office buildings, manufacturing plants, hospitals, and construction sites to corporate labs and even Hollywood movie sets. It appeals to the compassion and goodwill of many young people by explaining the roles OEHS professionals play in helping responders and communities following natural disasters. And it provides some statistics that show how OEHS careers are economically rewarding thanks to high demand and higher salaries compared to other science and health-based careers. I encourage members to share resources and contacts that support outreach efforts to various student audiences so we can learn from one another.
What’s needed is a commitment from each of us to introduce these students to the exciting, fulfilling world of OEHS.
PURPOSEFUL OUTREACH Local sections and volunteer groups play an integral role in furthering outreach to college students and other prospects. AIHA’s new Membership Advisory Group is working alongside the PR(IH)DE SIG, Minority SIG, and Women in IH, among other groups, to identify strategies that help us fill our pipeline. Academic faculty are invited to contribute; if interested, email Mark Ames, AIHA's director of government relations.
AIHA is also drafting a new comprehensive outreach strategy to broaden our footprint. Elements include raising awareness of OEHS in historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs); ad campaigns that positively influence minority and economically disadvantaged communities; STEM festivals held around the country; SkillsUSA, an organization for students enrolled in technical training programs; and the guidance counselor community.
ENERGY AND INSPIRATION September is the time when college campuses are in full swing, welcoming students for the fall semester. This year, AIHA is also launching an initiative to recognize September as Worker Health and Safety Month. We’re encouraging members to ask their local, state, and federal government representatives to issue proclamations—a model is available from AIHA's Healthier Workplaces website—and we’ve planned several events and activities organized around weekly themes, including “Discover IH.” With the energy behind this effort, there has never been a better time to inspire students to embrace OEHS. For more details, see the article in this issue's Community news section and visit the Healthier Workplaces website.