June 16, 2022 / Ben Rome

Introducing AIHA President Donna Heidel 

It is a SynergistNOW tradition to interview the incoming AIHA president every summer. This year, we're very excited to introduce you to Donna Heidel, who's been a perennial leader in the industrial hygiene area, as well as on AIHA’s Board of Directors.

Ben Rome: How did you first get involved with AIHA?

Donna Heidel: My initial engagement with AIHA was as a member of the Delaware Valley section. Shortly after joining the local section, I began to present at the meetings and connected with two AIHA fellows who served as mentors to me. One of them was elected to the role of AIHA president. I was then elected to serve as treasurer and president of the local section. My active engagement with the local section provided me with opportunities to speak and receive the feedback that I needed early in my career. I discussed challenging projects over dinner with members who could provide solutions that I had not considered. 

BR: Could you tell us a little bit about your experience on the Board over the last eight years?

DH: Since I started as a director at large in 2014, the support that the Board provides to AIHA has changed remarkably. Our volunteers and advisory groups—including the Content Portfolio Advisory Group (CPAG) and the Technology Initiatives Strategic Advisory Group (TISAG), which have been very successful, as well as the Academic Advisory Group and the Total Worker Health Advisory Group—have served to steer AIHA in the development of our strategic goals. New groups like the Defining the Science Advisory Group, the Standards of Care Advisory Group, and the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force will frame how IH practice will evolve to support the future of work. Despite the fact that the pandemic required most of the Board's interactions to be virtual for the past two years, I've noticed increased collaboration among the Board members and AIHA staff. The Board and staff recognize the value of seeking diversity of viewpoints and experience. This has resulted in a broader range of products and services to support our members. 

BR: In your opinion, how important is volunteerism within the association?

DH: I think of our volunteers as the heart and brain of AIHA. They keep AIHA's heart beating by providing the IH methods and tools that support each of us in delivering state-of-the-art IH practice. The science of industrial hygiene runs so broad and deep. Our volunteers have expertise in a wide variety of workplaces, ranging from technology to mining, agriculture to vehicle assembly, and healthcare to construction. To this end, they are central to the organization's success and serve as AIHA's brain power. Our volunteers are the reason why AIHA is successful. 

BR: How will your years of experience on the AIHA Board shape your transition into the presidency for the coming year?

DH: Being on the AIHA Board of Directors helped me better understand the association and our members. During my three years as director at large, I supported nine committees and working groups. I also participated on several bodies of knowledge initiatives. I was honored to speak at local section conferences, which provided me with an opportunity to understand both the expertise and the needs of our local section members. Finally, my service as treasurer supported my understanding of the financial aspects of our organization. 

BR: What do you see as your biggest challenge during your term as AIHA president?

DH: My biggest challenge is that we have developed a robust strategic plan that includes collaboration with stakeholders on the Defining the Science Advisory Group with the goal to define and manage a standing OEHS research-to-practice agenda. This agenda will inform our volunteer groups about topic areas that are essential to our practice. My biggest challenge will be to identify the partners who will conduct the research and translate the research into our practice. 

BR: What excites you the most about our profession right now?

DH: I am most excited about the application of our knowledge, skills, and abilities to new challenges and the future of work. Our profession's contributions to the management of the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 are remarkable. The presentations, webinars, guidelines, care checklists, posters, and FAQs have made significant contributions to the public's health. The intense efforts from our volunteers and AIHA staff have been enthusiastically embraced by employers, workers, and the general public. We have learned that the public needs our expertise. Moving forward, how can we apply what we have learned about ventilation controls, for example, to protect workers and the public not only from COVID variants but also from influenza and wildfire smoke? How can we support personalized heat stress control implementation? I believe our profession can tackle these and other issues. That's why I'm excited about the future of our profession. 

BR: As you take over as AIHA's president, what are your top priorities?

DH: First, I want to continue to build on the momentum to achieve our vision, to accelerate worker protection by advancing the practice of our science and standards of care. Next, I will align our standards of care, the exposure assessment process, and advancements in sensor technology to the future of work. Emerging topics include, for example, thermal stress to last-mile delivery drivers and advanced technology in robotic systems. In addition to controlling exposure to these hazards, I believe we need to evolve our IH practice to include emotional stress to workers associated with these new work environments. Finally, I continue to be really passionate about including OEHS exposure controls into the design of workplaces, work methods, processes, and equipment. Developing the framework for IH practice to participate in design reviews, equipment specifications, and testing will support the implementation of controls at the top of the hierarchy. 

Watch the full interview on YouTube.

Ben Rome

Ben Rome is AIHA’s senior manager of communications.


AIHA election results

Hi Lawrence, here's a link to the announcement of AIHA's 2022 election results: https://www.aiha.org/news/220310-2022-2023-board-of-directors-election-results

By Ed Rutkowski, Synergist Editor in Chief on June 17, 2022 6:52am
Who was elected to other positions?

Title says it all, who else was elected?

By Lawrence Whitehead on June 16, 2022 6:27pm

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