Meet John Mulhausen, AIHA President 2021-2022
In early June 2021, AIHA’s new Board president for the 2021-2022 term will assume the post during the association’s annual business meeting. John R. Mulhausen, PhD, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, an AIHA member since 1980, was elected to the Board as vice president in 2019. He previously served on the Board in 1998-2001 and is a member of AIHA’s Exposure Assessment Strategies Committee. A decorated AIHA member, he received the Edward J. Baier Technical Achievement Award in 2002 and the Henry F. Smyth Jr. Award in 2009. Now retired, he worked for 31 years with the 3M Company.
I reached out to Mulhausen for a conversation about his experiences with AIHA and his vision for the coming year. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Ina Xhani: How did you first get involved with AIHA?
John Mulhausen: A fellow University of Minnesota graduate student and I hopped in a car and drove to Chicago for the 1979 AIHce. We found it a great, fun learning experience for two young professionals. The next year—1980—I joined the association and became heavily involved with the Exposure Assessment Strategies Committee throughout the late 80s. That's been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life, and something that I truly treasure.
IX: How will your AIHA Board experience shape your transition into the presidency?
JM: To date, my experience on the Board has been wonderful. AIHA is an extremely dynamic organization with many exciting programs and initiatives. And we are extremely fortunate to have first-rate staff and many dedicated, expert volunteers that keep both the association and our profession advancing. I am extremely honored to be part of the organization.
I've gotten to know that AIHA staff and my fellow Board members are all extremely competent, energetic, and wonderful to work with. We respect each other and enjoy working together. With such a great organization supporting me, I have absolutely no qualms about assuming the role of president and taking the association’s next steps.
IX: What do you see as your biggest challenge for the upcoming year?
JM: I think my biggest challenge is going to be keeping up with the association’s fast pace and the many actions, initiatives, projects, and events we are involved in. There is a lot going on across the association, in local sections, in the laboratory accreditation programs, with the yearly conference, and in e-learning activities. Staying involved with these things will keep me plenty busy.
In addition to the association’s general activities, the new world that we're living in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to challenge the association in ways I think we’ll be able to meet. Among them, education will probably shift from being held in-person more toward virtual approaches. The increased popularity of Zoom is also encouraging meetings and conferences to move to virtual formats. Our association needs to be ready for these changes.
IX: What was your favorite part about the virtual AIHce EXP 2020?
JM: To be honest, I was a little concerned about participating in last year's virtual conference, because I've grown accustomed to in-person conferences and really have enjoyed the networking experiences, particularly the opportunity to meet with experts in various areas. But I was pleasantly surprised by the 2020 virtual conference and how it gave me the opportunity to focus on learning.
Interacting with presenters through text chat didn’t feel as personal as in-person conference networking events, but it was certainly good for asking and answering questions. And my guess is that some participants were more willing to send a question through the text chat than they might have been to stand up in front of a microphone and ask the same question at an in-person session.
I found the virtual sessions to be very well done. From an educational standpoint, I enjoyed the virtual sessions more than the in-person sessions. At in-person conferences, it seems like participants are always needing to rush to the next session. They often get there a little late, struggle to find seats, and have other difficulties, but all of that was taken away in the 2020 virtual conference. I found that helped me focus on the learning experience.
IX: What are you most looking forward to at this year's AIHce EXP?
JM: I'm excited again to experience the virtual conference’s focus on learning and to participate in the educational sessions. I'm also excited to see what new experiences are in place for the Expo and virtual networking opportunities. I think our excellent conference-planning staff has some great things in store for us, and I'm excited to see how these will work at the virtual conference.
IX: What are your top priorities for the coming year as president?
JM: My top priorities relate to helping the association learn from our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. As I mentioned before, we're going to need to adapt to a world that has changed the way that people learn and interact with each other. I don't think that online meetings or training sessions are going to completely go away. I think the pandemic has taught us to be very productive through Zoom and other platforms. So, I think the association will need to learn how to engage with our members and OEHS professionals around the world through those virtual venues, which I believe we're well-positioned to do.
My priorities also include looking back on aspects of AIHA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that worked or didn’t work well so that we can learn from them and make recommendations and guidance for how we can best respond to a new pandemic in the future.
IX: Do you have any advice for our members?
JM: To get involved. As I said previously, my participation with the association, and the Exposure Assessment Strategies Committee in particular, has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career. I want every OEHS professional to have the opportunity to engage with, learn from, and contribute to the association and the profession. I believe that every one of our members has something to offer. Getting involved with AIHA and our many technical committees, volunteer opportunities, and local sections is a great way to get engaged that members will find rewarding.
John Mulhausen, PhD, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is president-elect of AIHA. He will become AIHA president in June.