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NEHA technical section chairs.

Behind the scenes, tucked away in the obscurity of the NEHA membership, lie some of the most talented and unsung heroes in NEHA. These are ordinary NEHA members who all have jobs to go to each and every day, yet they are also extraordinary NEHA members, contributing to one of the most important functions of the association. They are NEHA technical section chairs! Without them the NEHA Annual Educational Conference (AEC) would be a conference with no speakers and no education.

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These volunteers are moms and dads and coaches and caregivers with busy daily lives, just like the rest of us, but somehow, whether it is during a shortened coffee break, or in a phone call to the West Coast during their lunch hour on the East Coast, they find the time to bring excellence to the AEC each year.

They give back something to their profession and to all of us. Having been a section chair for five years, I know the work it takes.

It begins early in September: These dedicated members start reviewing the results of the market research conducted by NEHA staff to determine what the membership wants to learn about in the coming year. They also have to be aware of current and special topics that are breaking in their section as they are planning.

By October, section chairs begin reviewing abstracts submitted from people who want to make presentations. They have to marry the needs of the membership and the presentations offered. In some cases, they have to find quality speakers when an abstract for a hot topic has not been submitted.

Section chairs have a budget that is provided by the proceeds of the previous year's Silent Auction at the AEC. They also have some discretion in providing overnight rooms and some registration discounts for speakers. Next, it is on to contacting speakers from all over the country to discuss their availability and travel needs.

Now it's November, and the negotiating begins. Section chairs have to fill the schedule for which they have been allotted time at the AEC. They have the final say in determining who will be a speaker and how the schedule is arranged. This is a lot of responsibility for such an important event, but section chairs, time and again, rise to the occasion and continue to make the NEHA AEC better each year. I know section chairs use many professional and personal contacts to get quality speakers, and I would be remiss if I didn't thank the numerous speakers who have provided their expertise in previous NEHA conferences at reduced rates or who have borne expenses themselves, just to help NEHA provide a better program.

As a former section chair, I also know about the lack of recognition technical section chairs get from the membership. (Section chairs: Here is your recognition!) I also know the tremendous satisfaction of seeing anywhere from several people to a couple of hundred come into a room to listen and learn from expert speakers about topics that you have helped bring together. A great satisfaction comes at the end of the half day to two days of the session, when you have just experienced an incredible journey with fellow environmental health professionals who have attended the presentations you have coordinated. Sometimes, when you are putting in the extra time, you wonder if the work is worth it, but when that new or experienced professional taps his or her forehead during a session and mutters, "Now I get it," the satisfaction of knowing you have mentored, you have taught, you made a difference, comes over you, and you wonder if you can ever give it up.

To the former NEHA section chairs, I say thank you! You have mentored me and taught me and made a difference in my career. You have provided excellence and made a difference in the environmental health profession.

To the current NEHA section chairs, thank you! for your service and for being a part of my team. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into continuing to make the AEC the best environmental health conference in the nation.

Thank you also to Kristen Kuhar, the NEHA education coordinator who makes the whole system work--from the initial market research to the coordination of the section chairs to the articulation of learning objectives and through to the support of the speakers. We look forward to the special training and education sessions Kristen is scheduling for the AEC in Anchorage, Alaska, in May of this year.

Finally, to all of you who are looking for a way to make a difference, to get involved in NEHA or to mentor, call or e-mail the section chair of your choice and volunteer, if only just a bit. You may know someone who can make the program better. It is also an experience you will never regret.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:President's Message
Author:Ebelherr, Douglas J.
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:817
Previous Article:A couple of items of unusual interest.
Next Article:NEHA's 68th Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition: welcome to Anchorage, Alaska.


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