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The game plan.

As I start this year as president, I would like you to have a sense of where I hope to take the organization. As background, I have been in the environmental health field for over 35 years, and more than 25 of those years have been in a management capacity. This will be my fourth organizational presidency: two of the previous ones were at the state level, and one was at the national level. I try to use management skills that I have learned over the years in conducting the business of the association. Like Jim before me, I like baseball analogies because I have both played and coached in that sport. I believe, however, that I've learned more about teamwork from playing high school football.

My management style is inclusive and is one of management by objectives. Without a destination (goal) and a map (objectives), any road will get you "there," but the problem becomes: how do you know when you have arrived? I start any new budget year with goals and objectives. That becomes my "game plan" to achieve success. Those of you who are avid sports fans know that sometimes your game plan goes out the window at the beginning of the contest. So you must be flexible enough to change with the conditions presented. Harry Cary, a famous sportscaster for the Chicago Cubs, once said, "Everything good that has happened to me has happened as a direct result of something bad." I personally am not afraid to stretch higher than might be comfortable with these goals. When you stretch, sometimes something bad can happen, but by setting goals and objectives high, you strive for excellence. Does anyone strive for mediocrity? To survive, our organization must set high standards for itself, especially in these times of competition for resources.

Now that I have given some background on myself and my thought processes, let me share some of the goals and objectives I have for the coming year. Our association is strong but our profession is in near-crisis condition--let me explain. The crisis has to do with several issues I started raising with my June 2001 campaign for this seat (the presidential chair in NEHA is a five-year commitment). These issues are still concerns--it is just that our game plan was altered, as were our lives, on September 11th of that year.

One issue that I personally want addressed is the recruitment of students into the environmental health curriculum at the college level. Simply put, the supply does not meet the demand. Enrollments in and graduations from accredited schools of environmental health have steadily declined over the past decade. I will have more to say on this subject in a future column. For now, it is important to know that a strategy to address this issue has been developed in the NEHA Workforce Development Committee. In addition to looking at new students, the strategy also addresses leadership development.

A second issue that I want to address is to define the role and minimum credentials of a sanitarian. NEHA registration could serve as a national model and be an equivalent to the registration requirements of states that still maintain their registration acts. This issue has been more of a challenge than I first anticipated. There has, however, been some significant movement in this direction. We will continue to work to make NEHA registration nationally recognized as the premier credential that it is.

A third issue is to find new ways to educate the membership of NEHA. I think this agenda item is one that will never be completed because we continually need to find better ways to provide services and make available educational opportunities. Have you visited the NEHA Web site lately? If so you will find many opportunities to meet your educational appetite that were not there a few years ago.

The last issue I raised was that of genetic engineering and its impact on the food supply and other aspects of environmental health. NEHA now has a white paper on labeling requirements for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There is still work to be completed in this area, however, because there is a lack of consensus worldwide about whether GMOs are "safe" for use in the food supply and what their impact will be on the environment.

Having had the opportunity to observe first hand the three presidents before me, one thing I have learned is that the president must react in the way I taught my first basemen on the baseball teams I have coached to play the position: "Expect the unexpected because you don't know how the ball will be coming to you." You all know that terrorism response has become a major issue for our nation. NEHA has been working toward defining the role of environmental health in terrorism and emergency response. This issue was one of those unexpected balls that came our way, and this work will need to continue.

One last item as I close this first message: At the Annual Educational Conference (AEC) in Providence, we announced a new initiative related to membership. We are recruiting NEHA Ambassadors this year. The short version is that to be recognized as a NEHA Ambassador, you sign a commitment to recruit at least two new members before the next AEC. This initiative should help increase membership in the coming year. If you are interested in becoming a NEHA Ambassador, please contact your regional vice president for further details.

As we progress through the year, my hope is that I can listen to your concerns, speak to the progress of NEHA, and keep the priorities of the organization in mind. In future messages I will keep you informed on issues being addressed by our association. I look forward to a dialogue, both speaking and listening at different affiliate meetings.

Ron Grimes R.S., M.P.H., D.A.A.S.

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Title Annotation:President's Message
Author:Grimes, Ron
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Previous Article:Hope for the future of environmental health.
Next Article:Creating effective messages about environmental health.

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