NEHA May 2014 Journal of Environmental Health - page 7

May 2014
• Journal of Environmental Health
individual or company you are working with
as it may assist with developing a workable
strategy to resolve the problem. It is during
these moments of working to protect pub-
lic health that you are not only representing
your agency, but you are building trust and
earning the respect of your public and work-
ing toward a successful outcome for all par-
ties. Another benefit in practicing diplomacy
in the variety of circumstances that present
themselves each day is that we are continu-
ally learning how to enhance our communi-
cation skills.
Ethics, a set of moral principles:
or not we are credentialed individuals, our
purpose is protecting the public’s health and
it is so much easier to accomplish that if we
have their trust. Every decision we make
in environmental health has ramifications.
Decisions that are straightforward, fit nicely
between the lines of laws or policy, or are
simply made for us tend to make our lives
easy. The complex situations are those that
challenge us to tap into both our competency
and our character to make sound and ethical
decisions that will pose minimal risk to the
public’s health and our environment. Making
decisions with integrity and honesty as all of
the options and outcomes are weighed will
never steer you wrong.
Making every single decision knowing
that our actions are an investment into our
reputation as credible and trustworthy pro-
fessionals is also an investment into build-
ing the public’s trust—not only on your own
behalf but on behalf of the organization you
represent. Another point to remember is that
you may not have control of some decisions
that are made and you may very well disagree
with decisions made. Managers are often
faced with making difficult decisions and are
often seeking creative solutions that will sat-
isfy the political circumstances at hand and
at the same time will not be detrimental to
public health. Throughout the process, it is
important to maintain integrity in your own
decision making without sacrificing quality
or the public’s health.
Regardless of the position you
hold within your organization, you are an
environmental health professional and leader
within your community. Your community
rightly expects you to use your expertise and
leadership skills while you work to prevent
disease and protect their well-being. You may
be recognized while on your own personal
time and a member of the community may
seek your input. In the role you have estab-
lished as an educator, expert, and protector,
your community depends on you. The same
perceptions apply in an office environment. If
you conduct yourself in a professional man-
ner, maintain your integrity, and treat others
with their due respect, you will be viewed as
a leader.
Having a mentor is just as
important as being a mentor. This can be
someone you respect for their leadership skills
in any profession. The optimum is to have
mentors both within and outside of our pro-
fession. Your respected colleagues from other
professions have plenty of life lessons and wis-
dom they are happy to share. Regardless of the
number of years of experience you have in the
field of practice, there is always someone to
give back to—whether it is a student, a person
looking for a career change into our profes-
sion, a member of the community, or a person
new to your agency or company.
Sometimes our priorities
are determined for us and this can simplify
This question was posed to successful environmental health
professionals from throughout the country with the caveat that
their personal thoughts should be captured in one sentence. I
wish to provide my gratitude to our colleagues who replied and
hope you will appreciate their very thoughtful and profound
responses. I encourage our new generations of environmental
health professionals to garner insight from our key leaders.
“Being an EHS provides an opportunity to execute a unique
blend of public health–oriented scientific knowledge and
technical competence and professionalism that results in a
healthier population.”
Marcy A. Barnett, REHS, MEPP, Emergency Preparedness
Liaison, California Department of Public Health, Center for
Environmental Health
“Protecting the health of the community by managing environmental
risk factors.”
Eric Bradley, MPH, REHS, CP-FS, Environmental Health Specialist,
Scott County Health Department
“To me, environmental health is public health because we make
sure people have clean air, food, and water; a safe place to live
and work; and ways to properly dispose of waste.”
D. Gary Brown, DrPH, CIH, RS, DAAS, Professor, Eastern
Kentucky University
“I see environmental health professionals as having a niche of
practice in various fields of science that relate to the balance of
human well-being with that of the environment. To contextually
paraphrase Samuel Johnson, environmental health practitioners
mitigate human and environmental injury, illness, and disease that
‘generally begins that equality which death completes.’”
Brian Collins, MS, REHS, DAAS, Director of Environmental Health
(ret.), NEHA Past President
“I believe environmental health professionals are truly the quiet
professionals who go about their often thankless tasks protecting
the public from disease and, in the end, saving lives.”
Richard F. Collins, MSEH, RS/REHS, DAAS, Senior Environmental
Health Scientist, Office for Environmental Health Emergencies,
National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry, Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, NEHA Past President
“It means that at the end of the day I can be proud of the work I
do because I know that I help to make this world a healthier and
safer place.”
Jim Dingman, MS, REHS, DLAAS, Lead Regulatory Engineer,
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., NEHA Past President
What Does Being an Environmental Health Professional Mean to You?
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