Introducing Incoming President of AIHA
Lindsay Cook will take over the AIHA Presidency this June, at the end of AIHce EXP 2020. An AIHA member since 1979, Cook has worked with AIHA’s Protective Clothing and Equipment Committee, Laboratory Health and Safety Committee, Indoor Environmental Quality Task Force, and Finance Committee. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is currently principal consultant for The EI Group Inc., an environmental health and safety (EHS) consulting firm in North Carolina.
We chatted with Cook about his experience with AIHA and what he’s looking forward to in the next year as he settles into his new role as AIHA President.
How did you first get involved with AIHA?
I joined AIHA in 1979 and have been a member ever since. Although I began my career as an industrial hygienist in 1975, at that time, full membership required three years of experience in the field. However, I had become involved in my local section several years earlier and found it a great way to learn about IH and interact with both experienced professionals in the field and folks early in their careers like myself.
You were elected vice president in 2018. Could you tell me a little bit about your experience on the Board?
As my career progressed, I began looking for ways to give back to IH. I began committee work at the national level and worked for over a decade with both the Laboratory Health and Safety Committee and AIHA/ANSI Z-9 Ventilation activities. I first joined the AIHA Board as a director in 1999 and served a three-year term. My next Board service was as treasurer in 2015, and then I was elected vice president in 2018.
I have found service on the Board a great way to influence AIHA’s agenda and to stay involved with all that our association does to support the IH profession. It has also helped my networking with senior IH leaders, through the Board and our professional partners.
How will your experience on the AIHA Board of Directors shape your transition into the presidency?
My tenure on the Board has been a continual learning experience—our association is complex and diverse. My involvement in AIHA leadership over the last twenty years has helped me see how AIHA has changed and evolved with the profession and provided me with background to continue to drive our agenda and priorities to meet the needs of today’s industrial hygienists.
What are your top priorities for the coming year as president?
I look forward to working with our content portfolio advisory group, working on technical initiatives, and directing international strategy to assure that our efforts remain focused on the priority issues affecting our field right now. Whether it is Big Data, Total Worker Health, or a cost-effective strategy for international outreach, AIHA must ensure that our efforts are aimed at providing information, resources, and support in the areas where our members work today.
One of my goals is to expand our efforts to cooperate productively with other organizations in the occupational health and safety field. We recently renewed our memorandum of understanding (MOU) with OSHA, and through that, are working with NIOSH on numerous project fronts. We are continuing dialog with ACGIH, ASSP, ABIH, and others, and I look forward to continuing to expand those communications and pursuing joint efforts of mutual interest.
I also hope to push AIHA to continue reaching out towards those entering allied professions and our own, to demonstrate the value of AIHA in furthering early professionals’ growth. Only with the engagement and support of new and younger members can AIHA continue as a vibrant community and the go-to association for OHS professionals.
What excites you the most about our industry right now?
I am excited by the energy I see in the profession and the association today. Groups like Women in Industrial Hygiene are getting people involved and energized by the opportunities AIHA presents. Our student local sections are becoming more enthused, active, and included. Recharging AIHA will excite the association and keep us on a path to success as we continue towards the future.
What’s one of your favorite AIHce memories?
One of my favorite memories is from when I was a new IH in the 70s. I still remember Dr. Warren Cook, one of the early pioneers of our profession, sitting on the front row, listening attentively at every session. I was amazed to be sitting in the same room, much less speaking with, this gentleman about whom I had heard so much!
Opportunities abound at AIHce to meet and talk with many of the leaders in our profession. Although due to the current situation, we will not be together in Atlanta in person, I look forward to the opportunity to personally connect with friends and colleagues at AIHce 2021 in Dallas next year!
This year’s conference will be unusual as it will be fully virtual. Do you have any suggestions for those who are attending their first virtual AIHce EXP?
Due to COVID-19, AIHA and its Board of Directors decided to host this year’s AIHce EXP entirely online, instead of live in Atlanta. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we believe that it’s in the best interest of our members and conference attendees. Attending a fully virtual conference can be challenging, but it has its rewards: you get the same great information and insights from the speakers from the comfort of your home or office, without the time and expense of travel.
I would recommend that those attending their first virtual conference treat it as they would an on-site conference: prioritize your time, engage during the sessions, and connect with speakers, other attendees, and exhibitors. Create a schedule ahead of time and make conference participation a priority. Don’t put off sessions, even though it’s easy to get caught up in what’s going on in your office or at home. Block out your calendar and find a quiet place where you can focus, so that you can get the most out of your investment.
What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s AIHce EXP?
Even though we won’t all be physically in the same location, I still look forward to communicating virtually with our members and hearing from them about their work and their ideas for AIHA. The virtual expo is also a great way to stay current on the latest in equipment, services, and resources, and to chat with representatives who know and can explain those products and services in detail.
Do you have any advice for our members?
Our members have a unique opportunity, as professional colleagues, to introduce new OHS professionals to AIHA and encourage them to join and participate in committees, AIHce, local sections, training, and other professional development activities that will enhance their careers. That’s how I got started with AIHA—through the encouragement of colleagues. Take time to introduce AIHA to those in your sphere who don’t already know us, and while you’re at it, remember to take advantage of all that AIHA has to offer for enhancing your professional growth!