Young Professional Development at the #AIHce

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Fletcher Best

Having recently returned from our first American Industrial Hygiene Conference (AIHce), held in San Antonio, Texas, we have been forced to look back and reflect upon our experience and learning’s with many people asking “how was it?, “what did you enjoy the most?” Well, the answer to the first question is easy. It was awesome… the power of RAD!!!

The second question is a little more difficult to answer, as first timers to the #AIHce we don’t know what was more daunting, the size of the conference and exhibition centre (120,773 m2 in total), the number of conference delegates (5000!) or choice of scientific programme (a small novel, 88 pages in total).

Lucky for us the AIHA recognise that the AIHce can be a little daunting and have purposefully implemented an AIHce Students and Young Professionals Programme, that includes targeted sessions and activities designed especially for young professionals at AIHce.

Firstly, when we registered we signed up as first time attendees and opted to be assigned our very own #PAL (Personal AIHce Liaison). The PAL programme has been purposefully implemented by the AIHA in effort to welcome first-time attendees and students to AIHce allowing new professional attendees and students (“First Timers”) to be matched with seasoned AIHce attendees (“PALs”).

The goal of the PAL programme is to help the first timers network with fellow professionals and provide a better overall conference experience. Our PAL’s were able to share their knowledge and expertise about AIHce and assist us to get more involved in the activities (including supporting us to deliver our #IGNITE presentations) and capitalise on the opportunities on offer.


Rob Paulson (left), a Colorado State University graduate student with PAL Stephen Chiusano (right), AIHA Fellow at the First Timer’s Orientation Session, sponsored by DuPont.

We met our PAL’S at the First Timers Orientation Session (Sponsored by DuPont), a 6:45 am breakfast prior to the official conference opening session on Monday morning.

During “orientation” we were provided with an overview of the conference and a summary of the programme designed to target young professionals and students – this assistance was more than welcome and helped us to select the activities, events and technical sessions contained within the 88 page conference programme! Including technical sessions such as:

  • The real world: Industrial Hygiene: Roundtable presentation and interactive discussion incorporating topics relevant to navigating the exciting and unique challenges that face up-and-coming young professionals where presenters provided practical advice including communication skills, knowledge application, building workplace networks, and professional support systems; and
  • Preparing for the CIH – An Insider’s Experience: Roundtable covering requirements to sit the CIH exam including information on preparation strategies and personal perspectives and lessons learned from those who were not successful initially.

That evening we attended the Future Leaders and Young Member Reception (Sponsored by 3M). When attending the reception it was obvious how passionate the AIHA members are about encouraging and developing future young hygienists. Within minutes of arrival, we had been approached by and introduced to many #hygienegods who were sincere in ‘giving back’ to the occupational hygiene profession through mentoring. We left feeling inspired and encouraged to develop ourselves into great hygienists, knowing we have the support of many #hygienegods.


(L to R) Alex Wilson, Brooke Best and Holly Fletcher at the 3M sponsored Future Leaders and Young Member Reception

The best part about participating in the events associated with the Students and Young Professionals Programme was the fact that we were introduced to so many other young hygienists, along with their PAL’s (who then became surrogate PAL’s). We were able to make real connections with so many other likeminded #younghygienists, and more importantly we felt like we had been embraced by the greater hygiene community!

So now thinking back to our experience, yes there were technical sessions, social events, #hygienegods and even a movie matinée that stood out as key highlights, however what the most enjoyable aspect of AIHce? As a young hygienist that’s easy to answer!

Without a doubt, as young hygienists and first time attendees at AIHce the most memorable aspect was the concerted effort and interaction we experienced with established and younger members of the AIHA which no doubt has, and will continue to contribute to our professional network along with strengthening our opportunities for development.


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