2016 AEHA Annual Education Conference Highlights

“Let us be the bridge builders.”

That was an important message from my opening remarks at the 2016 AEHA annual education conference. Our conference theme was to bridge healthcare and environmental health and our presenters did an excellent job showing us the path forward. From our daily keynote addresses we learned about theories of decision making for the environmental health professional from none other than our longtime friend and NEHA President, David Riggs. The following day, Dr. Jim Berner (pediatrician) introduced us to a variety of biomonitoring and environmental surveillance programs that detect emerging threats and inform risk reduction strategies for Alaskans. Our conference concluded with the wisdom and guidance of Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, who addressed the challenges and opportunities for creating healthy environments in the 21st century. In between our all-star keynotes, our members and close partners delivered 18 different presentations covering all things new and exciting in the field of Alaska environmental health! Each year I am blown away by the quality and excellence of Alaska’s environmental health professionals on display at the annual education conference. If I were to begin to talk about the caliber of our speakers, this blog write-up could turn into an encyclopedia of environmental health. Suffice it to say if you missed the conference, I highly recommend keeping your membership up-to-date to be able to access the presentations and webcasts from the conference. It’s never too late to get informed!

A special shout out goes to Johnathan Bressler, CSTE Fellow who gave us three great presentations ranging from activities at the WIHAH conference, mammal consumption risks and benefits, and discussed child lead screening efforts in Alaska. Three presentations in 3 days is no easy feat and we thank you and hope you enjoy every ounce of caffeine out of that Deadman’s reach coffee.

We broke bread, shared laughs, and recognized some of the stellar environmental health performers over the last year. The Awards and Nominations Committee hosted the conference social at Gallo’s Mexican Restaurant where we recognized Lorinda Lhotka as the Environmental Health Practitioner of the Year. This is our organization’s highest honor and never has it been more deserved than by Lorinda and her work promoting food safety and food security. Our standout AEHA Publications Committee Chair and longtime friend, Katie Bante, was recognized by her peers for the NEHA Certificate of Merit, and yours truly was recognized for the AEHA Certificate of Merit. Please take time to congratulate all of our 2016 awardees for their accomplishments over the past year.

Gone but not forgotten from our membership is CAPT John Spriggs, who passed away October 24, 2015. John had a long and storied career of environmental health service in Alaska; his ideas were big enough to change how environmental health practice is done. Literally, he changed the game with the development of the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative. We took a short break from the conference to recognize John and hear a few personal stories from his longtime friend Dr. Steve Konkel. We honor and recognize John for his life of service, much as the Alaska Legislature has with their In Memorium plaque.

Steve Konkel shares a personal story about CAPT John Spriggs while moderator and new AEHA President-Elect, Shelley Griffith, holds the Alaska Legislature In Memorium plaque. 

We have new AEHA leadership, out with the old and in with the new! The annual business meeting formally installed John Walker as the AEHA President, Shelley Griffith as the AEHA Vice President, myself as Past President, and Jeanine Vance as the AEHA Secretary. Including Joy Britt as AEHA Treasurer, we are your 2017 AEHA Board of Directors. Congratulations to all the new officers! We thank outgoing Board Members Chris Fish and Lacey Walsh for their dedication and hard work to elevate our organization to where we are today. I think about all our past officers, committee chairs and active members and recall the Sir Isaac Newton quote: “If I have seen further, it’s because I stand on the shoulder of giants”.

TAIKUU/QUYANAQ to the AEHA Conference planning committee and co-chairs, John Walker and Lacey Walsh

Contributed by Chris Dankmeyer, AEHA Past-President

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