A Call for Diversity in Environmental Health.

Author:Oliver, Priscilla

In 2004, I received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Atlanta Regional Diversity Award. It was and still is given annually to a deserving employee who has demonstrated a willingness to support, promote, and defend the selection and work of diverse students, employees, supervisors, clients, and customers in both work and the community. A prestigious list of recipients is hanging on a wall plaque in the U.S. EPA reception area near photos of the chain of command of top leaders, the president of the U.S., administrator of U.S. EPA, and the regional administrator. Matt Robbins, a former award recipient, quietly said to me, "Well now Priscilla, your name will be on the wall of U.S. EPA for others to see after you are gone." I have thought about that often and that has prompted me to write this column. Diversity has increasingly become an important part of organizational operations and health.

Working with the National Council of Diversity of Environmental (N-CODE) Health, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) project really broadened my perspective and commitment to diversity. On day one of our meeting, I sat next to Sheila Davidson Pressley, who recently passed away. She went on to become a champion, Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), and dean at EKU. Here I worked on a task force with many prominent national leaders in environmental health to promote diversity of faculty and students in colleges, universities, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), and the workforce. These are some of the giants in environmental health and many were or became leaders in NEHA. Scholarly writers of diversity in environmental health and members of NEHA, Drs. Bailus Walker, Dan Harper, and Welford C. Roberts were part of the EKU/ CDC task force. Please review the current list of NEHA technical advisors (see page 44 and 45) as they are a strong reflection of the promotion of diversity in NEHA. I encourage them to join in the fight for diversity and for you to call on them to assist with the important work in our communities. We thank all for serving.

Let me be clear, minorities are included in diversity but as defined it is now broader to include persons of various backgrounds, ethnicity, age, gender, and country of origin representation. All of us are needed in environmental health, medicine, dentistry, public health, law, education, etc. Why? We need to improve the health of all...

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