Greetings from my Audubon Forest neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta is the home of the "dream" for a better humanity and is known as the International City! Living here since 1978 has had a powerful impact on my work and values.
I am so honored, privileged, and thankful to serve as president of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). Having joined NEHA at my first Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition in Orlando in 1993, I did not envision becoming its president. I have entertained so many leaders in the past telling me of their plans to become president. I listened and encouraged so many to follow that dream and many have succeeded. At my first AEC in 1993, Art Bloom told me he wanted to be president and recruited me to help him. I passed out Bloom pencils and he became president of NEHA. Retired Colonel Anthony Aiken, retired Colonel Dr. Welford Roberts, and Roy Kroeger expressed interest to me of becoming president. They each ran and won. It appeared to be my role to help obtain good leadership for NEHA. With my leadership training, I gladly accepted that role for years. Over the years, however, I realized it was my time to serve.
Having grown up in Opelika, a small town in Alabama, my grandmother, grandfather, mother, and father put me on the path of becoming an environmentalist. We were outdoors people--gardening, fishing, and taking care of people, animals, the yard, the home, and the surrounding lands. I fell in love with biology under Ms. Price, one of my high school teachers, and decided on biology as an undergraduate major at the University of Alabama. During the 1970s there was limited education in environmental health in Alabama. Not much there has changed even today and there is still much need for change in many states.
Thinking back on my undergraduate years, my 2-hour course on ecology was intriguing. I still have visions of our teacher, Dr. Rogers, and the classroom lectures. Later in my career I had the privilege of taking a group of students on a field trip to the University of Georgia's Institute of Ecology to interview Dr. Eugene Odum, the father of modern ecology and coauthor of Fundamentals of Ecology, which was the text for my ecology class. Dr. Odum was close to 90 years old at the time and it was so exciting for us to meet and talk with him.
As scientific knowledge of the connection between environment and health expanded, so has my interest been enhanced. I've learned so much during...