NEHA October 2022 Journal of Environmental Health

6 Volume 85 • Number 3 YOUR ASSOCIATION D. Gary Brown, DrPH, CIH, RS, DAAS Back in the Saddle  PRES IDENT ’ S MESSAGE As I write this next column I have just returned from beautiful Spokane, Washington, after attending the successful National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) 2022 Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition with approximately 1,000 in-person and 400 virtual attendees. Thank you for making the 2022 AEC a success. Words cannot express how wonderful it was to see colleagues, friends, and members of my NEHA family. I have attended NEHA AECs since 2001 and have made numerous friends, many of whom have become part of my family. A shared passion to advance environmental health science—while helping people have clean air, food, and water, along with a safe place to live, work, and play— means we have an instant connection when meeting fellow professionals. Great minds think alike. I have been lucky enough to live in various parts of our beautiful country. People from NEHA—as well as Eastern Kentucky University, the Kentucky Environmental Health Association, and Jamaican Association of Public Health Inspectors—have all become a part of my family. I grew up as a BuŽalonian but am now an Alabamian, Kentuckian, Jamerican (i.e., Jamaican American), Manhattanite, and “NEHAian.” The NEHA AEC allows me the opportunity to reconnect with many members of my diŽerent families. Aristotle wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal.” We are inherently social creatures, something the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront for many people. As we learned during the pandemic, people around the world experienced increased loneliness that can have implications for long-term mental and physical health, longevity, and well-being (Ernst et al., 2022) The 2022 AEC was a celebration of the return of being in person. Everyone who I spoke with at the conference was ecstatic about reconnecting in person. The internet, social media, Zoom, Teams, etc. are useful tools, but they cannot replicate the in-person experience. I met numerous new people in Spokane, making personal connections that would have been much harder electronically. I learned something from everyone I met at the 2022 AEC, including students and professionals at all ends of the career spectrum. Many attendees do not realize that there are a number of preconference oŽerings at the AECs, many of which are oŽered for free or at a minimal cost for NEHA members. Preconference oŽerings this year included: • review courses for the NEHA Certified Professional–Food Safety (CP-FS) and Registered Environmental Health Specialist/ Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential exams, • inspector training for body art facilities, • the Environmental Health and Land Reuse Certificate Program from NEHA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, • a National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards Self-Assessment and Verification Audit Workshop from NEHA and the Food and Drug Administration, • Climate for Health Ambassador Training, • and many others. The NEHA AEC is much more than a conference. It is the nexus for environmental health training, education, networking, and advancement. The NEHA AEC is the most comprehensive training and education investment you and your organization can make to achieve immediate and long-term benefits. Attendees at the NEHA AEC acquired practical and real-world information and expertise from like-minded professionals who share your passion for environmental health. Attendees leave the conference trained, motivated, inspired, and empowered to further advance themselves and their organizations. Attendees gain the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to help solve daily and strategic challenges within their organizations, as A shared passion to advance environmental health science means we have an instant connection when meeting fellow professionals.