There are many ways to examine leadership and what makes superstars in any given field. I'd like to give you a thumbnail sketch of the traits of leading industrial hygienists, based on the American Industrial Hygiene Association's (AIHA) membership classification for "Fellow Member."

First, some background. Fellow status is granted by the board of directors of the AIHA to full members in good standing who have at least 15 years of continuous membership in the association. A majority of that time must have been devoted to the practice of industrial hygiene. And nominees must have significantly contributed to the field.

This is not some kind of old boys club. Nominations are made by a local section, committee, or the board of directors. Fellows are limited to five percent of the total membership. These are people I immediately respect when meeting them. Since I serve on the membership committee of the AIHA, I have the privilege to review nominations. The membership committee makes recommendations to the board for granting fellow status. I know that there are nominees who didn't make it through the approval process. Fellows are professionals with true substance.

As mentioned, the minimum qualifying criteria to become an AIHA fellow member includes: (1) AIHA member in good standing; (2) 15 years of continuous membership in the AIHA; and, (3) Current full member of AIHA. These criteria are only a starting point. Nominees must demonstrate recognized contributions in at least three of the following areas:

  • Original research or invention. Original research is demonstrated by publishing papers in refereed journals. Some consideration is given to articles in trade journals. The nominee must be the principal or secondary author.

  • Work in policy areas.

  • Technical, scientific or management leadership in industrial hygiene.

  • Exemplary teaching or work to improving education in industrial hygiene. Documentation is required. Supporting documentation can include official student evaluations and peer reviews. Contributions to education can include authoring textbooks; editing IH reference books, such as Patty's; teaching professional development courses (PDCs) and evaluations from PDCs; and giving short courses.

  • Direct contribution to AIHA by serving as an officer, committee member, or conference planner.

As of July '95 there were 41 fellow and fellow honorary members of the AIHA. At this time, another dozen or so nominees have passed the review process and the board is expected to grant them fellow member status. Having reviewed all the nomination information, I think I can give my impression of who these people are.

Personable qualities

The first thing that strikes me when I review a nomination package is the glowing testimonials by people nominating a person for fellow status. You really get the impression that these people are more than just admired by their peers out of professional respect. They are admired because they are probably warm and very personable to begin with. They probably have lots of good and long-lasting friends. If you didn't know the person before you started reading their background, you'd like to meet them.

Also, many of the nomination packages show that the candidates are not consumed by constant thoughts about industrial hygiene. They are not nerdy. They have hobbies, families and are really like everyone else. They just have an extraordinary talent in industrial hygiene and related subjects.

Almost all nominees have documented their professional successes. Letters of commendation, certificates of achievements, and other documents that attest to their outstanding ability or special involvement have been recorded-even documents going back many years. At a glance, you might think the person is vain. But closer evaluation, I think, shows that these accomplishments are a matter of pride.

Another point, almost all of the nominees document their successes in a curriculum vitae (academic) format as opposed to an expanded resume (business) format.

Major contributors

There's no getting around the fact that these people are indeed movers and shakers in the industrial hygiene field. This is the strongest impression I got from reviewing nominations. Many created the laws and tools that I have been using and following since I first started practicing industrial hygiene many years ago. I kept saying to myself as I read over their documents, "I didn't know they did that!" In a way, I moved like a puppet on a string to some of their actions. It was kind of strange realizing how some of them significantly influenced my work.

Although the fellow membership is limited to five percent of the total membership there's still room for many more fellows. If someone you know should be nominated, get the process started. I for one would like to read more about these kind of folks. Really, they seem like a very interesting group of people. What the heck, I'll say it: They're probably a bunch of "jolly good fellows!"