Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

NEHA's 2004 Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition-Anchorage, Alaska

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

NEHA's 2004 Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition-Anchorage, Alaska

Article excerpt


The 68th Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition, which was held May 9-12, 2004, was the first ever in Alaska, had over 1,000 attendees and exhibitors, and was kicked off with a very appropriate Alaska entrance! President Doug Ebelherr entered the opening session on a dogsled drawn by four energetic huskies, some of which had been part of the Iditarod championship team. This exciting entrance set the tone of the AEC & Exhibition for the next four days. Talented speakers delivered over 150 exceptional educational sessions on topics ranging from terrorism and all-hazards preparedness to food safety and protection to onsite wastewater. And let us not forget the wonderful social events spread throughout the conference; they provided many great networking opportunities.


Alaska as an AEC destination won praise from many attendees. People from all over the United States and from countries such as Australia and Canada were present, and there were several new NEHA members as well as first-time attendees. Many made this Alaska AEC & Exhibition part of their vacation, so families also attended the conference and events. Sightseeing, shopping, enjoying seafood, and visiting museums and wildlife habitats were favorite activities.

An account from first-time attendee Julie Skolmowski, of the Child Nutrition Foundation, says it all:

    I was pleased with the conference overall, particularly the
    educational sessions and the networking opportunities. I enjoyed the
    chance to experience and learn about Alaska culture as well as
    public health applications in Alaska .... The quality of the
    sessions I attended was high. I found it to be a very good
    environment to share ideas, broaden my professional horizons, and
    get some information that will help me shape my work in the future.
    I also enjoyed the keynote presentations--especially the blend of a
    federal-agency perspective on the very timely topic of terrorism
    response with the Iditarod experience, which included topics on
    public health preparedness! I would recommend this conference to my
    colleagues ... and would certainly consider coming to another AEC &

Opening Ceremony and Keynote Addresses

Not only did the opening session begin with an exciting Iditarod entrance, but there was also a wonderful opportunity to experience more Alaska culture with a very moving and beautiful prayer of thanks sung in a native language. President Doug Ebelherr welcomed everyone to the conference and to Alaska, and President Elect Jim Balsamo offered the invocation. Sponsors were recognized for their generous support of the keynote addresses and the conference as a whole.

The keynote addresses by Joseph M. Henderson, associate director of the Office of Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Martin Buser, four-time Iditarod champion, were phenomenal. Mr. Henderson is responsible for all of CDC's public health emergency preparedness and response activities. He has been with CDC since 1992, and during that time also has served as New York State immunization program director, the southeast regional consultant for the National Immunization Program, and the team leader for the National Immunization Registry Initiative for the National Immunization Program. Mr. Buser won the Iditarod race in 2002 and became the first musher (someone who drives a dogsled or team of dogs) to break the "mystical eight-day barrier." He came to Alaska in 1979 from Switzerland to enhance knowledge about the care and training of sled dogs. Buser also has won the coveted Leonard Seppala Award four times for the humanitarian care of his dogs--no other racer has ever won this award more than once.

Henderson opened the keynote addresses, remarking that it was hard to believe we were actually in Alaska and that there was so much pristine beauty just outside the room. …

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