Known for his love of Hawaiian shirts, Dr. D. Gary Brown, CIH, RS, DAAS, made waves this past year as he was elected as president of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).
Brown has been a professor at Eastern Kentucky University since 2001. Currently, he serves as the graduate program coordinator for the Department of Environmental Health Science (EHS) and the director of CARERC Industrial Hygiene Training Core.
With nearly 7,000 members, NEHA is a professional organization striving to advance the field of environmental health. According to their website, the NEHA mission is to, “build, sustain, and empower an effective environmental health workforce.” Brown said that the role of EHS professionals is to make sure people have clean air, food and water and have a safe, healthy place to live, work and play.
“Environmental health is public health—a fact lost on the general public, many politicians and fellow scientists,” Brown said. “What we're really trying to do as an organization from an environmental health standpoint, is just get more visibility for the profession, but at the same time, help members and help communities. There are more environmental health professionals in health departments than any other group, something a lot of people don't realize.”
Brown held other leadership positions prior to becoming the NEHA president. He was president of the Association of Environmental Academic Health Professionals and president of the Kentucky Environmental Health Association.
Brown isn’t the first EKU professor to be NEHA president. From 2014 to 2015, Dr. Carolyn Hester Harvey, CHMM, CIH, RS, DAAS, also served as president of NEHA. Harvey's 17 years of service to Eastern Kentucky University included roles as chair of the Department of Environmental Health Science and Medical Laboratory Science, director of the master’s of public health program and beloved professor of environmental health.
She was also a technical editor for the Journal of Environmental Health and was awarded the NEHA’s highest honor, the 2020 Walter S. Mangold Award, among other significant contributions to the field.
“Over the years of her professional career, Dr. Harvey held countless leadership roles, including president of the National Environmental Health Association” said Dr. Ismail El-Amouri, chair of EKU’s Department of Environmental Health and Medical Laboratory Science. “Likewise, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.”
“As NEHA president, Dr. Brown works diligently with several educational, professional and federal organizations to promote, advance and grow the profession including speaking to elected officials. While providing service to the profession, Dr. Brown will advocate and strengthen the reputation of the EHS Department, College of Health Sciences and Eastern Kentucky University as a whole. Having two EKU professors from the Department of Environmental Health Science serve as NEHA president is an honor and privilege for our department.” said El-Amouri.
Harvey encouraged Brown to run for NEHA president. Brown said, “She was a past president, and she kept saying, ‘You need to do this.’”
Harvey passed away on Oct. 3, 2020. EKU’s Department of Environmental Health Science has since started raising funds for the Dr. Carolyn Hester Harvey Scholarship to help students pursuing a major in environmental health science.
EKU’s Environmental Health Science Department has been the benchmark program for environmental science for the past 25 years. Currently, only 28 programs across the United States are accredited.
“Being the NEHA president puts a lot of focus on our program and keeps us there. You always have to evolve and change while ensuring you maintain the highest educational standards. That's something we've been doing, and that’s something we will keep doing,” Brown said.
Dr. Brown’s presidency runs through the end of 2022.
For more information about EKU’s environmental health science programs, visit ehs.eku.edu. If you would like to make a donation to the Dr. Carolyn Hester Harvey Scholarship, visit go.eku.edu/give-Harvey.