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Director Hosts Internal Town Meetings

By Blondell Peterson
November 2005

NIEHS Director David Schwartz hosted five internal town hall meetings during the months of September and October. According to Allen Dearry, director of DRCPT, since it's impossible to meet with each individual, Schwartz wanted to establish two-way dialog with employees who are not managers.

"The Institute has a history of having external town meetings," Dearry said. "They have been worthwhile in getting input from the public and getting ideas about research directions. These are analogous in goals. I think there is a need to establish that openness between the director and the employees, and these internal town hall meetings clearly met that purpose."

According to Dearry, other objectives for the meetings were to enhance employee morale and discuss ways to provide incentives. Although some issues will be addressed in the strategic plan, Schwartz also wanted to elaborate on what he feels is important in the field of environmental science. Specifically, the linking of basic and clinical science, global environmental health and training are top priorities for NIEHS.

Since the meetings NIEHS staff have formed a work-life committee to address some questions generated in the meetings such as,

*What are the incentives?

*Should managers think of different or more ways to reward employees?

*What is the process?

*How can we make employees feel they are rewarded properly for good contributions?

For example, one possibility is having a day to recognize research or scientific accomplishments of DIR and extramural scientists. "This will give us a chance to acknowledge the accomplishments or outcomes of the investments we have made," Dearry said.

Some employees asked questions regarding restructuring of the institute, according to Dearry. The director's response was based on the goals for the institute as they will be outlined in the strategic plan. "Dr. Schwartz is looking at the Institute across the board as a whole," he said. "The question he is asking is, 'Does the structure that we have now enable us to do the best job of supporting first class, high impact, interdisciplinary research in environmental health science, both internally as well as externally?''

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