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No. 50 – The HPS Has a Shadow

November 30, 2011

The Health Physics Society (HPS), as a professional society, has a collective shadow that hinders our abilities to understand, relate to, or communicate with those outside our Society. You may recall, from this series of Insights (starting with No. 44), that our shadow represents all of those qualities that we find unacceptable. We define who we are by those qualities that we value for ourselves. We define who we are not by those qualities that we reject. As a Past President of the HPS, I would like to share my thoughts on the Society and its membership.

Who We Are and Who We Are Not

We join as members of the HPS, in part, because we share a “like mindedness.” We see in one another those qualities that we value, such as professionalism, integrity, competence, diligence, education, experience, knowledge, logical thinking, dependability, insight, imagination, creativity, problem solving ability, efficiency, humor, understanding, caring, and a sense of duty. Those who do not belong to our Society, we may see as opposites of the above qualities. For example, we may see them as less knowledgeable, incompetent, uneducated, inexperienced, unscientific, unprofessional, illogical, irrational, emotional, unethical, or unscrupulous. I’m not suggesting that we see these qualities in everyone outside the HPS. But, we clearly have a sense of who is “one of us” as defined by membership requirements. By elimination, everyone else is then “not one of us” and they represent our “shadow.”

Our Shadow – Not One of Us

We may even be inclined to look down upon those who are “not one of us,” because in some ways they do not measure up to our values. Is this “elitism?” We certainly see most persons who are not knowledgeable about radiation safety as “not one of us,” such as the “general public.” But, do we also include the 50,000 or more people in the U.S. with responsibilities for radiation safety programs, who do not call themselves “health physicists?” Is there any way that we could see RSO’s and their staffs as “one of us?” After all, they are doing our jobs in radiation safety. If they do not have our level of education or experience in health physics, are they somehow less “professional” in their concerns for radiation safety?

Is our shadow keeping us from uniting with all radiation safety practitioners as we move into the new millennium? Are we ready to look at the negative qualities that we see in others as a projection of our HPS shadow?

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