One Year On, A Tribute To Dr. Beth Whelan

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It's a hectic time at the American Council on Science and Health, but as I quickly discovered when I was appointed the new President, it's always a hectic time.

As I remind people frequently, promoting fear and doubt is easy, anyone can do it but being trusted guides for the public on complex science and health issues is hard. And thankless, when you get criticized by the anti-science community, or see outstanding scientists who do terrific public outreach being vilified by activist groups and the media organizations that support them.

Yet, I am not the first to navigate these waters and that is why today is a thoughtful, meaningful day for us. One year ago, on September 11, 2014, Dr. Beth Whelan, co-founder of The Council and its President for 37 years, passed away.

Dr. Whelan Beth, if you knew her for more than five seconds created the culture here, by charting a course with a singular goal: to put people s needs first and to separate health threats from health scares. Required in that mission was to stake out health positions she believed in, backed by solid evidence and when data convinced her, her will was unshakable. When the science dictated, Beth was unafraid to take unpopular stands, and as a result she did not shy from criticism or controversy.

She believed the truth would win.

And that is a legacy that guides us today. Hardly a week goes by that an advocate does not claim we must be "industry-funded" because we refuse the easy narrative that says you either demonize the toxin du jour or be a corporate shill. Beth laughed that off. "I will take money from anyone who will give it to us," she said many times. "It will not make any difference in what we say."

Dr. Whelan may have left us, and her voice is greatly missed but the mission she began remains as meaningful and necessary as ever. So as The Council moves forward, addressing the most important issues of the day, we do so with reverential reflection on her life and legacy, and I will continually strive to fill those shoes.

Beth we salute you!

Yes, those are Manhattans. Credit: ACSHYes, those are Manhattans. Credit: ACSH