In Memoriam: Robert D. Forrest, CHP


by Rusty Lorenzen, Bill Rhodes, Clay French, Gus Potter, Greg Forrest, Kent Lambert

Robert D. Forrest, 46, of Exton, Pennsylvania, died suddenly Tuesday, 28 August 2012, while on vacation. He was the beloved husband of Helen (Meakim) Forrest, with whom he shared 18 years of marriage raising their three children, Bobby (15), Melissa (13), and Michelle (10). Rob was born 29 June 1966 in New Jersey and was the youngest son of Mary Ann Cellini Forrest and Denis E. Forrest of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. He is also survived by his sister, Barbara Filler (Robert) of Richmond, Virginia, and two brothers, Steven (Debbie) of Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, and Gregory (Kathy) of Peterborough, New Hampshire. Rob was a devoted nephew and cousin and a most treasured friend and colleague to so, so many.

Rob was a graduate of West Chester East High School and went on to attend the University of Virginia, where he received a BA in chemistry in 1988. He later received an MS in radiological sciences and protection from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 1993.

After attending the University of Virginia, Rob started his career with the General Electric Company as a radiological controls instructor at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory's Kesselring Site in West Milton, New York. After completing his training assignment, he transferred to the main laboratory in Niskayuna, New York, where he performed analysis on internal dosimetry data and the commissioning of a new transuranic lung counter. He also assisted with retrospective reviews of internal radiation exposures at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.

As Rob's interest in health physics grew, he enrolled in the master's program in radiological sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. At the university, he studied under Drs. Ken Skrable, George Chabot, Jesse Harris, and Clay French. Rob was not only an outstanding student, but became one of a family of friends enveloped by the faculty and alumni of the Radiological Sciences Program. In the summer of 1992 he, while still a student, interned at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, where we worked on new inhalation models for uranium.

Rob began work at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993 and was promoted to the position of the director of radiation safety and radiation safety officer (RSO) in 2000. He obtained plenary membership to the Health Physics Society (HPS) in 1990, achieved certification by the American Board of Health Physics (ABHP) in 1996 and was recertified in 2000, 2004, and 2008. He served as chairman of the HPS Membership Committee from 2002 to 2003 and chairman of the ABHP Part I Panel of Examiners in 2007. Rob was selected to serve a four-year term on the ABHP in 2010 and served as a reviewer for the Health Physics Journal. He published numerous articles and presented at many HPS meetings, including the 2006 summer school. He was also active in the RSO and Medical Sections of the HPS, served as section manager for Medical Health Physics and Homeland Defense Standards, was director for the Medical Health Physics section, and was medical physics chair of the HPS N13 Standards Committee.

Rob was a recognized leader of the Delaware Valley Society of Radiation Safety, where he served two terms as president (1999 and 2005) as well as acting as an advisor to the chapter's leadership. Rob's professional activities also included being a chair of the Pennsylvania Radiation Protection Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Energy/U.S. Department of Justice Homeland Defense Equipment Reuse Program volunteer, Radiation Safety Consultant for the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments, member of the Department of Homeland Security Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council, member of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Interior Focus Group, and consultant to the National Nuclear Security Administration, Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories. He had also published in The New England Journal of Medicine regarding health risks of accidents at nuclear power plants.

During his work at SNL, Rob contributed to the studies involving radiological dispersion devices and acquisition of radiological material. He was a constant contributor to many projects and studies on radioactive material security, applying his invaluable commonsense approach and experience to shape government policy and projects. His participation in the U.S. government programs likely saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

All of these accomplishments pale in comparison to Rob's true measure as a son, husband, father, family member, and friend. It is often said that "if there be a truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives" and those who were close to Rob were blessed by what he gave us. He often used his perceptive nature, quick wit, and sense of humor to illustrate a point, to diffuse tension, to counter a position, or often merely to entertain. His greatest joy in life was his deep love and devotion for his family. Rob and Helen were true soul mates and Rob loved coaching all of his children in baseball, basketball, and soccer. He enjoyed family vacations, playing golf, and watching all sports with his son, Bobby, as well as watching his daughters dance and cheerlead. He especially enjoyed watching Melissa play soccer and listening to Michele play piano. He savored the opportunities to be outdoors in his beautiful garden with Helen and spending time on their patio together. He adored his dog, Mandy, and their ritual nightly walks together.

Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. ~Albert Einstein~