Dan DeMaria: Who Will Our Future Leaders Be?

I recently participated in an event hosted by AAMI called Future Forum II. As I sat in the sessions and informal after-work discussions, I often experienced moments of amazement that I had been invited. Several times I looked around and saw individuals who have been part of the healthcare technology landscape (HTM) landscape for as long as I can remember. One of our participants was a student who certainly impressed me. As I spoke with her, it struck me: “This is our future.”

Several of the more seasoned participants talked about retirement, which reinforced in my mind the need to develop our future leaders. Who will those leaders be? What training and education will they receive? Who will identify and mentor these future leaders?

My focus for the coming year is going to be asking our current leaders about succession planning. It’s also going to be about helping those HTM professionals who I influence identify our future. It will involve pulling others from their “comfort zones” into new areas such as project management, leadership, and questioning “the way we’ve always done it.”

Our industry is in the midst of a major change; as we embrace IT integration, we must maintain our sense of self. Traditional HTM strengths are still important. We must continue to advocate for the patient and the clinician. We must keep our focus on safety. I’ve spoken often about the need to learn new skills such as networking and change management, but I realized during Future Forum II that we cannot forget who we are and the importance of what we do.  still believe strongly that it is important to integrate with the IT world, but let’s not forget who we are.

Several professional educators attended the forum. Some of the comments I heard from them were questions about what skill sets are required in today’s HTM professional. Should they be engineers? We do perform engineering functions. Should they be electronics techs? We troubleshoot electronics. Should they be IT techs? Should they be business trained? Should they have a clinical background?  The answer is all of the above. How do we teach these skills in two or four years? These questions were perhaps at the heart of the liveliest discussion at Future Forum II. What do we call ourselves? We never did answer that question.  We did walk away with an understanding of why we struggled to define all we do in a single title.

I’ll ask everyone reading this the same things I asked my staff recently:

  • Who’s going to lead when the current leaders retire?
  • What education would you require of new HTM professionals if you were in charge and why?
  • What can you do to help those that follow to achieve their goals?
  • How would you describe your job in two words? (Answer that one and we’ll have our job title.)


Dan DeMaria

Biomedical Engineering Manager

Olathe Medical Center

Olathe, KS

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