Mark Heston: Have You Chosen a Mentor?

My life-long journey in healthcare technology management (HTM) began more than four decades ago. I had just graduated from technical school and ran across an advertisement from a local hospital for an electronics technician.

I thought, “What kind of job is this? What do they do? Who wants to work in the basement?” I had no idea what lay ahead. I applied and during the interview I heard words that I’d never heard before. I sat there wondering and nodding.

A couple of days later, I received a call with a formal job offer. I accepted and was excited about what I didn’t know and could learn. That call came in September of 1976. Biomedical engineering became my passion and I have never looked back.

The department vice president at UnityPoint Health, Michael Kinkade, became my life-long mentor. Mike was in the business when heart monitors were literally built by hand with a bouncing ball display. He always had my back and would never answer a question but lead me through a thought process.

As a mentor, Mike taught me so many things about life and work, among them:

  • Be Patient: Don’t give up. Keep learning. Keep trying. Ask questions.
  • Be Professional: Dress and act the part.
  • Be Honest: It’s the only way.
  • Be Respectful: Period.
  • Empathy: Feel and appreciate your fellow human beings
  • Patients and Family: They’re the reason you are here.
  • Keep Current: LM7401? 2N2022? LM555. Ring a bell?
  • Keep Attending Formal Education: The degrees and certifications (CBET, CHTM) opened so many doors for me.

One story really stands out for me. When I was in my late 20’s, Mike was scheduled to be out of the office for an extended period of time, and an executive was going to fill in during his absence. I was nervous and asked my mentor if he had any advice.

“Don’t do anything that will get you fired,” he said.

I left his office wondering kind of advice that was! Later that night, it hit me. Mike was telling me to live our values and simply, “Do the right thing.”

As an HTM professional, your work (often behind the scenes) will improve the lives of thousands of fellow human beings. That’s because of you and the team you work with. So, I encourage you to pick a mentor and be proactive. Mentors that pick you have a low success rate. Find someone that you trust and respect. Work with them. Ask them questions. Build a relationship. It will pay you back many times over as you mature professionally make yourself available.

Then, open yourself up to the next generation of HTM professionals. Help them grow. They may well be the people walking into your hospital room to assist with the technology that is serving your health.

While writing this blog post, I learned my mentor had unexpectedly passed away. Mike gave his entire career to serving and mentoring others in the healthcare environment. While he is no longer physically with us, his knowledge and leadership live on. Thank you, Mike.


(From left: Mark Heston, Dick Heck, and Mike Kinkade)

Mark Heston, MS, CBET, CHTM, is the founder of MON Healthcare Technology Consultants in Philadelphia, PA. He is a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.

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