Barbara Christe: An HTM Goes to Washington

I recently left my position as director of the healthcare engineering technology management program at IUIPUI. The move was both dramatic (accepting the position, moving, and selling my home in six weeks) and traumatic, as I feared I was leaving the healthcare technology management (HTM) professional self behind.

My new position as the dean of the School of Engineering Technology at Farmingdale State College, a SUNY (State University of New York) school on Long Island, allows me to advocate for many technology disciplines including electrical and mechanical engineering technology. This role as an engineering technology leader has opened a new door—on Capitol Hill!

While HTM is a relatively obscure field to many people, so is the engineering technology profession as a whole. That includes the implementers and practical engineers who apply engineering principles to real-world situations, including healthcare. To resolve this situation, last fall the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) hired a lobbying group and arranged for a group of deans to visit the offices of U.S. senators and representatives.

We were grouped geographically, so I traveled with another New York dean. We walked the halls of the Capitol buildings (wandering lost a few times) and met with congressional aides.  This was absolutely fascinating, as we saw the offices of prominent senators like Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake. The visit occurred just after the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings, so locations like the senate elevator where protesters gathered were remarkable landmarks.

When in meetings, I advocated for the role of engineering technologists in the workforce and explained the subtle differences between engineering and engineering technology. I used healthcare as an understandable example of a workplace utilizing diverse skill sets. While my group did not meet with the congressional representatives directly (some deans were more fortunate), tiny improvements were made as aides listened and seemed to understand our message.

The current administration in Washington has a strong desire to focus on workforce training. Engineering technology and the HTM field more broadly are well-suited to those priorities. Admittedly, one visit offered just a first step in the improvement of workplace understandings. I am proud to have represented our profession in a very small way and look forward to visiting again next fall!

Barbara Christe is dean of the School of Engineering Technology at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, NY, and a member of the BI&T Editorial Board.

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