Below, veteran biomed technician Christopher Stringer shares his passion for serving military veterans—and the HTM profession as a whole.

By Aine Cryts

Christopher Stringer, 2023’s AAMI & GE Healthcare’s “BMET of the Year,” enlisted in the U.S. Air Force right after high school graduation. Today, Stringer is a 23-year veteran biomed technician who serves as a supervisory biomedical equipment support specialist at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, Wash. 

New to The Evergreen State, one of the first adventures Stringer enjoyed with his family was exploring Astoria, where “The Goonies” movie was filmed. Why? Simply put, he and his wife are big fans of the movie, says Stringer.

In brief, “The Goonies” tells the story of a group of young kids living in a fictional town called Goon Docks where they learn lessons associated with courage, ingenuity, friendship, and teamwork. Lessons, Stringer acknowledges, that have served him well throughout this career.

Forging His Own Biomed Path

While he’s dedicated to making a difference in the lives of veterans, Stringer didn’t choose a biomed career because he felt drawn to it—at least not at first. “I chose it because it sounded like a cool job that I could learn,” he says. 

“I had zero electrical and mechanical knowledge after graduating from high school, so I can honestly say that a majority of what I’ve learned at this point in my life [has been on the job],” adds Stringer.

Of course, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, he quickly found—along with biomeds across the country—that his workload doubled. At the start of the pandemic, he was living and working in Houston. The feeling of being overworked led to burnout, and, ultimately, a new role more than 2,000 miles away in Washington state called to him. 

Stringer cherishes the role because it means he can make a difference serving the nation’s veterans as part of the U.S. Veterans Administration.

As he puts it: “I had experienced almost every healthcare setting imaginable.” That includes field hospitals (temporary medical facilities set up to care for casualties on-site before they’re transported to more permanent facilities), community clinics, level-1 trauma centers, and government hospitals. And over the years, Stringer served in a variety of roles such as bench technician, manager, and even some field service.

The Right Role at the Right Time

“I want to leave [this field] better than when I came into it,” says Stringer of his motivation in his current role as a supervisory biomedical equipment support specialist with the U.S. Veterans Administration.

A particular passion for him at this stage in his career is creating opportunities for people to join the biomed field while also addressing the staffing crisis brought about by retiring biomeds. “I would like to help drive more [recruitment] and ensure we always have a healthy pool of candidates to recruit from,” he says. Mentoring is another way Stringer spends his time. “I want to help [young biomed technicians] learn the skills they need to succeed in this field,” he says.

Stringer’s goals for the future–and the biomeds of the future–are informed by his four deployments during 11 years of service in the U.S. Air Force. In 2001, he served in Saudi Arabia where he supported the preparation for the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, which started with bombing strikes launched by the U.S. and Britain against al Qaeda and Taliban forces that fall. Stringer heroically set off for the Persian Gulf nation within 90 days of the 9/11 terroristic attacks.

From Saudi Arabia, Stringer was sent to Iraq in 2003 where he was part of a mission that set up and sustained a 25-bed field hospital, but his team’s primary mission was to keep the power, air conditioning, and water functioning for the hospital. 2006 found Stringer deployed to the South Pacific where he was tasked with assessing the state of medical equipment in damaged facilities and repairing it when possible; his crew ended up working with the Navy Seabees in Papua, New Guinea, to install new power generators and run new electrical lines in damaged medical facilities.

During his final deployment in 2009, where he served as facility manager for a new hospital at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Stringer worked closely with the civil engineering squadron to open a new facility and construct a temporary living quarters for patients.

So, what drew and sustained Stringer’s enthusiasm throughout these deployments across the globe? It was “being able to make an impact on the most important patients while in the military, those who were deployed with me and needed the best care as quickly as possible,” he says.

While Stringer has valued every role he’s held since returning stateside, the satisfaction he derived while deployed can’t be matched, he says. “Of course, it may have helped that, with significantly fewer biomeds in a deployed location, the fruits of your labors are much more apparent,” he quips.

Career Reflections

In his current role, Stringer spends his days on the implementation of a new computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), training new biomed technicians, and providing support to other Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. 

His favorite part of the job? That’s easy, he says: Helping veterans. “I get to see the difference that I make in their lives, and that’s very rewarding. I want to make sure that the VA has the best possible biomedical technology so that veterans can receive the best possible care,” says Stringer.

People are at the center of Stringer’s work—and it’s his relationships at work and in his personal life that keep him motivated and engaged. And if he could give his 18-year-old self some career advice, it would be this: “I would say, ‘Don’t worry, you got this!’” Stringer maintains.

The comradery he has developed with his teams and among his peers is one of the best aspects of his career, says Stringer, who reflects on himself as a leader: “If I’m being honest, I have been guilty of sometimes being too controlling and, through mostly still successful, I could have made it easier for everybody by delegating and trusting more,” he says.

In that vein, Stringer shares the two most important leadership lessons he’s learned in his career as a biomed:

  1. Never ask anybody working with, or for you, to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. 

I have found that when I ask someone to perform a task, if I perform the task as I am teaching or instructing them, it leads to a more successful completion. Not only does this show them how to physically perform the steps—versus reading the steps—which can be a better way to learn,” says Stringer.

  1. Listen effectively to the people on your team. 

“I believe our career field is special, and it’s ever-changing,” says Stringer. “I’ve learned that, although I do have 23 years of experience, I don’t know everything. More importantly, I know that, while we all do the same job, we do things differently [and that happens] in a way that’s more effective for each of us,” he adds.

Asked how he feels about being named the AAMI & GE Healthcare BMET of the Year, Stringer turns modest. “I know this is an annual award; however, this award feels like the highest achievement of my 23-year career, and it’s one that I’m the most honored to receive and proud of,” he says. 

While he doesn’t work to receive awards, like any biomed, Stringer is confident that his career won’t stop at this milestone. “I will continue to live by the principles that have made me worthy of this prestigious award for as long as I continue to work in this honorable profession,” he says. 

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for 24×7. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].

Stringer Off the Clock

  • Preferred pastimes: Stringer likes to play classic computer games, such as Civilization, World of Warcraft, and The Oregon Trail. He also enjoys building and upgrading computers. Watching TV shows and movies (Goonies, anyone?), as well as listening to music are other ways Stringer likes to unwind.
  • Perfect day: “I’m pretty simple,” Stringer says. “I love to visit resale and antique stores and have started collecting ’80s/’90s electronics and memorabilia. I recently bought a working ’80s boombox with a tape deck and have started building a tape collection.”
  • Favorite book: “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster” by Jon Krakauer. Stringer says he loves Krakauer’s work­­, particularly how he delves into the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest in this book.
  • Top music/artist: Bruce Springsteen. “I grew up listening to him as my mother is a huge fan of ‘The Boss.’ I’ve never seen him in concert, but plan to before he finally retires,” says Stringer.