Reaching Outside the Box

We’ve all heard the reasons people give for joining professional associations: to meet and network with people working in their field of interest, they say, or to keep up-to-date with the trends in their industry. (There’s also those who are quick to mention the free professional publications and group discount offers that come with bulk buying power!)

Roger DeBaise, vice president of the New England Society of Clinical Engineers (NESCE), knows all those reasons. He probably even agrees with them. Yet DeBaise also believes that organizations benefit their professions and their professionals by the simple act of outreach, defined by Webster’s as “extending services to those not usually accommodated by an organization.”

The recent NESCE conference on hemodialysis is an example of the kind of outreach that gets DeBaise’s wholehearted support. As the article on Page 6 reports, more than 70 biomeds, dialysis nurses and technicians, and administrators from area hospitals and clinics attended the event. While providing meaningful information to biomeds and other healthcare professionals, the conference also served to introduce NESCE and its membership to clinical and administrative personnel. The way DeBaise sees it, there are just too many good things happening in biomedical and clinical engineering circles to restrict their activities to members only.

“I see this society as an isolated group. Presentations are almost exclusively biomedical so we’re not going to draw anyone else in,” he says. “Why don’t we find a way to bring some clinical people, the users of the equipment, in? Let the users see us. They can see what we are, and they can understand where we’re coming from and what we can do for them.”

DeBaise, who has been with Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, Conn., for 32 years, more than half in biomed, owes his start in the field to a professional society. In the ‘70s, DeBaise’s boss, through his engineering group, wrangled DeBaise an unofficial, two-year practicum in the University of Connecticut biomed department. “They did this for my boss,” he says, “but they gave me a career.”

As a society vice president, DeBaise thinks that already good organizations could do even better by their members and their professions if they share the wealth, so to speak. An example he offers is when high-quality, well-regarded speakers present at NESCE and similar other symposiums and meetings. “It’s good to hear them talk, but I think we lose 50 percent of the value of having them there by the fact that the only people listening were NESCE members or biomeds. Each time I’m sitting at a presentation, I’m thinking, ‘My boss should be here, my director of nursing should be here.’”

DeBaise asserts that outreach activities can raise awareness, and ultimately the status, of the biomedical profession. Think about it: with all the talk about the lack of prestige and prominence for biomeds, does outreach make sense for your group? What do you think?

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