By Keri Forsythe-Stephens
Ahh, September! It’s always been one of my favorite months—when the weather gets cooler (If you’ve never experienced the blazing Georgia heat, consider yourself lucky.), pumpkin paraphernalia inundates every supermarket, and kids head back to school. Now, I’ve been out of school longer that I would like to admit, but the “back-to-school” excitement gets me every year. (Doesn’t everyone need fresh notebooks and pens on an annual basis?)
Clarice M.L. Holden, a supervisor biomedical engineer with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, touched on the importance of education in September’s Soapbox—particularly how students are the next generation of clinical engineers, whether they know it or not. “We, as a career field, should do more to motivate and spread the word about clinical engineering,” Holden said. “We ensure a diverse future when we do.” A key way to do this, she said, is to encourage the next generation—men and women equally—to consider a career in the “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field.
Her remarks couldn’t have been timelier, since new research from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) found that biomed programs are being phased out at numerous college campuses. In fact, AAMI officials revealed, DeVry University is cutting its bachelor’s in biomedical engineering program at seven of the 13 campuses where it was offered and the 11 Brown Mackie College campuses that offered biomedical technology degrees are no longer welcoming new students.
Barbara Christe, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ health care engineering technology management program director (and esteemed 24×7 board member!), admits that she’s also having trouble attracting new students to her classroom. “However, the lack of academic programs is a catch-22,” she told AAMI officials. “The discipline cannot attract large numbers of high school students if there are no academic programs for the student to attend.
The problem, Christe explains, centers on a general lack of awareness about the HTM field. “Money magazine didn’t call us one of the top five jobs you’ve never heard of for no reason,” she quipped.
So what can be done? How can the biomed profession attract—and retain—top talent, a problem compounded by the fact that much of the workforce is nearing retirement age? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too, on how to raise awareness about the biomedical profession and ensure the field remains staffed with top talent. Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your ideas.