The Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians, or CABMET, is a close-knit group of dedicated professionals intent on making the most of their careers

When you’ve been part of an organization for nearly three decades, you become, by default, that group’s designated historian. So while Fred Jaramillo, CBET, bears no such formal title, to his professional colleagues within the Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians (CABMET), he is the definitive authority on almost any event they’ve ever held.

Actually, since CABMET was founded in 1974 (it celebrated its 40th anniversary last year), that may be stretching things a bit. But Jaramillo, a biomed contract specialist with The University of Colorado Health, Aurora, Colo, can still shed light on how far the group has come. When he first joined CABMET more than 25 years ago, he says, a typical meeting was a spontaneous affair with “maybe 10 guys in a room eating pizza and drinking beer.”

Over time, and as membership grew, that informal gathering evolved to include “a presentation or two on anything we thought might be relevant to the profession.” And finally, says Jaramillo, who is the group’s immediate past president, 13 years ago this August CABMET staged its very first annual conference—which again he describes as a low-key event held in the banquet hall of a local golf course. “It was small, but it was perfect for us at the time.”

The CABMET Symposium

That was then. The now-annual CABMET Symposium, to be held in August, still features golf (and poker) on its substantial agenda. But the business end of the 2-day affair will take place at a local hospital, and the course list runs nearly four pages long. Among the offerings: a Philips-focused ultrasound training course, a class on alarm management, and a lecture titled “Creating a Culture of Accountability to Produce High-Performing Teams.” The keynote address—on the role of HTM in modern healthcare—will be delivered just before the trade show on Saturday afternoon by Pat Lynch, CBET, MBA, “chief do-gooder” at Global Medical Imaging, based in Charlotte, NC.

Last year’s symposium drew around 200 people on its second day, notes current CABMET president Richard Marshall VI, CBET, CRES, supervisor of clinical engineering with HSS Inc at University of Colorado Health Northern Colorado. This year’s event is expected to do even better, mainly because of what Marshall describes as the group’s ongoing effort to include presentations on topics that its members find relevant. “You have to give them a reason to take time out of their personal lives to come down,” he says. “There has to be value in what you offer, and there has to be something for everybody, whether you’re a manager or supervisor or an entry-level tech.”

Marshall says that his own involvement with CABMET kicked off in 2006, just a month before he graduated from Denver’s DeVry University. He’d just started his hunt for jobs when he stumbled across the organization’s website. “I decided I should probably attend one of their meetings,” he recalls, “and that’s where I met Dave Scott,” who was CABMET’s president at the time. “I handed him my resume and a few days later got a phone call with an offer for an internship.”

Looking back, Marshall says, experiences like his are what CABMET is all about. “It’s an opportunity for people to connect with others in the profession. To learn new things, and to advance your career, but really to just get that face-to-face time with experts in the field.” His own foray into professional networking nearly 10 years ago eventually led to his very first job, he notes. “And ever since, I’ve just felt like I’ve needed to give back.”

Open Doors

Giving back, in fact, is essential to CABMET’s mission. Annual dues at this popular organization are just $20 per year, and for that members are welcome to any of the group’s regular quarterly meetings, are offered free admission to the big symposium, and receive free access to the CABMET study group, which provides training for the CBET, CLES, and CRES certifications through the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation’s AAMI Credentials Institute, or ACI.

The study group, says AAMI education director Tirza Lofgreen, is widely considered to be among the best in the country. And CABMET itself has developed a reputation as a leading resource not only for BMETs who reside in Colorado, but for HTM professionals and others in the industry throughout the region and across the world. “A lot of that has to do with their leadership,” Lofgreen says, “but it’s also because they’re just a really great group of people doing everything they can to advance the profession.”

Lofgreen says she witnessed this herself over the last few years in the lead-up to AAMI’s 2015 annual conference, which was held in Denver. “They really championed the event for that entire time,” she says. “I don’t think they ever held a meeting without mentioning the fact that we were coming to Denver. They were always drumming up more support, and just getting the word out to everyone they spoke to.”

CABMET AAMI 640

CABMET leaders prepared an exhibit of historical medical equipment for the AAMI conference in Denver June 5–8.

CABMET’s leaders, including Jaramillo and Marshall, also approached Lofgreen to see if AAMI would give the group a prominent role at the event. “They wanted to do something special that would really shine a light on the Denver biomed community,” she says. Eventually they decided to create an antiquated medical equipment display to showcase the history of the society and its members and to clearly illustrate how the profession has evolved. “A lot of their members had actually worked on this equipment earlier in their careers,” Lofgreen notes. “It was truly top-notch.”

Thanks in large part to CABMET’s support, the AAMI conference saw its highest turnout ever, Lofgreen says. (Jaramillo explains that the group’s promotional efforts included everything from email blasts to all its members to the distribution of free conference passes—which they received from AAMI—to students at local technical colleges. “Now,” he notes, “those students at least know that we exist, so when they get into the work environment they’ll be that much more likely to attend our meetings.”)

A “Family-Reunion Vibe”

Ask Jaramillo what makes CABMET so special and he’ll tell you about the passion that its members have for the profession—and for professional development. “And it’s not just technical training where you go and learn how to fix an ultrasound, or you learn how to service a light source, or whatever the case may be. It’s all-encompassing. It’s about resume writing, career planning, continuing education. It’s about doing the things that benefit you professionally, but which also benefit your hospital and your department.”

A typical CABMET meeting might see 80 people show up, Jaramillo says. “And if you ask them who in the room is certified”—that is, CBET, CLES, or CRES—“you’ll see 90% of them raise their hands.”

This ratio changes substantially at the annual symposium, where vendors are involved and members are encouraged to invite their families to join them for dinner. And one of the keys to ensuring the conference ultimately unfolds without a hitch? “The prize giveaways,” Jaramillo says.

For CABMET members, prize eligibility requires visiting all the vendors at the tradeshow event to have them sign a card that proves they made their rounds. “We always offer a decent prize, so everyone does it, and that really gets the vendors excited about coming back each year because they get more exposure and more bang for their buck.”

The organization takes a similar approach when it comes to members’ families, Jaramillo says. “We encourage them to bring their families so they can show them what they do and meet their coworkers and friends in the business and kind of celebrate the profession.” Any children at the symposium dinners are also included in the celebration, Jaramillo adds. “Every kid who walks through the door gets something they can take home with them. And to see those kids running down the aisle back to their tables with their prizes—it’s just precious. A lot of members come back every year just because of that whole experience.”

That experience, agrees Lofgreen, is a big part of what makes CABMET unique. Last year, as part of her preparations for the AAMI conference, she attended the group’s 2014 symposium and was struck by what she describes as “that family-reunion vibe.” CABMET, she notes, “has done such a great job connecting with its members that people really look forward to seeing each other. They want to keep in touch, like one big family.”

Once this year’s symposium is in the books as well, CABMET will get back to doing what it does best, Jaramillo says. The group’s plan for the remainder of 2015: more quarterly meetings, officer elections, and maintaining the momentum of its burgeoning study group. “It’s the dedicated volunteers who make it all happen,” he says. “It’s been that way from the very start.”

Chris Hayhurst is a contributing writer for 24×7. For more information, contact editorial director John Bethune at jbethune@allied360.com.