“The Bearded Biomed” (aka: Chace Torres) sits down with 24×7’s chief editor Keri Stephens to discuss the highlights from the recent 2022 AAMI eXchange, which took place in June in San Antonio, and why this conference was one for the books.

Stephens also reveals key findings from a collaborative brainstorming session she took part in, titled “Fuel to Thrive in HTM,” and Torres shares some takeaways from the AAMI Gator Take event. He even discloses his personal contribution to the event. 

Podcast Transcript

Keri Stephens:
Hi, welcome to the MEDQOR Podcast Network. I am here today with my wonderful co-host, the Bearded Biomed, aka Chace Torres, who I actually had the pleasure of meeting in person about three weeks ago at the AAMI 22 eXchange. So Chase I really wanted to catch up and kind of tell everyone about our experience at AAMI and our key takeaways and what it was like to be back at a conference. Well, for me, this was, I think my eighth AAMI, but we haven’t met in person at AAMI since 2019. So it was interesting. So how are you feeling Chase about the AAMI experience because it was your first?

Chace Torres:
Well, AAMI was always a bucket list item for me, ever since I got into the field, the grand juror of AAMI and just the exchanges that they put on have kind of been almost legendary in the HTM field in general. I mean, if you haven’t been to one, then you don’t really understand the scope and just the money they throw into this thing, which I’m always, all about networking and getting to know people and establishing some kind of rapport with maybe someone you never met. I mean, not even just from getting to meet people, I came across so many different vendors and other third party services that could really help my customers as well. And that’s what made it so special. It’s not just a benefit for me, there was a lot of collaboration that is definitely going to help my customers and my area within the very near future too. So it was- –

Keri Stephens:
Tell me about that. Yeah. I want to hear about that, even if you can’t mention names, I want to hear about that experience.

Chace Torres:
Oh, yeah. So since this was my first and a big thank you to Danielle and Brian and the whole AAMI team for allowing me to come with a media access which Keri’s known. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, I did a full live walkthrough of AAMI and Keri was my very first interview on that episode. It was really fantastic because the whole basis of what I do is walk in around talking to people and learning and engaging. So had me a mic, had another mic and kind of just went through the entire show. I came across Prescott’s Surgical microscope Service, which they’re a viable third party solution for many of zluxtech. I mean, there’s a lot of different avenues that they take care of that, some of us don’t either have the training or maybe the access to certain technical manuals and parts and stuff like that. Software especially is one thing they mentioned. And they’re everywhere. They’re nationwide. I had no idea. I have utilized them in the past, but I didn’t know the scope of what they cover. So that was really great.

Chace Torres:
Also, ran into the people over at CBET, college bond medical equipment technology, Bill Baek. And we discussed some really interesting things that they’re doing over there. They are actually diving very heavy into VR through utilizing the Oculus system to not only train students through virtual reality, which they do offer a 3D as well. For those of us that can’t handle, some people can get disoriented with virtual reality. So there is a 3D component as well. But one thing that Bill said that was very interesting is that they are foreseen probably within the next 18 months or so that they’re going to start moving into more of the proprietary stuff, which is like CT, MRI, ultrasound units- –

Keri Stephens:
The imaging.

Chace Torres:
And he actually had said that Siemens had approached him personally to see if they could have their technicians trained, manufacture level training through the CBET school Oculus system.

Keri Stephens:
Wow. Okay.

Chace Torres:
This is a big deal for two reasons. One of them being, obviously it’s building networking between manufacture and our side SDHDM. The other point of that is with the right to repair movement, which is an ongoing thing. One of the number one things that I point to with right to repair is that it’s a cost component. Why is a business going to give up their leg in the fight to allow other people to eat? And what’s interesting is by CBET offering virtual reality training for manufacture level training for their technicians that can actually cut down educational costs for the manufacturer because you’re not having to send people out fly housing, just the extra costs that we all know as biomeds to go to some of these manufacture training.

Chace Torres:
So it’s almost through like a… Think of it like subsidizing or switching the cost effect, which could possibly open doors and collaboration with right to repair. So I’m very curious to see how that’s going to be moving forward. And I am going to have Bill and Monty and their team on my podcast in the very near future as well.

Keri Stephens:
Yeah. I want to listen to that one. That’s really cool. And so for me, one of the cool things about AAMI, like I said, this is was my eighth, but I would say the most special AAMI for me, because I was actually part of a panel about preparing for the future of HTM. And it was cool that I was on this and to be honest, felt, not quite out of my element, but I’m like I was with some big names, these people that are in the industry. And so it was an honor that I was asked to be part of this panel, but it was cool. So we basically did, there were two of us leading brainstorming sessions, basically where we talked about, what do we think are the big issues on certain pillars? And mine was resources and kind of what are the main challenges that the industry’s dealing with and some ways to basically solve these issues.

Keri Stephens:
And I have to say, Chase, your name came up a lot. People were really talking about you and what you’re doing as a Bearded Biomed and this podcast too, just basically how to bring new people into the field. Again, resources. That was my pillar that I had to talk about. And we obviously said, which we’ve talked about another podcast, the biggest resources, challenges right now are people and supply chain issues, the actual equipment, but mainly the people, the amount of people going into the field, which is obviously new training opportunities like VR, that’s huge to help, but just helping make awareness of the field and just ways that we can really bring new blood. And yeah, they were talking about you a lot, how your podcast and how this podcast is really just letting people know too about the industry and just disseminate- –

Chace Torres:
Yeah. We’ve got a little ecosystem going on now.

Keri Stephens:
Yeah, for sure.

Chace Torres:
Torres’s podcast and Brian’s podcast, mine, MEDQOR. I mean, we got a little system going on now, which is great.

Keri Stephens:
We need to, this is the only way, especially that we’re going to reach the younger generation because, what are they doing? They are re listening to podcasts. They are wanting this information a certain way.

Chace Torres:
Well, it’s one step.

Keri Stephens:
It is a step. And obviously Danielle at AAMI who did a podcast with the MEDQOR Podcast Network about what she’s doing with HTM in a box and just kind of attracting new people to the field, she has done an incredible job and we have to really give it up to her, but also to you and what you’re doing. And I think it’s great. So just wanted to give you a little shout out.

Chace Torres:
Oh, I appreciate that. It was first I’ve heard of it. So it’s good to know being talked about in a good way.

Keri Stephens:
Absolutely. People really want this information. They want to figure out fresh ways to solve these industry challenges that haven’t really gone away. And actually one of the things people were talking about it too, is burnout in the profession and just ways to battle burnout, because from what everyone was talking about in the room, you all are very burned out.

Chace Torres:
Maybe just a little bit, but honestly, it comes with the job because while the biomed does do preventative maintenance inspections, we do have plan ahead maintenance for things. We’re also a very reactionary component to things going down. I mean, patient monitor goes down, EKG goes down, MRI doesn’t matter. I mean, that’s reactionary. And then we also have to fit that into what we already have on our workload. And not every ISO third party solution or in-house biomed team or manufacturer field service technician.

Chace Torres:
Some of us don’t have the extra teammates to lean on. Because there is still. Oddly enough, there being a staffing shortage. When we’re saying we don’t have enough bodies in the field, it’s a little bit of a twilight zone scenario there. But besides getting to walk around and talking to everybody at the booths, Danielle had actually invited me and I participated in AAMI’s Gator Tank.

Keri Stephens:
Okay, great. Tell me about that.

Chace Torres:
Yeah. I showed up a little late, but that’s okay. They were forgiving. The Gator Tank was basically, I think we had, there was Colleen and then a couple other individuals that were pitching ideas on how we can better the field. And I went ahead and threw my head into the ring. I basically, my position was that, with the podcast, I think now I’m in like 42 different countries and with that scope of people listening, I get messaged all the time from either people that are currently doing the job in other countries or people that are interested that want to live the American dream. And they ask, Hey Chase, how do I get here? How do I become a biomed in the United States? And it’s a very weighted question. There are several components to this.

Chace Torres:
Obviously, even here in the United, we have so many requirements, so many asks of what we expect someone to come into the field. AAMI has set up the apprenticeship program to give us a pipeline for individuals that haven’t been formally trained to eventually take the CABT, the CAB certification. And then we have, the CBET school online, we have biomed programs all throughout the United States, which is great for people that already live here. But for people coming from another country, you got to start getting into H-1B visas. This is an immigration component. I did not win Gator Tank by the way. But after the presentation that I gave, I was approached by friend of a friend, his name’s Aaron Arch. And he’s actually looked into this a lot.

Chace Torres:
Couple key things that he had mentioned was that India part of the STEM program has a requirement of, I believe he said it was either a hundred or 200,000 per year immigrations to be allowed to come into the U.S through the STEM program. If you’re not familiar with STEM, it’s science technology in math, essentially. It’s technical and one of the through surveys and such a lot of the jobs that they go out to are IT, and things of that nature. One thing that he said that kind of stuck out to me is the biomed HTM field is not listed in STEM.

Keri Stephens:
Really?

Chace Torres:
Which, we are heavily in all of those categories. So that is one of the projects I have also given myself for my off time. I’m trying to, because it’s not just one organization. We have to go through Homeland security. We have to go through a lot of different organizations to try to figure out what exactly we can do. So essentially the pitch is, if we can figure out how to coincide HTM in the STEM program, which will then at a minimum, give us access. Let’s just say 2%, from India, from the STEM program that could also meet incoming numbers, demands of what we require in HTM field, by what thing was like 2028 or something.

Keri Stephens:
That’s really interesting.

Chace Torres:
So it’s not so much as reinventing the wheel. It’s adding to the pipeline that Danielle’s already created because if you utilize the STEM program, have people coming from whatever countries that are interested in getting into the field. And this also builds to awareness of it. We can utilize that program, place people through the HTM apprenticeship program because obviously STEM, H-B1 visa and then into the HTM pipeline, we could essentially create a new funnel of new biomeds coming into the field.

Chace Torres:
So a lot resulted from the AAMI conference, but it’s still in its adolescence. Me and Aaron are kind of working here and there to kind of navigate this. So hopefully we’ll have a more fixated approach to this by the next time I meet up with everybody. My favorite aspect to AAMI, because everybody has a favorite thing. Is I got to meet so many of my listeners that I had never met before. People that write me in all the time, people that listen, support me.

Chace Torres:
And it was really cool just to meet all these people that give their time, their ears to listen to me, whenever you start a podcast, you don’t really expect a lot of people to listen, but it worked out that way. So that was really cool for me, especially getting to meet people at like the Margarita Bar, which is PBS sponsored. And then we had the after party at Hard Rock Cafe as well, just getting to share a beer with somebody and have a conversation, that was really cool for me. What was your favorite part?

Keri Stephens:
Okay. So my favorite part was actually, I was behind the booth and this was twice. Actually no, actually it was three times. I had people come up to me specifically and say that our salary survey directly led them to get raises. And I know it was really, really cool. I mean, I know that 24/7 to me, in my opinion, our biggest resource that we provide the industry is our salary survey. And it is a labor of love every year. It takes forever, but it is so worth it. And it just felt really gratifying to hear how people were able to use our data to get raises. And I get emails about that all the time, but actually seeing these people face to face and it was funny, one girl, I say girl, because she’s has not finished school, but she is about to graduate.

Keri Stephens:
And she came to me and said, “What salary should I go for?” She goes here, I’m in this region. And so we went online and looked at our archives for the January, February, 2022 issue and showed her of like, okay, if you’re going to stay in this region, this is a salary you should shoot for. So it was just really gratifying to hear how our data is really helping people get raises and get paid fairly because everyone deserves a fair wage.

Keri Stephens:
And especially if they want to bring people to this field, we need to pay people fairly. And one person was like, “Oh, well my salary is way higher.” I said, “Well then don’t tell anyone. You keep that to yourself.” But for those that are not paid the median salaries for their region and job title, they really can use that data to leverage arrays and bring it to their bosses.

Chace Torres:
Yeah. Which is why it’s so important that people actually need to participate in it because the more numbers we have across all the regions is going to give us a more accurate depiction of what the median pay is going to be. I know you had a great showing this last one, but we need to challenge the field. It’s like what? 10 minutes of your time to help better the field and you don’t even have to do anything other than that, you’re just filling out information and this could lead back to you getting to raise yourself.

Keri Stephens:
Thank you.

Chace Torres:
We’ve talked about this a lot, but it’s very important.

Keri Stephens:
It is. And especially like we said, as we deal with shortages, if we can show that the field is being paid adequately, then I think it could bring more people to the field. If enough people take these, take it, take the survey. And again, we usually survey people at the end of the year. So we’ll start calculating and tabulating results probably in November. So everyone listening, please keep on the luck, lookout for the survey coming out November where you can take it and then we will publish it in the beginning of 2023. So you’ll see the 2022 data. So it’s an amazing resource. And again, it’s something that I love doing for the industry. It was just really cool to hear people using that and really just thanking us and thanking it saying, you got me a raise. I’m like, “Well, you got yourself a raise, but we told you what you should be making.” So yeah, that was my favorite aspect.

Chace Torres:
That’s great to hear.

Keri Stephens:
Yeah, it was cool. It was really cool. I mean I love AAMI every year and I think it was awesome too, to be back in person. To me, there’s no substitute for in person meeting with people. Just seeing their faces and it was awesome. So I really enjoyed them.

Chace Torres:
Well, yeah. I finally got to meet you, after all this time I’ve been doing this. I finally got to meet Justin from Better Biomed after all the discussions we’ve had together, which we are between myself and Justin and Jake from ICU Med, we’re actually going to be doing another project together on a monthly basis. For the listeners, just more content out there. Something really interesting that occurred because of the conferences when I was walking up to people, I guess it wasn’t really hard to miss me. Cause I was really the only one wearing a hat.

Keri Stephens:
Yeah.

Chace Torres:
Danielle for maybe walked up to me. She said, “Of course we’re in San Antonio, Texas, and you’re the only one wearing a hat.” I’m like, “For one, San Antonio is my hometown.” So I was happy to be back, but you got to rock the vibe when in Texas.

Keri Stephens:
You represented.

Chace Torres:
Cowboy boots, hat. Yeah. But one of the biggest things from between the listeners and then a lot of the vendors, what they suggested is, we know you’re doing audio. We know you’re doing the podcast. We need you to do video. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. So I went ahead and took that suggestion and I have been investing a lot of money to set up a home studio, which hopefully all of my components will be here within the week. Because I already have four interviews set up.

Chace Torres:
Bearded Biomed has gone video now. So there will still be interviews occurring same as always Spotify, Apple, Google, et cetera. But there will also be a video component if you wanted to watch on YouTube as well, which I’ve already uploaded some videos, which I have called the beer to drive where I kind of give my thoughts on some things that are bugging me. So I hope you subscribe, just check out Bearded Biomed on YouTube. It’s going to be fun. Like I said, I got a lot of cool stuff. At almost really relaxed atmosphere, we’re going to have people on the show, more segment based as well.

Chace Torres:
One of the segments that I am going to be doing is ask the biomed. So if anybody has any questions, I don’t care if it’s field related or maybe you have a question that is above all of our heads and you need an answer. I have a lot of contacts nowadays, so it can even be for something, like I said, a little bit more intuitive, a little bit more complicated and I will do my best to find you the answer. Of course, giving you a shout out on the show as well.

Keri Stephens:
Yeah. Love that.

Chace Torres:
Even if you want to ask me a personal question. So for ask the biomed segment, just email me at beardedbiomed@gmail.com. That is just one of the many little things I’m going to be adding to the show. So, I’m looking forward.

Keri Stephens:
I’m excited to see it, as actually visual. And as always, we love having you on here. I think it just brings so much to the conversation having the two of us on the 24 segment part of the MEDQOR Podcast.

Chace Torres:
We come from different parts of the industry and just kind of melt it together and it works.

Keri Stephens:
We do, but I think both of us have the same mentality of really advancing the field and promoting it and just being its biggest supporter. Well, I think we have had a great conversation, so I will let all of our listeners go, but as always, please follow us on the MEDQOR Podcast Network on Apple or wherever you get your podcast. And just Chase, it was great to talk to you, until we talk again.

Chace Torres:
Yeah. Likewise.

Keri Stephens:
Thank you.

Chace Torres:
Take care.