By K. Richard Douglas
Illinois is part of the Midwest. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product in the U.S. and ranks sixth in population. Most people recognize its largest city, Chicago, which is the fifth largest city in the U.S.
The state is one of the country’s main transportation hubs, owing to its central location and access to the Great Lakes. Although proximity to Lake Michigan is not as essential to running an association, the state enjoys an active biomed association that provides many benefits to its members.
The Clinical Engineering Association of Illinois (CEAI) brings together biomeds from the Chicago area and all parts of the state.
“The CEAI grassroots meetings began in 2006 and the association was officially incorporated in 2007,” says association president Greg Czajka. He says that this year marks the group’s 15th anniversary.
Czajka says that the CEAI’s beginnings can be traced back to three local HTM leaders who met for lunch on Taylor Street (Francesca’s restaurant) in the fall of 2005 to chat regarding the formation of a new association that would be pillared on promoting education, the biomedical/clinical engineering profession and fostering the next generations of the HTM industry.
“These three HTM leaders embarked on getting the word out to the local masses as to the concepts and the first grassroots meeting in October 2006 was held with over 35 attendees. These three local HTM founders were Al Moretti, Joe Bandra and Robert Shue,” Czajka says.
The pandemic proved that the group can rally meeting participation in a non-traditional format.
“We hold quarterly meetings and strive to have them in person. During the pandemic, we alternated between virtual and in-person depending on the state of things. We were surprised to see incredible participation during our first virtual meeting,” Czajka says.
Focus on Future Biomeds
CEAI is serving one of the most important roles in HTM today. That role is to bring new HTM professionals into the field as well as prepare current techs for roles in management.
“The CEAI feels the diminishing HTM pipeline is one of the biggest priorities for our organization to assist with right now. We have really been focusing on the pipeline issue and trying to invigorate our local HTM professionals to become a part of the solution,” Czajka says.
He says that the group brings awareness of the profession using AAMI tools such as HTM in Box and the AAMI BMET apprenticeship program.
“We also ensure our conferences have education sessions on prepping techs to become leaders as well sessions designed specifically for the new generation of techs. This will be our second year with a conference theme focused on the HTM pipeline issue. We are just trying to do our part to keep the HTM field fueled with good talent and ready to go,” Czajka says.
Part of bringing new biomeds into the field is helping them finance their education and training.
“We have had a scholarship program since 2012. Students working toward a career in the HTM field can submit an application via our website to be considered for a scholarship. Historically, our awards have been between $1,000-$3,000 and we strongly encourage anyone in school that wishes to move into our field to apply today,” Czajka says.
Over $25,000 has been awarded in CEAI scholarships to aid future HTM professionals in their undergraduate studies quest.
With the disruption of the past couple of years largely in the rearview mirror, organizations that hold annual events can get back to a more normal atmosphere. CEAI has a popular conference with the next event right around the corner.
“Our conference occurs every fall at Drury Lane in Oak Brook, Illinois. It’s a two-day event featuring education, networking, a keynote, lunch and a vendor expo. Participation and feedback from our past conferences have been stellar and we are well on our way into planning our 2022 show which will take place September 28-29,” Czajka says.
He says that, historically, the first day focuses on education and networking. The sessions’ targeted audience ranges from biomed and imaging techs to leaders to something that applies to everyone in the field.
The second day has additional education in the morning until the keynote speaker at lunch. Following that is the vendor expo where attendees can explore the many booths, network with colleagues, grab a drink and learn about additional business opportunities.
“We’re proud to share that our conference is ACI accredited for credits towards the AAMI certifications,” Czajka says.
The 2021 conference was the first one put on by the current leadership team.
“It was significant to us because COVID forced us to cancel the 2020 conference and all of us were new to our roles leading to a few lessons learned. Because COVID was going through ebbs and flows last year, it was challenging to predict what the event would be like months in advance or if it would be allowed to take place at all,” Czajka says.
He says that in the end, the group was able to pull off a successful show with only about three months of planning.
“By comparison, we usually plan about eight months in advance in order to schedule speakers and coordinate sponsors,” Czajka says.
“This year we are hitting the ground running and getting things locked in much earlier. At this juncture, we’re feeling very comfortable with vendor participation, and we’ve started to schedule some exciting new speakers. I attended the MD Expo shows in Las Vegas and Atlanta which gave me great ideas for what people want to see,” Czajka adds.
He says that the association also has leadership elections this year and would really like to see some new faces join the team.
“After 15 years, this is such a strong, well-run organization and it is due to the diversity of ideas we have from the leadership team,” Czajka says.
He says that the CEAI has had 12 highly successful annual conferences, attended by not only local membership, but attendees from numerous states across the country.
“There have been six elected CEAI officer administrations continuing the lead forward and projecting the HTM vision to its membership and the industry across the country,” Czajka says.
The association offers a solid networking base among CEAI member’s – past and present – who yearn to share comradery, knowledge, resources and experiences.
CEAI is among the list of admired HTM associations in the country.
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