By K. Richard Douglas
North Carolina is a state that offers a diverse collection of scenery and activities. From a beach holiday at Nags Head to the coolness of the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway; the state has something for everyone.
The state is also home to one of the more storied biomed associations in the country. Formed in the late 1970s, the North Carolina Biomedical Association (NCBA) is one of the country’s older HTM groups and has been a model for other associations.
“Our first symposium was held in September 1978 and the NCBA was incorporated and registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State office in 1980. The original members of the NCBA board of directors was a mix of working BMETs, clinical engineering managers and educators,” says Glenn Scales, CBET-E, NCBA past president and lifetime honorary member.
Scales is one of NCBA’s founding members and served as the group’s first vice president. He has served the association in several capacities, including five stints as president. He has served on the board of directors for 28 of the association’s 40 years.
“We held our first symposium in 1978 after approximately two years of discussions and planning. Pat Lynch was our first president. Our intent was to establish an organization which would be focused on the educational and professional development needs of working BMETs in North Carolina,” Scales says.
“Although AAMI’s annual meetings did feature content of interest for BMETs, it was definitely not their focus. Fortunately, that changed in more recent years and AAMI has proved to be an invaluable resource to the HTM community,” Scales says.
Scales says that the diverse cross-section of the original members who formed the organization is the basis for NCBA’s continued success.
“I believe that this diverse group and their associated experiences helped establish our vision for the future and the culture that has prevailed for 40 years. The original board was established with 10 individuals, five for a two-year term and five for a one-year term. That stagger has been maintained throughout our history as a way of maintaining continuity from year to year,” Scales explains.
He says that after the first year, an eleventh position of ex-officio was added so that the immediate past president continued on the board in a non-voting position.
“The ex-officio is a valued member of the board and significantly contributed to the continuity of our vision and culture,” Scales says.
Education is often at the very core of a biomedical association’s charter and ambitions. NCBA is no exception.
“While BMET and CE education has been our primary focus for 40 years, we very early on recognized the importance of broadening our vision to include ‘soft’ topics, including management development, public speaking skills, various software topics from Adobe and Microsoft,” Scales says.
He says that a number of years ago, the group modified its educational schedule at its symposium into a “track” system so that they could teach a sequence of related topics over the three days of the symposium. The track system allowed them to present in-depth topics that couldn’t be presented even in a full-day session.
“We are especially grateful to our technology vendors for providing invaluable educational resources to the NCBA. We have also developed relationships with local businesses and educational institutions to provide speakers and resources that would otherwise be unavailable to an organization like ours,” Scales adds.
From that first symposium in 1978, an emphasis has been on education and keeping the event affordable.
“Our first symposium was one day and was comprised of educational sessions, vendor exhibits and social gatherings. Originally, the symposiums were planned to be in Raleigh, in the fall, at the time of the North Carolina State Fair. That way our attendees had a fun, family activity that would help draw them to our event,” Scales says.
“We have changed the location of the symposium over the years to get better hotel pricing, and have returned to the Pinehurst Hotel after having been there from 2000 to 2008. The hotel has committed to giving us the space, amenities and support that helps make the symposium a ‘must attend’ event in the HTM community,” he adds.
Scales says that the 2019 annual symposium is a four-day event in August at the Pinehurst Hotel and Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
“The first day is our annual golf tournament, which for years has been a sell-out with people signing up early to play one of the historic Pinehurst Golf Club courses. That same day finds the NCBA board of directors and some dedicated volunteers getting everything set up for the start of the educational programs on Wednesday morning,” he says.
The symposium’s educational program is organized into six educational tracks; each comprised of five half-day sessions.
“Attendees are free to attend any of the six concurrent programs during each of the five educational half-day time slots. The sixth half-day session is dedicated to the vendor exhibit hall, which features approximately 90 display booths. In addition to this session, vendors meet with our attendees at the vendor hall opening reception on Wednesday evening following the day’s educational programs,” Scales says.
“Attendees, vendors and speakers are all invited to the three included lunches during the symposium. On Wednesday, we host the annual business meeting during which the NCBA presents recognition awards, scholarship award presentations and the election of board of directors for the next year,” he adds.
Scales says that last year, the 40th NCBA Symposium & Expo featured 30 educational sessions for attendees, plus 90 vendors in the exhibit hall.
The group also actively helps the next generation of biomeds by providing scholarship opportunities.
“We have a very robust scholarship program. The Eddy Whisnant Scholarship and the Norman Reeves Scholarship have been in place for over 20 years and awards a $2,000 scholarship to a second-year student in a North Carolina community college system biomedical [program],” Scales says.
The association also maintains close ties with the local biomedical training programs.
“The North Carolina Community College System has four institutions that have an accredited BMET program. The program director from two of these programs currently serves on the NCBA Board of Directors. In addition, we have well established relationships with all four programs. Students in these four programs all qualify for the Eddy Whisnant Scholarship and the Norman Reeves Scholarship. Students in these programs also receive a discounted rate for attending the NCBA Symposium & Expo,” Scales says.
State biomed associations play an important role in helping fill the vacant positions left by departing baby boomer generation biomeds. Scales says that the NCBA actively works with the four BMET community college programs to support their students.
“Part of that support and mentoring involves getting students to participate in NCBA activities and to serve on the NCBA Board of Directors. A significant number of the NCBA past presidents were students at a North Carolina Community College, and four of our honorary lifetime members came out of the North Carolina community college system,” he says.
The NCBA plays an important role in the North Carolina HTM ecosystem. That role will help ensure that biomed departments across the state remain staffed and that biomeds statewide can enjoy their counterparts’ camaraderie once a year in an enjoyable environment. More than 40 years of experience illustrates that the association is a model worth imitating.
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