AAMI News May 2018

One on One with Arif Subhan

Arif Subhan
ARIF SUBHAN is chief biomedical engineer for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He also is a member of the BI&T Editorial Board and the president of the American College of Clinical Engineering.


Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Both of my parents and two of my elder brothers were doctors, so I grew up surrounded by stories of their work told around the kitchen table. When I was older, I enjoyed visits to the hospital and the medical school with my father, who later in his career became a hospital director and a medical school administrator. My family’s stories and the hospital environment were thrilling and awe-inspiring, and I seriously considered a career as a doctor for most of my boyhood.

Q: What drew you to a career in biomedical engineering?

As a young child, I developed a flair for mathematics, and someone in the family suggested that I should consider becoming an engineer. Without much guidance, as I was the first in the family to pursue a career in engineering, I attended an engineering school. In my senior year, one my professors introduced me to the articles in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Transactions in Biomedical Engineering. These articles brought together my childhood interest in medicine with my current major in electrical engineering and led me to do a senior project related to biomedical engineering. My continued interest in biomedical engineering led me to pursue graduate studies in biomedical engineering at the University of Surrey and Drexel University and an internship in clinical engineering at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Q: What do you do in your current position?

As a chief biomedical engineer, I oversee the biomedical engineering program at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, which is one of the largest healthcare facilities in the Department of Veterans Affairs. I manage medical equipment across multiple campuses and clinics, which includes overseeing the installation and implementation of new medical technology and device integration, ensuring regulatory compliance, evaluating equipment requests, advising on new medical technology acquisitions, and supervising biomedical engineers and biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs).

Q: What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is interacting and dealing with the clinical, nursing, and biomedical engineering staff regarding the challenges of implementing and using medical equipment in the hospital. Additionally, I very much enjoy mentoring and spending time with the next generation of biomedical engineers and BMETs from the VA Technical Career Field training program and the clinical engineering interns from the University of Connecticut.

Q: What is the biggest challenge healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals face?

The biggest challenge facing HTM professionals is staying abreast of the latest changes in medical equipment management and new medical technology integration and implementation, which includes learning about the challenges of interfacing medical devices and the cybersecurity issues related to networked devices. Biomedical engineers and BMETs need to constantly educate themselves, pursuing different education, training, and certification programs, to meet this challenge.

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for HTM professionals at the moment?

Though it has been talked about over the decades, the biggest opportunity for HTM professionals is to fill the vacuum and take on the role of chief technology officer in hospitals. There is a lot of technology in the hospital that doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff rely on. Currently, no single department has adequately fulfilled the needs of this crucial facet of hospital functionality. Clinical engineers, by training and experience, are best qualified to fill this vital role.

Q: What is the biggest change you have seen over the course of your career?

The biggest change is the move from standalone medical devices to networked medical devices. HTM professionals now need new skills and knowledge to be able to install, integrate, and troubleshoot these networked medical systems.

Q: What is the best career advice you were ever given?

My father always emphasized the value of preparation in anything I did when I was growing up, whether it was reading ahead in classes or arriving early for meetings.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

Living in Southern California, I love to take advantage of the beautiful weather by going on walks and hikes. I especially love spending time with my wife and two daughters; one attends UCLA, and the other is a senior in high school.

Q: What is something people might not know about you?

I enjoy exploring new restaurants with my family and trying new foods as much as I can. Working in the West LA area is great because there is easy access to some of the best