AAMI News October 2015

Professional Mentoring: A Win–Win Relationship

John Weimert
John Weimert
Priyanka Upendra
Priyanka Upendra
Pattie Todd
Pattie Todd

For most of his professional life, John Weimert has enjoyed the guidance of mentors.

He had one as a teenager in Houston, TX, while working for a newspaper company. He also had a mentor in the Navy and later had mentors when he moved into the private sector, working as a biomedical engineer.

So, with a sense of gratitude and a desire to give back, Weimert, the assistant director of biomedical engineering at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, signed up for AAMI’s Mentorship Program, wanting to guide younger professionals with the same dedication he experienced.

“These mentors taught me how to act responsibly, how to speak in a professional manner, how to respond in a critical situation, how to carry myself professionally,” Weimert recalled. “In short, I would not be who I am today without having learned from strong mentors.”

Launched at the start of this year, AAMI’s Mentorship Program is a matchmaking exercise of sorts: pairing AAMI members new to their respective fields—whether healthcare technology management (HTM), sterilization, or another discipline—with veterans who have learned the ropes and want to help those who are just starting in their careers.

“Clearly, there are mistakes to be made, and I would like to help guide a younger biomedical engineer through the minefield,” said Weimert, who is working with one such younger professional, Priyanka Upendra, a clinical technology analyst with Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, CA.

The two have bimonthly phone meetings, each set for about one hour. In between those meetings, they correspond via e-mail. The two have discussed Joint Commission survey processes, clinical alarm management, budget forecasting, staff development, crucial conversations, capital equipment acquisition, and equipment planning.

“Throughout the program, not only have I gained a deeper understanding of how to run HTM operations, I have also learned how to understand and motivate my team to perform better, respond to conflicts, hold crucial conversations as a manager, and lead a team toward effective delivery of program and project goals,” Upendra said.

The growth and fulfillment has been on both sides. While the gain might be more obvious for the protégés, Weimert said mentors benefit from the professional relationship as well.

“I believe that when you attempt to convey your ideas or provide instruction, you experience growth within yourself,” he said.

Another mentoring pair is Pattie Todd, research project leader for biocompatibility with Fresenius Kabi USA, based in Lake Zurich, IL, and Cynthia Pillar, an independent regulatory affairs consultant.

Todd, the protégé, said she signed up for the mentorship program because, to some extent, she was working in isolation. “I am the only person at my location who performs this role, and I was new to biocompatibility and the medical device industry,” she said. “It has been great to obtain an external perspective.”

Pillar, the mentor, had praise for her protégé, calling her “a well-rounded professional who really just needed a sounding board and confirmation of the decisions and paths to them that she already had made.”

Pillar’s advice for other younger professionals who want to work with a mentor: “Be courteous of your mentor’s time constraints, if there are any—and usually there are,” she said. “Come prepared with an agenda and be clear about what you would like to get out of the relationship, since it is not the same for all protégés. Be willing to listen to your mentor’s advice and ideas they share from lessons they’ve learned. They are where they are for a reason.”

To learn more about AAMI’s Mentorship Program, or to sign up, please visit www.aami.org/mentorship.