AAMI News January 2016

In Profile: Rick Tidman

Rick Tidman is a professor of biomedical engineering technology at Durham College in Ontario, Canada. He previously worked as a healthcare technology consultant and in operations for a number of different medical equipment suppliers.

Rick TidmanWhy did you decide to move from the public/private sector into academia?

I was working long, crazy hours as an independent consultant, had a young family, and life was getting chaotic when my wife came across a job posting for a teaching position in a brand new biomedical engineering technology program. I always had enjoyed training/teaching clients and colleagues and had been told that I would be a good instructor. I was also very interested in building a biomedical program from the ground up. It was a perfect opportunity for me all around, and I jumped at the chance to be part of it.

What do you like most about your job?

An academic environment is a great place to think, discuss and incubate ideas, and try them out in a secure setting. I get to share knowledge, learn and interact with enthusiastic and bright people, and contribute in a personally rewarding way. I especially enjoy watching my students evolve and use innovative and technology-driven problem solving methodologies in their coursework. The college offers a unique workplace experience that I find motivational and satisfying.

What does your institution offer as part of its biomedical engineering technology program?

Our curriculum for biomedical engineering technologists (BMETs) is the culmination of 12+ years of program development. It reflects the collective experiences of our faculty and ongoing recommendations from our program advisory team. We aim to balance fundamental theoretical principles, practical applications, and soft skills to ensure our graduates have the necessary competencies to succeed in their chosen occupations. BMET students are also invited to join funded research projects. We recently received funding through the college’s Office of Research Services, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship to investigate novel uses of wearable technology. Participating in innovative research is an opportunity for students to explore what’s possible with available cutting-edge technologies.

Durham College is developing a four-year healthcare technology management (HTM) program. Why?

The HTM program fills what the college and advisory committee have identified as an industry gap. Without a doubt, technology is leading a fundamental change in healthcare, but it begs the question as to which professionals have the qualifications to lead this change. Durham College has taken a leadership position, and it hopefully (approval pending) will be the first four-year degree program dedicated to HTM.

We decided that a four-year dedicated HTM program is better suited to deliver an integrated and multidisciplinary program of study rather than a technology management certificate post BMET diploma/degree. There are challenges related to optimizing a program of study that includes courses from technology, business, and information technology, but the demand for multidisciplinary HTM professionals will require them to have the skills of both a functional specialist and management generalist. With a few years of workplace experience, graduates of this program will be well equipped for a position in HTM and ready to lead the medical technology evolution.

You use AAMI standards as a key part of your curriculum. Why is it important to teach students about standards?

The recognition and adoption of standards is essential for BMETs and healthcare technology managers to help them make sense of organizational complexity. Standards organizations such as AAMI provide BMETs with a means of ensuring an organization’s medical technology is safe, calibrated, and available for use. And of course, the adherence to standards and the ability to communicate and measure is at the core of all quality initiatives. One of our intended learning outcomes is to make sure our graduates know about the standards essential to biomedical engineering technology and standards organizations, as well as fully appreciate the value a properly applied standard brings to an organization and the sector.

You plan to get your PhD in establishing HTM education in the developing world. Why do you feel this is an important objective?

Several studies have identified the lack of access to medical technology as a key obstacle to achieving better health outcomes in low-resource settings. I find the topic fascinating and would love to do something about it! I think my experiences over many years and exposure to all aspects of BMET/HTM, academia, and research have helped me visualize the missing links that prevent operational medical technology from reaching the point of care—regardless of location. I want to explore this topic and come up with realistic and practical solutions that can be implemented and form the basis for continuous improvement. It would be immensely satisfying to know I somehow contributed to a systemic change that offered hope to those made to suffer needlessly.

What has been your proudest career achievement?

From time to time, I hear from graduates who are BMETs, manage biomedical engineering departments, or are modality specialists, division managers at original equipment manufacturers, or professors. I’m proud of their achievements and especially proud when they come back as guest speakers. And, of course, it will be a great day when the first students graduate from the HTM program!

What’s one thing about you that might surprise people?

I can understand and manage high-level medical technology, but at home my wife and kids have to set the DVR and manage our Internet connection, computer software, and music downloads. They tease me all the time about it.