AAMI News December 2017

Meet the Father of Clinical Engineering

Cesar Caceres
Cardiologist Cesar Caceres, now in his 90s, recognized early on the vital role technology would play in healthcare delivery and in improving patient care.

After 50 years, there are very few people who remember the founding of AAMI, but Cesar Caceres is one of them. Caceres, who is in his 90s, became one of AAMI’s earliest members at the request of fellow cardiologist Dwight Harken, a driving force behind the association’s creation, even though Caceres didn’t actually know Harken personally.

At the time, Caceres was working for the Public Health Service, leading the way in efforts to automate computers. He would later be honored for developing the country’s first functional computer electrocardiographic interpretive system.

It was because of this early work combining computers with healthcare that Caceres would coin the term “clinical engineering.”

In the mid-1960s, a philanthropist from New Jersey asked Caceres about his work. “He had heard we were involved in electrocardiographic computerization at the Public Health Service Medical Systems Development Laboratory,” Caceres wrote in 2007. “When he asked me what we were doing, I told him it was ‘clinical engineering’—trying to put engineering into the clinical world of medicine so that our various disciplines could work hand-in-hand to improve healthcare in the reality of the practicing medical world.”

Caceres went on to join the AAMI Board of Directors in 1969, serving as chair from 1971 to 1972.

Although Caceres sold his Washington, DC–based medical practice several years ago, he remains curious about the role of technology in healthcare. He also serves as the executive director of the Institute for Technology in Health Care, which encourages the use of technology to benefit health or the delivery of health-related services.