AAMI News June 2018

Friends, Family Mourn Loss of ‘True Role Model’

Robert Dickinson
Robert Dickinson traveled all over the world with organizations such as the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital.

Friends and family of Robert Dickinson, an independent consultant and globe-trotting healthcare technology management (HTM) leader, are remembering his life and humanitarian efforts after his death from cancer on April 6. Dickinson was the winner of this year’s AAMI Foundation & ACCE’s Robert L. Morris Humanitarian Award.

“This award literally means the world to him,” Dickinson’s wife Cindy said about a month before his passing. “Receiving it is a validation of his life’s work. It has also been a gift to us as a family, as we’ve been spending many hours with him trawling through his photographs and talking about the incredible experiences he’s had throughout the world during more than 30 years in his career as a biomedical engineer.”

Building Capacity in Developing Nations

Dickinson, who grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), provided training on HTM, anesthesia, and critical care systems in more than two dozen countries, working with groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO), International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering, Engineering World Health, Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, Operation Smile, and Gradian Health System.

“Rob made over 60 humanitarian journeys to the developing world in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, supporting, training, advising, and motivating individuals to contribute to healthcare technology management in their environment,” said Tobey Clark, director of the Pan American Health Organization/WHO Collaborating Center for Health Technology Management at The University of Vermont.

Dickinson saw this work as a “privilege” and gave his all to each project he undertook.

“What a privilege to have, on three continents, worked with the finest of the finest teams of healthcare and allied professionals imaginable. Each and every team different, yet every mission team always becomes bonded family in an incredibly short time,” Dickinson wrote on Facebook shortly after learning that his melanoma had spread to the brain. His post was accompanied by an Operation Smile video in which he appears.

He went on to tell family: “Everything I did was for those people who desperately needed help. I always gave my best, and the people I worked with were the nicest people I ever met in my life.”

Dickinson also worked with local and international universities to teach and support their biomedical engineering and HTM students, international medical equipment companies to provide training and technical support for their products, and multilateral organizations and nongovernmental organizations to undertake healthcare technology–related assignments within low-resource countries.

A ‘Source of Inspiration’

According to a colleague, Dickinson is a “pillar of professionalism and commitment … a true role model.” “I’ve had the privilege of knowing Rob Dickinson for almost nine years, and he has been a great source of inspiration to me,” said Ismael Cordero, a senior project officer for health devices at ECRI Institute. “What stands out the most about Rob is his unpretentious attitude and disposition to assist health practitioners in resource-scarce settings do more and better with what little they may have.”

Another colleague was just as effusive in his praise. “He always saw his primary mission as assisting those HTM practitioners in resource-scarce settings to do more and better with what they had, and played a major role in building local capacity,” wrote Mladen Poluta, director of health technology for the Western Cape Department of Health in Cape Town, South Africa. “I have met and known many great/leading HTM practitioners—including Bob Morris on a number of occasions and a number of the other award recipients—and I can truly say that Robert Dickinson has earned his place amongst these greats.”