by Loren Bonner
, DOTmed News Online Editor | May 21, 2013
In honor of Healthcare Technology Management Week taking place May 19-25, DOTmed News spoke with one biomed who trained and served in the U.S. Army. Starting this week, she's back in the civilian sector working at a new job as a biomed at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. DOTmed News spoke with Michelle James about her unique career path. Here's an edited version of the conversation.
DMN: I did not know the U.S. Army offered biomed training. Can you give me a brief overview of your experience training as a biomed in the U.S. Army?
The school was in Wichita Falls, Texas at the Sheppard Air Force Base. It's navy, army and air force all together. It's two blocks of technical training on the computer — learning about things like transmitters and resisters on the component level, and in the second block you work hands-on with equipment, along with understanding medical terminology for 11 months.
DMN: What did you do after training?
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After training, I came home to my unit and I got my first biomed job at Spalding Regional Medical Center in Griffin, Georgia. I worked there for a couple of months and then I went to Hill Air Force Base in Utah and worked there at the army depot. But as soon as I got situated I got deployed.
DMN: What was your experience like in Qatar?
Qatar was interesting. It was my first deployment and the first time out of the country and with strangers because the unit I was deployed with was not my unit. But the special part about being a biomed is that our world is small so all the biomeds on the deployment I knew already — they were classmates and friends. I worked on the night schedule. I'd go to work at 3 p.m. and work until 9 p.m. at night with one day off a week. It was like having a regular job but in another country for 10 months. I was stationed in Camp As Sayliyah in Doha. It's like a depot where they have a biomed shop.
DMN: How long have you been back?
I've been back since 2010.
DMN: Why did you decide to pursue this path in the first place?
I graduated from college in 1999 and moved to Atlanta and wanted to work as a physical therapist. I got the opportunity to work at Morehouse College but they didn't give me a full contract. So I left and did other jobs — bank teller, guest service representative, waitress — and then I had my daughter and I said I need to settle down. One weekend a girlfriend from college came over. She's in the marines and has done four to five deployments and I thought why didn't I make the same decision? She told me her uncle was an army recruiter and I agreed to talk to him.
For the most part it was my daughter who made me change my life and get serious, and I also wanted something that would challenge me. When I started looking at job opportunities available to me in the military, at first I didn't know what a biomed was. Then I watched the video that explains it and I thought it seemed fun and challenging too (I was not mechanically inclined at this point). So my mom agreed to help me with my daughter while I went away to training.