Tech World: A Passion for Promoting the HTM Field in California
Mimi and Tony Lively—a spousal team—share ownership of a company, a passion for healthcare technology management (HTM), and the business acumen to get things done.
Over the past year or two, they’ve deployed their talents to launch a certificate training program for biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs)—the first and only BMET training program in California’s San Diego County.
Developing the Next Generation of BMETs in Southern California
“We need entry-level biomeds in the region, and we didn’t have a biomedical technician training program in all of San Diego County,” said Mimi, CEO and owner of ZRG, LLC, an asset management company based in Oceanside, CA, that specializes in acquiring, refurbishing, selling, and donating surplus medical and laboratory equipment. In 2016, she approached nearby MiraCosta College, where she used to work as a grants specialist.
There, she was invited to submit a grant proposal to create a BMET program at the college, which became part of a winning proposal submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor’s America’s Promise program. The grant supports regional workforce partnerships to provide tuition-free education and training for students looking to enter high-demand industries.
Within the grant period, it would have taken too long to develop a curriculum for credit classes, which can take a year for approval. Instead, they agreed to create a certificate program that could be completed in less than six months at their Technology Career Institute (TCI) located in Carlsbad, CA.
Mimi and Tony, CEO and owner of ZRG and chairman of the California Medical Instrumentation Association (CMIA), reached out to the HTM community for guidance.
“We had the connections through everyone Tony and I know in the CMIA,” Mimi said. They talked to BMET supervisors and managers in healthcare facilities and the wider service industry, as well as BMET instructors at the Southern California Institute of Technology, Los Angeles Valley College, and St. Petersburg College, and garnered strong support.
The advisory group did wonder, though: “‘What kind of training can these students get in such a short time period? What are they going to be able to do?’” Mimi said.
The director of community education and workforce development at MiraCosta College reassured them. TCI specializes in short-term, accelerated programs, which are designed to get people trained quickly, get them a job that pays a living wage, and put them on a path toward continuing education and training if they want.
To that end, Mimi is now exploring a partnership with the Career Institute of Technology in Texas, which offers online, associate degree training for biomeds.
The Livelys, CMIA, and TCI collaborated to recruit Dr. Jeffrey Smoot, whose expertise spans biomedical, electronics, information, networking, and virtual and artificial reality technology, as the program’s first instructor. Smoot went straight to AAMI competency standards to build the curriculum.
“We couldn’t have done it without AAMI, definitely,” Mimi said. The two participated in the education roundtable at AAMI’s annual conference, and Smoot continues to get support from this group.
The Fast Track to a BMET Certificate
The first class of 13 students at TCI was diverse, ranging in age and in education from high school graduates to bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering, biomedical science, and computer science.
The program itself combines full-time training with hands-on application in fundamental and digital electronics, human anatomy, biomedical instrumentation operation, medical device troubleshooting, and BMET career readiness. In addition, ZRG opens its doors to students for hands-on internship experience with BMETs working on different types of equipment. Biomed managers at area hospitals host field trips for students as well—and some students landed jobs even before they completed the program in November.
“We know a lot of people are retiring from the field and there’s a need,” Mimi said. “We’re fitting our passion to the need. Having been in education, I thought maybe we could do something about this.”