The Oregon Biomedical Association is the premier professional organization for biomedical equipment repair professionals in the state of Oregon. The organization serves professionals working under the umbrella of Healthcare Technology Management. Whether the department is Medical Maintenance, Clinical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, or Clinical Technology Services, technicians and engineers who join the Oregon Biomedical Association are afforded opportunities to network, attend continuing education events, and to participate in the annual symposium each fall (free of charge).
The OBA was borne out of two earlier organizations that operated in parallel throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The Northwest Association of Biomedical Technology (NAB) was an organization for biomedical professionals which was concentrated in the Portland-metro area. The NAB met once a month on Wednesday nights and also held an annual meeting with vendor fair. However, the NAB was geared towards Portland area biomedical professionals only.
Operating in parallel was an organization called The Cascade Biomedical Association (CBA). This was a biomedical professional association founded by members who had no desire to travel to Portland, and who were dispersed over a much larger geographic region: in short, all of Oregon that wasn’t Portland. The CBA was very successful and well attended throughout the state.
However, in the late 1980s, attendance in the NAB began to falter and after about a year it disbanded. Slowly at first, members of the former NAB began to travel to locations outside Portland in order to attend CBA meetings. The CBA cautiously welcomed the Portlanders to their meeting, with some members concerned about the CBA losing its rural identity.
More technicians from Portland began to attend the CBA meetings. It was at this time that then-CBA President Mr. Kim Dowe changed the name to the Oregon Biomedical Association (OBA). Mr. Dowe later stepped down and Mr. John Reis became President of the OBA in 1997.
Around this time, the OBA partnered with the Washington State Biomedical Association so as to share membership, increase opportunities for meeting, and to assist one another in hosting events and other educational offerings. During this same time, more events began to be held in the Portland area. However, Mr. Reis always strived to ensure that events were held south of Portland so that other Oregonians could attend.
Meetings held in the I-5 corridor between Salem and Eugene were always well attended and these cities became prime sites for meeting. However, the OBA offered a meeting in southern Oregon every October so that members in the areas surrounding Medford, Klamath Falls, and beyond would be included.
At some point the WSBA suggested that October would be a good month to host a joint OBA/WSBA event – and , capitalizing on the opportunity for increased meetings and membership, the OBA leadership eagerly accepted – hoping to reschedule the annual October southern Oregon event. However, to the chagrin of leadership, a new month for southern Oregon meetings never materialized, leaving a big gap in the offering of events for professionals down south.
Joint Meetings with the WSBA
The October joint meetings with the WSBA were well attended by both the OBA and WSBA. However, when events were held in Portland, the average attendance was typically between 2 and 5 members. Some theorize that this was a backlash by the rural members for not having more events outside of Portland. Some members of the OBA felt as if their organization (formerly CBA) had been hijacked by former members of the NAB.
Despite this, meetings continued, and some events were even scheduled over the weekend in late May/June which were an opportunity for members to bring their family for a sort of work-vacation, networking while spending time with friends and family. One meeting in Newport even featured an opportunity for members to go out on a whale watching tour from Depot Bay, thanks to the creative efforts of longtime OBA Secretary Mr. James Steinbrink.
As time passed, the OBA Officer cabinet featured more and more vacancies. Mr. Steinbrink, who was Secretary before Mr. Reis became President, remained in the position, dutifully recording events, sending out hard copy event invitations, and mailing out the electronic newsletters. Mr. Reis remained President for over 13 years, much of the time simultaneously acting as Vice President and Treasurer. The environment began to change and the OBA with it.
Meetings occurred with less frequency and newly enacted tax laws had an adverse impact as well, as vendors could not longer get a tax break for sponsoring events or flying in someone to train members. Vendors also noted the small numbers in attendance and lost interest with the idea of sponsorship. More and more manufacturers moved out of state and those that remained behind were inactive with the OBA.
A Highly Valued Organization
At some point, activity slowed with the OBA meeting a few times a year and largely consisting of an active email group. A newsletter was sent out with some regularity by Mr. Reis and Mr. Steinbrink. However, although the OBA was not as active as it once was, it was still a highly valued tool amongst biomedical professionals who sought employment, wanted to network (virtually), or who had questions about the field in the state of Oregon.
In late 2011, Mr. Reis announced that he was resigning the position after more than 13 years, and that elections would soon be held to elect new Officers. Around this same time, Mr. Valdez Bravo sought assistance from the OBA leadership about hosting an event at the Portland VA. The event, “OR of the Future and Wireless OR Solutions”, was held in March 2012 and well attended.
Longtime members and first-time visitors alike came to the event, and it was widely viewed as a success. There was a renewed sense of wanting to meet and another event was planned after Mr. David McBride of Legacy Health Systems said he would host. Elections were held around this same time and a new wave of leadership was ushered in, with Mr. Bravo as President; Mr. Keith Waters of OHSU as Vice President; Mr. Michael O’Brien of Kaiser Permanente as Secretary; and Mr. Jonathan McNamara of Providence as Treasurer.
More and more hospitals and vendors stepped up to host, and events at Legacy, Shriner’s, OHSU, Welch Allyn, and Providence soon followed. The OBA saw its first Facebook page emerge, and an OBA member created a website for the group. Membership ballooned and OBA Officers began talking about a symposium.
Mr. Bravo resigned as President after one year so he could attend graduate school in Texas. Mr. Russ Magoon of Legacy Health Systems was elected President and ushered the OBA into another exciting year of meetings, including the rebirth of the annual symposium and vendor fair. The event was well attended with over 100 members in attendance, and 18 vendors sponsored the event. Mr. Magoon and the OBA Officers organized events held in Salem and Lebanon in order to change the perception of the OBA being only for Portland-area members.
Renewed Outreach Effort
The OBA continues to thrive and a second symposium was held on October 24th, 2014. The organization is now embarking on a renewed outreach effort to host more events in rural Oregon and to communicate with all biomedical professionals in the state, not just in the Willamette Valley.
As President Russ Magoon has said, “After all, it’s the Oregon Biomedical Association, not the Portland Biomedical Association.”