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Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology

The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) publishes Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology (BI&T) a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the developers, managers, and users of medical instrumentation and technology.

Alan Pakaln
Journal: Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology
Biomed Instrum Technol (2006) 40 (4): 315–318.

Published: 01 July 2006

BMET and Clinical Engineer: Healthcare Worker

I don’t need to tell you that today, everything is a business. My career in healthcare was no exception, and that is why oversight, and understanding what is behind that process, is more important than ever. Hospital environments, including risk management, are multifaceted and fraught with pitfalls: anyone involved in healthcare and saying otherwise is not paying attention.

I worked in several New York City hospitals for over 30 years; I have an intuitive sense of what that environment is like. One way to judge a hospital is to look at hospitals’ outcomes – infection rates, accidents, deaths, readmissions – and extrapolate from those a sense of their overall design and functions. Another way is to look more closely at how well their assessments of risks matches their outcomes: high infection rates indicate risky behavior somewhere in the system, indicating a need to assess risks. What systems are in place for the hospital to clearly evaluate and remedy poor outcomes?

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Into It: Interviews With Work

These are transcriptions from recorded interviews that took place in1994. At the time, a book of job-related interviews did not attract much attention, that is, besides Studs Terkel’s Working. Interviewing a range of different kinds of people was an amazing experience. For me, it was an excuse to meet someone very interesting and to ask questions about their lives – how often do you get the chance to do that? Transcribing spoken words from recordings at that time was arduous –no speech recognition software – just a foot pedal on a tape playback machine.

These transcript are only edited to remove some ums, and ohs, and my questions and comments. It does seem as though they are telling a story – and they are – but actually it was a conversation. It’s life stories: experiences told from a subjective viewpoint, bringing the human experience to where we can see it – each story spoken in the language of the inventor.

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New York Shadow: Behind the Scenes

By profession, I am a biomedical engineer with many years of experience overseeing the application of medical technology in New York City hospitals. By desire, I am a photographer with many more years experience than working in my profession. I am an amateur in the classic sense; I photograph what I care about. I was born in New York City (Doctor’s Hospital, now a luxury condominium), and have lived and worked in and around NYC all my life. My education in photography began about age 17, and took place in a small darkroom, a closet under the stairs leading to the basement of the house I grew up in. Eventually, my darkroom had two enlargers, one for medium format, and I could produce both color and black-and-white images. Now, like most, I use a digital camera, scanner, and printer. Not better, just different. I’ve never been a high-tech enthusiast, although I have studied aspects of Weston’s and Adams’ zone system. My favorite cameras were the Nikkormat 35mm and the inexpensive, early point-and-shoot cameras, like a Brownie with 127 film. And now – simple, inexpensive, point-and-shoot cameras. Different technologies offer different ways of feeling about the process of photographing: SLR with film – careful, exacting; Brownie with film and viewfinder – playful; rear display digital point and shoot – casual, careless.

New York Shadow: Behind The Scenes, is 8 series of photographs, totaling 173. Each chapter is a story about New York City, and of course, the experience of the person taking the pictures. I could be called “an accidental photographer” because I never thought about becoming a professional, though by the mountains of prints and boxes of negatives I have, I am a photographer. Sometimes were are what we least expect.

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The Feast Of San Gennaro, Little Italy, New York, 1971: A Photographic Essay: The People, Food, Activities

In the early 1970’s New York City was beginning a slide into disrepair that would peak in the late 1970’s. Even as tenants had begun moving into the new World Trade Center complex, several of the boroughs were losing populations, arsonists torched buildings for the insurance, graffiti was everywhere, crime was up, and the city was broke. How this all happened is a story in itself, but one thing was clear: the city was not pretty to look at. In New York City, you could say that 1971 represented a lull between storms: the 1960’s social revolutions, and the deterioration of New York City of the late 1970’s. What I mostly see when I look at these photographs are the faces of those who made the festival work, faces of a different time, a different era. An era just prior to the Genovese Family, and before Rudy Giuliani interfered, before Mean Streets, and The French Connection. The Mafia was locally known, but not as famous yet, not by movie standards anyway. When I look at these faces I see acceptance, acceptance of a person’s place, and of the festival’s place in the community, a community that included everyone, even the Family, but not yet Giuliani, and not yet Hollywood.

It was an era of its own making, one based on hard work and exhibiting what we might now call innocence (In fact, the only indication I could find as to who actually ran the festival is in one of my photographs, Luigi’s Pizzeria & Heros, a sign in the window is signed, “THE COMMITTEE.”). It was perhaps 5:30 in the afternoon when I came upon the Feast of San Gennaro in lower Manhattan. I was living nearby at the time and would often wander the streets with my camera, a Nikkormat with Plus-x, black and white film, set at ASA 200.