By K. Richard Douglas
In Augusta, Georgia, the oldest and largest hospital is University Hospital. It is part of the University Health Care System. The hospital opened its doors originally in 1818 before going through several incarnations that led to its current location in 1970. Today, the hospital campus includes the Heart and Vascular Institute and office buildings. It serves 25 counties.
The health system also includes University Hospital Summerville, as well as multiple ancillary clinics.
Maintaining and repairing University Health’s 10,000 pieces of medical equipment is the Novant Clinical Engineering Management Program (CEMP).
Donald Barker is a senior imaging service engineer in the Novant CEMP department at University Hospital.
In Barker’s ICE professional spotlight nomination, it was stated that he had “over 40 years of knowledge in the imaging field” and that he “single-handedly supported a 580-bed facility, 25-bed clinic and various care centers for one and a half years on his own,” referring to the imaging equipment.
He started out learning how to work on HVAC systems which is where he became familiar with hand and power tools.
“When I graduated high school, I worked in heating and air conditioning doing installations. This is where I learned to use tools and, because of this, when I applied to the Navy, I scored high on the entrance exam and was granted a six-year obligation enlistment in electronics,” Barker says.
“Six years in the U.S. Navy working on a guided missile destroyer with three deployments” provided Barker with plenty of electronics training and experience. “I worked on the air search radar system,” he says.
While necessity is the mother of invention, it is also the incentive for putting bread on the table. That is how Barker ended up servicing imaging equipment.
“[I] was laid off from [my] previous profession in 1986 in the oil and gas industry. I
was looking for a new profession and Siemens Medical took a chance on me. [I] Loved the work and have been servicing imaging equipment ever since,” he says.
Despite considering another avenue, the health care sector became the destination for him.
“My father-in-law recommended I go with medical electronics rather than Rockwell International as a metrologist working on hell fire missiles,” Barker adds.
“I applied with Siemens Medical Systems in August 1986 and was accepted in January 1987 to work at New Hanover Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina. For the first year, I was in training since I had no previous experience in imaging service. Over the next eight years with Siemens, I learned many valuable lessons and tricks of the trade. But I learn something new every day,” Barker says.
“While I was with Siemens, they trained me in the basics and 22 other training classes over a nine-year period of time including cath labs, special labs, fluoro rad rooms, portables and mammography,” Barker says.
“Since leaving Siemens Medical, I have worked as a third party with Premier CTS, Aramark CTS, Masterplan and back to Aramark, and now with Novant Health. Currently, I have 32 years of experience in the imaging profession and 49 years in electronics,” Barker adds.
During his time at Aramark and Masterplan, he also received training from ReMedPar on GE Advantx 1, Advantx E and Innova 4100 and training from RSTI on GE Essential Mammography.
“I had always been a field service engineer until I started working at Novant Health, where I am an in-house engineer. All the long drives were causing me to question my ability to continue field service or to go in-house, so I accepted the position here at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia,” he says.
Today, Barker takes care of more than 300 imaging systems.
Holding down the Fort
Along the way, with all of the experience of maintaining and repairing imaging systems, there have been a few challenges.
“While I was with Masterplan, the most challenging projects were maintaining five hospitals in the Dallas area and the many trips outside of my normal work areas to service equipment that I was not specifically trained on. In all cases, the problems were resolved through perseverance,” Barker says.
“While at Novant, I maintained and managed over 250 systems for two years with minimal assistance, until I received a co-worker, and now we have increased our equipment base to over 300 systems with 14 vascular labs, five CTs, four MRIs, eight nuclear medicine units, six mammography units, 11 portable X-ray, 12 C-arms, several digital radiographic panel units and work stations. There are many support equipment (items) as well,” he adds.
The hard work has generated some recognition.
“I was most outstanding recruit in boot camp. [I] received a commendation for excellent service while on deployment in the Indian Ocean. I have received, while at Novant, an outstanding service award in 2017,” Barker says.
Away from work, Barker enjoys simple pleasures and used to be active in sports.
“I like listening to music and watching movies. I used to play softball, tennis and basketball, until I tore my ACL and medial collateral ligaments playing softball. I also build furniture for pleasure,” he says. “I like making furniture as a hobby – assisting my wife with her soap making.” Also, away from work, he is a grandpa.
“My wife and I met, while I was in the Navy and my wife was in the Army, on a blind date and have been together now for 45 years and we have two sons with five grandchildren.”
Asked what readers should know about him, Barker refers to his longevity in the profession.
“I am a friendly individual that can get along with almost anyone I meet. A lot of your readers probably have heard about me or already know me. I have been around and have talked with many people in the imaging profession,” he says.
As a military and imaging veteran, Barker has served his country and community well. No doubt, there are readers who will recognize his name.