By K. Richard Douglas
Nicknamed “The West’s Most Western Town,” Scottsdale, Arizona bears homage to that nickname with its Arabian stallion horse ranches, some desert areas to its east, an annual Parada del Sol Parade with horses and cowboys and a few reminders in its “Old Town” area. Other than that, it is more like a ritzy, modern-day chic refuge with resorts for tourists, high-end neighborhoods and luxury brand car dealers. It is one of the East Valley communities in the Valley of the Sun.
HonorHealth operates many health care facilities, including three hospitals in Scottsdale: HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center and HonorHealth Scottsdale Thompson Peak Medical Center. The Osborn and Shea locations have been health care fixtures in Scottsdale for many years.
Servicing imaging equipment in all three locations is Peter Nerat, a diagnostic imaging engineer specialist with HonorHealth.
Nerat first became interested in the field while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“My formal introduction to this career began through military training in the Air Force where I was assigned to NORAD computer maintenance,” Nerat says. “After the Air Force, I received my training ‘on the job’ at GE Medical Systems along with a great deal of self-study. I had a push to learn as much as I could from senior staff. I started out in the staging bays and worked the graveyard shift; as that is where I could learn the most and get assigned jobs that would normally go to more senior people. This helped to further my understanding of the systems. I guess sleep at the time was not a priority.”
The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” should be at the top of Nerat’s favorite song list. It was a trip to the ballpark that changed his life in a way that seems more than coincidence.
“When I first got out of the Air Force, I did a six-month contract job for a small engineering company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was hired to help design a digital flow meter,” Nerat says.
He says that the company let him go after he completed the design.
“Feeling upset about not having a job, I called my Grandpa for advice and he told me to go to a Milwaukee Brewers game and to not worry; according to my Grandpa, life has a way of working out. I sat in the cheap seats, and when I went to get a beer, I asked the folks behind me if they would like one also,” Nerat remembers.
He says that when he returned, they asked what he did for a living and were incredulous after learning that he had been just laid off, but had still offered to buy them a beer.
“As a happy coincidence, the people I had treated to a beer worked in human resources at GE Medical Systems. They felt that my training would make a perfect fit for the staging bays for the new 9800 CT they were putting out. The rest, as they say, is history,” Nerat says.
Nerat has remained an imaging engineer throughout most of his career as a CT, MRI or cath lab specialist.
A Filter is not a Filter
When happy customers are your primary goal, achieving that goal can be fraught with challenges.
“My biggest challenge is the ongoing push for customer satisfaction. Nothing gives me more job satisfaction than shifting a dissatisfied customer to a satisfied customer that trusts us to take care of all of their needs. This I find most times is more challenging than a hard technical problem,” Nerat says.
Customer satisfaction is where the game is won.
There is always the occasional detective work that is required of any engineer when attempting to diagnose a problem. Nerat is no stranger to this aspect of the field.
“We had a CT issue that was ongoing for a group of mobile CT units our team was responsible for. We were getting a faint ring artifact on the head studies. We had tried, as a team, all sorts of fix actions; Das boards, tube alignments, tubes, recon units, high voltage systems, to no avail. Different techniques caused the problem to go away for a while, but we still had issues,” Nerat says.
He tried replacing the collimator and that did not help.
“I took a suspect collimator apart so we could see if there were any visible issues with the collimator unit. I used a C-arm to X-ray the collimator for problems and was able to see micro fractures in the Mylar filter. To determine if the systems in the field had any issues, we used a Sharpie pen on the filter and you would be able to see the ink build up on the micro fractures on the face of the filter,” he says.
Nerat says that the fix action was to go back to using a replacement filter that was more expensive, but better made.
Away from work, Nerat enjoys scuba diving, travel, photography and reading. Family includes his wife, Laurie, two stepdaughters and “a perfect grandson.”
What would Nerat want you to know about him?
“I take pride in making sure my customers are as happy as possible whether that is external or internal customers. I like to leave everything that I engage in life to be a little bit better when I am done,” he says.
With a philosophy like that, you can’t go wrong.