Special Interest Section: Technologist Entrepreneurs

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Author: Janna Cheek, R. EEG T., CNIM

Why do I and my squad go to Annual Conferences? It has been a social event for me since the 1980s!  And boy have they changed…  First, I must date myself and let all know that in the early 1980s, intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring was not a topic for a conference.  EEG and LTMs were the highlight with break out hands-on evoked potential sessions.  The auditoriums were packed full, and the equipment reps would always invite mega groups of technologists to an over-the-top happy hour – Yes, sushi and all – to discuss how their equipment was the best and give a big sales pitch so that the technologists would hopefully talk their director into a new system when they got back home. 

You would look forward to seeing other technologists that you had met the year before from another state (or region) and catch up on gossip and discuss what equipment they were using and how their lab did things compared to yours. It was always enjoyable. 

One conference was in Chicago and I was in awe of all the beautiful jackets lined with real fur. One girl that I met in the “smoker’s lounge” had on a jacket made with coyote fur.  It was the softest and prettiest jacket I think I ever saw because with every step she took, the fur responded with a bounce.  And yes, I came home to Houston looking for one and, being in the south, I was looked at rather oddly when requesting a coyote jacket.  I never found or purchased one and those jackets and smoking lounges no longer are in existence.  And I am thankful I kicked that habit 20 years ago and no longer need to worry about a “smoke hole”. 

Another memorable conference was when a few EEG students joined me after a very informative day, one company let the students hook up their representative with an ambulatory EEG unit and then took us to dinner.  About 10 of us sat at a huge table in a nice steak house and then, in walks this rep with wires all over his head and a purse-like bag hanging by his side.  He made the best of the situation of having all eyes on him and began walking like a robot as he headed to our table.  The entire restaurant was in stitches.

Then a conference in my home territory at the Houston Medical Center, George Henry, M.D., was a speaker.  He had the entire auditorium mesmerized with the history he shared.  He then asked the technologists who were signed up for their EEG board exam to join him in the lobby.  He carried with him a metal reel that was filled with one of his first recorded, single-channel EEGs.  He began asking our group exam questions and when we answered correctly, he would tear a strip of this single-channel EEG and sign the back of it.  I have cherished this strip of paper along with those memories for nearing 40 years (and yes, I still have that strip of EEG). 

So, as you can imagine, each conference has been unique from the beginning in its own way.  I have enjoyed meeting so many fellow technologists over the years who share the same vision and love for patient care no matter how far away they live or what country they are from.

Last year, COVID-19 made the conference even more unique with everyone turning to virtual conferences and classes and sitting in their own home, in their PJs and barefoot.  But with all the flexibility and work-a-round software, our Society still makes it happen.  Teaching and constantly learning new methods, techniques and writing new protocols and updating old ones keep our profession evolving into the next generation of technology, lightning-speed recording and reading capabilities.

I wish you each light speed with God speed, until the next conference.

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