Q&A with Alan Roth, MS, MBA, RRT-NPS, FAARC, CPFT, RPFT, Director of Respiratory Care
Alan Roth is a registered respiratory therapist and director of respiratory care at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, California. He completed his undergrad at the City University of New York-Hunter College and the respiratory program at Bellevue Hospital-NYU Langone Medical Center. He has an MS and MBA in Healthcare Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Hartford in Connecticut, and is working on completing his doctorate. Alan was last featured in NEWS-Line for Respiratory Care Professionals in October 2007.
Q: What motivated you to become a respiratory therapist?
A: After serving two tours with the Peace Corps (Philippines) in rehabilitation, I answered an ad in The New York Times about this new field and new program. It's now thirty years later, and I've loved it ever since.
Q: Can you tell us about the facility you work for, Memorial Medical Center?
A: It is a community, not-for-profit hospital with 423 beds. Memorial Medical Center is part of Sutter Health System, one of 27 hospitals in Northern California. This is very much a community-spirited and focused organization.
Q: What's it like working at Memorial Medical Center?
A: Great! Just a bunch of therapists who care about their patients and are given the time to do meaningful work.
Q: When did you start at this facility?
A: I moved from Mt. Sinai, New York to Northern California in December 2003, and began working here shortly afterward.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities at Memorial Medical Center?
A: As director, I oversee all administrative and clinical aspects of the respiratory care department.
Q: What types of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
A: We see a full gamut of ages from children to seniors. Frequent diagnoses include asthma and COPD.
Q: Can you share an interesting moment during your respiratory therapy career?
A: Working as a respiratory therapist as part of a Federal DMAT team (CA-6) in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 was a memorable experience.
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as a respiratory therapist, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: Professionally, I'm finishing up work on two writing projects. One is the completion of my doctorate, "Ethical Issues in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies." The second is my book; I recently published another chapter in Picture of Health, "Complex Humanitarian Emergencies"
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as a respiratory therapist?
1. Aging of the profession (1/3 are over 50);
2. Encroachment of other professions when we cannot deliver care to our patients; and
3. Patients are sicker and returning sicker.
Q: What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike most about your job?
A: What I dislike are people who are not passionate about their work and have not grown professionally since leaving school.
What I like most is making a difference in people's lives.
Q: Are you currently involved with any research projects? Are there any projects that you would like to be involved with?
A: I'm currently involved with disaster management, and I'd like to dedicate more of my time to writing my doctoral dissertation. I am also a legal consultant as a Subject Matter Expert that reviews cases.
Q: Do you feel that the role of respiratory therapists has changed over recent years?
A: Yes, the role of respiratory care has evolved. For instance, employing the use of critical thinking skills that have changed us from a task-oriented field to a problem-solving field. Embracing technology has also impacted the profession.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to respiratory therapists today?
A: Complacency, lack of professionalism, status quo, and not looking forward. The lack of professional advancement to a bachelor's degree and beyond is another big issue.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Getting the job done right and being patient-focused. Also, being recognized by professional organizations for my humanitarian work overseas.
Q: What is the most important thing you've learned over the course of your career?
A: As a therapist, you need to be a lifelong learner.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering respiratory therapy?
A: Do your best to be the subject matter expert that others can depend and count on in a crisis.
Q: How has working in respiratory allowed you to grow professionally?
A: Working in respiratory has opened me to many professional and personal experiences. Such moments have inspired the publication of my book chapter on complex humanitarian emergencies and the dissertation for my doctorate, which I'm still completing.
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Unlimited—you can go as far as you want if you raise your horizons.
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