The Adams File
- Current program director for system environment of care and life safety at Indiana University Health, Indianapolis.
- Director of leadership development at the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), Chicago.
- Manager of clinical engineering at Bloomington Hospital and Health Care System, Bloomington, Ind.
- Director of technical services at Camtech Inc., Indianapolis.
- ASHE Fellow.
- Certified Healthcare Facility Manager, Certified Healthcare Constructor and Certified Life Safety Specialist.
- Past president and a long-term board member of the Indiana Society for Healthcare Engineering.
- Member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 72 Technical Committee.
- Member of the national development team for the Hospital Incident Command System.
- Co-authored ASHE’s Introduction to Health Care Facilities Management book.
- Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering technology at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
When Timothy E. Adams, FASHE, CHFM, CHC, was presented the American Society for Health Care Engineering’s (ASHE’s) Crystal Eagle Leadership Award this fall, it marked another milestone in a career full of them. This month, he talks to Health Facilities Management about his journey, which included a stint on the ASHE staff.
How does it feel to win the Crystal Eagle Award?
It is an incredible honor to receive the ASHE Crystal Eagle. It is also very humbling, because there are so many ASHE members who are my heroes — people I look up to and who have become some of my dearest friends. It means so much to know that at least in some small way, I have been able to make a difference in this profession and in people’s lives.
How did you get involved in the health care field?
I got involved in health care first through the biomedical technology field. A professor in college talked to me about how, being involved in medical technology, you are helping bring health and healing to people. That resonated with me, and I knew I wanted to be involved in health care. I studied biomedical technology in college and got a job as a biomedical technician for a company that provided medical equipment services for several hospitals and health facilities. We soon began providing facility management services as well and helped facilities meet regulatory compliance. That was the beginning of a career involving health care facilities, medical technology and regulatory compliance.
What do you see as its unique challenges and rewards?
One of the greatest challenges is balancing regulatory requirements and providing a safe and effective environment with the constant restriction of limited funding and resources. But the rewards are immense. Over a 36-year career, millions of people have come to the facilities I have served either directly or by assisting ASHE members in promoting optimal health care physical environments. In a tiny way, I have had the opportunity touch each of those lives. I can think of no greater reward than that.
Can you tell me about your current role as system director for environment of care and life safety at IU Health?
I serve in a system role to provide mentoring, methods and processes to promote continuous compliance and strive for high reliability. I get to work with team members from all disciplines involved in providing health care in a diverse health care system.
You were part of the ASHE staff for about 15 years. What prompted that?
The journey began many years before I joined the ASHE staff. About 20 years before I joined the association’s staff, I attended the ASHE Annual Conference, which turned out to be a life-changing experience for me. At the time, I had a foot in health care technology and a foot in health care facilities management. I found in ASHE a group of people who were so passionate about providing facilities that promote health and healing. The attendees and the speakers that I talked with were so welcoming and collaborative. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the organization.
Over the next few years, I attended more ASHE conferences and educational events. I volunteered to serve on the clinical engineering committee and was so excited to have the opportunity. I met and developed friendships with folks like Doug Erickson, George Mills, Jim Shoemaker and so many others who had such a passion for providing facilities that meet the needs of patients.
After a couple of years serving on that committee, I was invited to serve on the advocacy committee. Then, at one of the ASHE Leadership Institutes, Dale Woodin, who was then deputy executive director of ASHE, asked if I would consider chairing the advocacy committee. I became more and more involved in ASHE, teaching courses, serving on committees and doing anything I could to help. The day came that Dale asked if I would consider joining the ASHE staff, and I said “yes.”
When asked to serve, whether it was with the Indiana Society for Healthcare Engineering or ASHE, or responding to an advocacy need, I always said “yes.”
What were some of your accomplishments during your tenure at ASHE?
I don’t look at accomplishments as my accomplishments. I am just honored to have been part of a profession dedicated to serving others and having the opportunity to serve on the ASHE team and work together to help members and every person who makes use of a health facility. During my time at ASHE, some of the initiatives that I am honored to have been a part of include starting a young professionals program, seeing college students choose careers involving the physical health care environment and expanding ASHE’s education offerings.
I tried to keep a focus on the patients that our members serve and to have that perspective permeate ASHE education, advocacy and all we do. ASHE grew considerably, not just in the number of members but also in the resources it provides. The accomplishments are the result of the dedication and focus on the mission by ASHE members, the ASHE staff members, and all those companies and individuals that partner with ASHE.
Did you learn anything as an ASHE staff member that you were able to apply to your current organization when you went back into health care facilities about two years ago?
Probably the most valuable thing that I bring to my present position is the relationships that I have made through ASHE. I have been blessed to get to collaborate, work with and build friendships with leaders in facilities management, regulatory compliance, facilities design and engineering, construction and infection prevention. What I have learned from these relationships impacts what I try to bring to my organization every day.
How has your family supported you during your career journey?
When you have responsibilities in health facilities management or medical technology, the phone rings in the middle of the night often. My family, I think, understood that what I do makes a difference in lives, and sometimes lives were in the balance. When I was with ASHE, I was gone from home extensively. My wife kept the home going, took care of kids and helped with my parents when they needed assistance. I am so glad that she was able to be at the ASHE Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., where the award was presented, and to meet many of the people who have been so much a part of my professional career and life.
My dad taught physics, chemistry, biology and math throughout his career, and I grew up messing with electronics and doing experiments. My parents both passed away in an auto accident shortly after the ASHE Annual Conference, but I am so thankful we got to tell them about the award, and I think they were very proud that I have spent my life trying to help others. Little did I know when I was growing up building electronic stuff with my dad, learning carpentry, doing biology and chemistry experiments, and applying the laws and principles of physics to daily life that, one day, I would be involved in health care.
Most of all, what I learned from him was to serve others.