1999 Thomas G. Wharton Memorial Lecture

“What Will You Be When You Grow Up?”

Frank Delgado
Calabassas, California

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Academy, distinguished guests, my fellow perfusionists, it is an honor for me to be here today to deliver the Thomas G. Wharton Memorial Lecture.

The many attributes of Thomas G. Wharton have been enumerated by several of my predecessors and, I would only ask that those of you who knew him or, know of him, reflect upon his many contributions and, those of you whom are not aware, take the time to discover why a person who was not a perfusionist deserves to have this lecture bear his name. Charles Reed, in his eulogy of Tom Wharton, which can be found in Volume IV of The Proceedings of the American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion, did a good job of telling us about the friend of perfusion that Tom was. I am sure that you will find that, even today, the efforts Tom Wharton made so many years ago, have an effect on your perfusion careers. This lecture, as you are aware, is given each year by the President of this Academy and this is why I feel honored to be here. And, let me say, any prestige accorded the office of President of this Academy originates from you, the members. It has long been my opinion that each of you lends prestige to this Academy and not the other way around. I will get back to this point later.

To hold the office of President of this Academy is certainly one of the high points of my career and, it has been all the more apropos as it comes at a time in my career when I, as are many of those of you whom are my fellow elder perfusionists, am weaning myself from the profession. I use the term “weaning” because the profession has had a nurturing effect for me. I was a young man, in my early twenties, when circumstances led me to become a “pump tech” at a time when little, or no, formal training was available. The surgeons and anesthesiologists with whom I started out could tell me what results they wanted but, they could not always tell me how to achieve those results. I am not shirking my responsibility or placing blame. I only wish to point out that the equipment and technology of the time still had a long way to go. Indeed, the more we learn, the more we realize how far we still have to go. Together, then, we all went to work on the experiment we call perfusion.

So, to a great extent, I have grown up with the profession. As I look back over the past thirty years or so, and the changes that have shaped my life, I find that perfusion is one of the few constants which remains. It is with some trepidation, then, that I have begun to implement a plan which will allow me to ease my way out of the profession which, to a degree, has been what defines me. A few weeks ago, after sharing some thoughts on plans for the future with my friend, Bill Horgan, he replied, “It’s good to hear that you know where you want to go. I only wish I knew what I want to be when I grow up.” Thus, the title of this lecture.

But, what one is or, what one becomes, is not something that happens all at once at the attainment of a certain age. No, to my way of thinking, what one becomes is the result of life experiences and choices made throughout the years along the way. Unfortunately, some of us only begin to understand this process after having reached a point in life where, as I like to say, one is on the down slope. Still, it is never too late for some introspective searching and strategic planning. A couple of years ago, in his Thomas G. Wharton lecture, my friend, Richard Berryessa, made reference to Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and the author states that one should begin with the end in mind and live accordingly because, after all is said and done, it is how those around a person perceive that person which defines what that person has become. If, at the end, what one becomes is reflected in the perceptions of those around him or herself, surely, one can influence those perceptions by the choices made along the way. How all of this relates to each of you and this Academy is what I hope to convey here today. I do believe that having been in perfusion for some thirty plus years and, a charter member of this Academy, entitles me to use this forum to express some opinions.

The profession has come a long way from the days of the “pump tech” both technically and politically. At times, it might seem that we are constantly re-inventing the wheel but, thanks to newer technology, better equipment, and better training, I think you will agree that the wheel is getting better. Certainly, this Academy has become a leader in the technical growth of the profession by encouraging research and through the dissemination of perfusion related knowledge. Indeed, these were the premise and purpose, as I understand it, for the establishment of The American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion.

To that end, this Academy continues to be a great success and I, for one, am very grateful to everyone involved in this success. I am especially grateful for the corporate support which we have enjoyed from the beginning. Thanks to our manufacturing partners, the products and equipment we use on a day to day basis are in an almost constant state of evolvement with improvements being made regularly. And, thanks to their continued support, meetings such as this, where we can share our experiences and enhance our knowledge base, are made possible.

Politically, the profession has also come a long way, especially with the current move by perfusionists in many states toward legislative recognition. A move which, in my opinion was long overdue. I am cognizant that I might be out of place speaking of politics at this meeting but, I have done it before and, I do it again only to point out that, while this Academy, as previously stated, is a great success in as much as we constantly exceed in our stated purpose, there is room in the life of a perfusionist for that other organization of which, by the way, I have been a member so long that I cannot remember when I first joined. Please bear with me just a bit longer as I relate an eye opening experience which I had recently.

A little over a year ago, I was asked by the incoming President of the American Society of Extra-Corporeal Technology (AmSECT) to participate in the Strategic Planning Committee. Let me tell you, the reaction by some was nothing short of prejudicial, regressive, and, to me, appalling. I believe there were even some whom refused to participate because of my presence although I have been a member much longer than they. I must say that I was offended by the actions of certain individuals. Never the less, I did attend the gathering of the committee and, in talking with a couple of the participants who were recent perfusion school graduates, I was somewhat surprised to learn that they had the understanding that one can only be a member of one or the other. That is, This Academy or AmSECT.

Yes, I am aware that there were bad feelings, to put it mildly, at the time of the formation of this Academy and, I am fully aware that some old prejudices will probably never change. Somehow, I always tried to convince myself that I could remain neutral and not concern myself with what I considered to be a problem among relatively few, and, perhaps this is why I was so offended by the reaction from some at my participation in the AmSECT committee.

However, when I heard that students coming out of our schools have the perception that they can only be in one camp or the other, I realized that the problem is more pervasive than I had imagined. It is unfortunate but, rightly or wrongly, people do tend to follow their leaders and, often that is the easiest course to take. I realize, also, that there exists a fine line between a prejudice and a conviction. A good test is that one can usually talk of his or her convictions without becoming angry. Check yourself out sometime. Yet another realization which I came to is that it is true that if one is not a part of the solution, one is part of the problem. That some people choose to leave an organization rather than work to make changes is understandable and, perhaps, even logical. That they then choose to speak condescendingly about that group is, at best, questionable. I must say that I find it bothersome to hear some of you whom, for the most part, I respect and admire, perpetuating what can only be described as harmful and, even, ugly attitudes. Personally, I am proud to be a member of both groups and, as such, I shall continue to work toward better relations on both sides. Referring, again, to Steven Covey’s Seven Habits, habit number six is that of creative cooperation. The author states that highly effective people see their differences as a positive and not as a negative. He points out that creative cooperation can create new alternatives or options which never existed before, and, that even in those situations where true cooperation is not achievable, the spirit of sincere trying will usually result in more effective relations. I would challenge each of you to look to a future of better under-standing and at the very least, peaceful coexistence with anyone or anything that is not of this Academy. As leaders in the perfusion community, I would like to see this Academy lead the way in d’etente.

I have always felt that you, the members of this Academy represent the best and most prestigious of the profession. I have never left this meeting without having learned something of value to my practice of perfusion or to me, personally. Still, in the overall scheme of things, this Academy is a fairly young and growing entity. I expect that we will hit full stride as we strive toward our full potential in the new millennium. As we move into the next century, I would like to see each of us individually and The Academy as a whole, lead the way with a new paradigm.

Albert Einstein once said,

“The significant problems we face
cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at
at the time we created them.”

As we grow more secure in our own identity, let us explore all of the possibilities by being open to new ideas and by eliminating any restrictions which might limit our vision of the way things can be.

In conclusion, let me say this. And, I especially direct this to the younger members as you will direct the course of this Academy in the future, and, I will have had a good day if I can influence just one of you to reject the temptation to conform to some of the old prejudices which, unfortunately, exist. If, in the end, what one becomes, that is, if the way one is perceived, can be influenced by the choices made along the way, and, if, as I believe, this Academy derives its prestige from each of you, the question, then, is what will we, this Academy, be when we grow up?

Thank you.