Chris Armstrong, BS(RT), RDMS, RDCS
MIRS Alumni Spotlight
Describe your career and current position, role and responsibilities.
My professional career started in a small rural hospital in western Washington State, performing all facets of ultrasound. I walked into the department my first day and the x-ray tech that had been doing ultrasound, handed me the transducer and said “see ya” J. She did not want anything more to do with ultrasound. After two years there, I moved on to Seattle and briefly worked in a High-Risk OB center. I preferred Cardiac ultrasound, so when a position opened up at Virginia Mason Medical Center, I jumped at that. I was at VMMC performing dedicated Cardiac echo for about 11 years, where we ushered in TEE, Stress echo, digital echo and LVO contrast. Shortly after starting there, I was selected as clinical preceptor for Seattle University ultrasound students performing their cardiac rotations, and eventually moved into the Lead/Technical director position of the lab. I am very proud of the time spent there. We were a very progressive department, becoming the first in the state of Washington to achieve ICAEL accreditation, first all-digital lab and one of the first labs to adopt LVO contrast as a standard procedure and a continuous quality improvement (CQI) program as well. I was also instrumental in developing the program to provide echo instruction, both transthoracic and transesophageal, to resident anesthesiologists as part of their cardiac OR experience.
I then set my sights on the commercial industry to advance my clinical and interpersonal skills. I joined a great company in Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, supporting Optison© contrast. Here I had the opportunity to develop and deliver presentations and hone my public speaking skills. After about a year and a company re-organization, I joined HP/Agilent eventually becoming what is today Philips Healthcare. There I worked successfully as a Senior Clinical Cardiac Specialist for 5 years, in the process earning Exceptional Clinical Support and Presidents Board Awards as well as a member of the iE33 clinical development team.
My next opportunity was to step into a clinical sales management position at Toshiba Medical Systems- now known as Canon Medical Systems. My 15 years at Toshiba/Canon have been extremely rewarding as well. Canon, being a smaller company, has afforded me opportunities not available at most larger companies. I’ve been asked to visit Japan multiple times, where the ultrasound equipment is designed and manufactured, to offer my expertise, insight and feedback to engineers on product design and improvement; I’ve worked closely with our product and clinical marketing departments to again, provide valuable feedback on product design and continuous improvement; I’ve been an acknowledged member of development teams for Aplio Artida, Aplio 500 and Aplio iSeries systems; I’ve been selected as a representative of Canon at the ASE Industry Roundtable (ASE-IRT), where the industry and ASE representatives gather to discuss collaborative industry efforts towards improving/enhancing products and new trends in the industry. I have also participated as a member of the DICOM WG-12 committee, which offer insight into DICOM measurement transfer to PACS, as well as the ASE-EACVI Strain Standardization committee. In addition to these activities in my current role, I am also responsible for hiring, training and mentoring new hires, encouraging them to excel and further their professional growth as well. This is probably more rewarding for me, to see others encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and stretch themselves to excel in their chosen endeavor. Additionally, I oversee large/luminary customer sites both pre & post-sale to ensure customer satisfaction.
Describe your personal life, family, hobbies, and interests.
Personally, I have been married for 22 years, have 2 beautiful girls, 16 and 13 y/o, as well as currently hosting a high school exchange student from Germany. I am very fortunate to have a very understanding wife, who works from home and maintains a very busy lifestyle and which allows me to travel extensively for work. We live in Spokane, WA on a small gentleman’s farm of 20 acres, with a potpourri of animals, (4 dogs, 4 cats, 9 chickens, 5 horses, and an assortment of wild animals as well). I am a competitive cyclist, lover of winter and water sports, woodworker, resident handyman, and along with my wife, coach our 13 y/o club soccer team.
What are you most proud of professionally and personally?
Probably, one of my proudest achievements, aside from summiting mountains, running marathons, completing epic cycling and skiing adventures, is my family. My wife and I are blessed to have 2 wonderful daughters that on are track to be high achievers and excellent citizens as well.
As I reflect on my professional career what I am most proud of is the integrity and professionalism I have always tried to embody. In every position I have held, I have strived to maintain continuous quality improvement, mentoring, educating and most of all, always learning. One of the great things about the industry side of the ultrasound profession is that the people I get to work with also share this desire to learn and educate, so it is a very stimulating and exciting environment to be in.
How has your education from the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences (formally Radiologic Technology) impacted your career?
When I look back at my education at the University of Oklahoma, I think that was probably the start of my desire to really excel at something and work hard to achieve it. By the time I had gotten to campus, I had found my career path, and it was time to really apply myself academically. I had to work to put myself through school, so time management was even that much more important. As a result, I achieved some academic success, graduating Cum Laude and that hard work to achieve a goal has stuck with me to this day. Just ask my daughters, I preach it to them all the time. Learning General, OB/GYN and Cardiac Ultrasound also afforded me options in my career path. Ultimately I have spent the bulk of my career in Echo, but my knowledge and background in general and OB/GYN ultrasound has helped me tremendously and so I’ve always had options if I needed them.
Describe a special memory from when you were a student in the program.
One funny/special memory from my time at OU-HSC was one day I stepped into the provost office and saw a large box full of shredded paper in the recycle area. I had the GREAT idea to use that paper for my costume for the upcoming OUHSC Halloween party. I was going to go as the Popeye character “Wimpy”, and stuff some oversized clothes with all that shredded paper. Well, I got the clothes stuffed, was pathologically plump and when I arrived at the party, we were immediately ushered into a haunted house-obstacle course of some kind. Instantaneously I overheated to the point of sheer exhaustion/heat stroke, and in the dark to boot. Sheer panic ensued as I tried to shed paper as fast as I could, for fear of passing out. “Wimpy” turned into “Skimpy” as I pulled that paper out as fast I as could. J
Also, my parents came from WA State for graduation, took pictures all day long of the graduation ceremonies, but forgot to load film in their camera. So I have no pictures of graduation. J
What would you like prospective students to know before they select a career in your profession &/or any healthcare career?
If I were speaking to prospective students about healthcare, or specifically the ultrasound profession, I’d like them to understand foremost it has been a great career choice for me. I’ve never looked back and wondered what if. Many different pathways in ultrasound are available to you and all can be very rewarding and stimulating, both professionally and intellectually. The key is to find the path that best suits you, and always embrace change. Change is inevitable. Embracing change and-learning new things will keep the journey interesting. There are education pathways, clinical pathways, research and development pathways, pathways to become very active in local, regional and national organizations, and of course the industry path that I’ve chosen for the last 20 years. I get to educate, learn, share and exchange ideas with some of the pre-eminent thought leaders and researchers in the industry, which I find stimulating. While I do not scan for a living any longer, I do still get to scan quite a bit. The one thing I often do miss are the patient interactions that were so much more a part of the clinical positions I held previously. For me, working in the industry is the best of all worlds; Education, cutting edge technology, fast pace and every day a snowflake.
Given what you know now, is there anything you would do differently if you were just starting your healthcare career?
If I had to do anything over again professionally, I might have tried to pursue pediatric echo more diligently or the Advanced Cardiac Sonographer credential. While I have been exposed to pediatric echo quite a bit while working in the industry, I did not understand how challenging and stimulating it was until I had experienced it on a high level on the industry side. Unfortunately, the ACS blossomed after I had entered the industry and wasn’t an option for my career path.
Is there anything else you want us to know about yourself?
Parting thoughts, I do reflect from time to time on my college education and am very thankful for my OU experience and for the instructors who imparted their skills and knowledge to me. I always try and pay that forward, hopefully, I’ve inspired others to excel in the profession as well.