Over the past 40 years, Wayne Jenkins built a successful career as the manager of the biomedical engineering department at Carroll Hospital. And it all began at Howard Community College in 1972.
As a student in what was then a brand-new biomedical engineering technology program, Jenkins had been working a full-time job as an electronics technician and taking courses part time in the evenings to earn his associate degree. Fresh out of high school, newly married, and with a young son, Jenkins took the suggestion of a professor to enroll in the program and learn new skills in the emerging field.
At the time, the field was so new that only two hospitals in the region had a biomedical engineering department, with staff who maintained and fixed hospital equipment, including patient monitors, ventilators, defibrillators, and lab machines. “One of our instructors was the director of the BioMed program at a local hospital, and he would teach us theory on Tuesdays about how the equipment works and what it did. Then on Thursdays, we would actually go to his shop in the hospital and practice our work on the equipment there,” Jenkins said. This hands-on learning experience was extremely valuable, with supervisors checking their work just as they would on a job and with students seeing their ability to help hospital workers firsthand.
“We can’t be an expert in all hospital equipment, but the idea is to learn how they operate so we can do the simple fixes – and most of the time, that’s all it takes,” Jenkins said. “We’re the background guys to keep everything running so doctors and nurses can do their jobs and focus on patients.”
Through his courses, Jenkins also learned alongside nurses, which helped him better understand their perspectives and needs, and he learned to ambitiously set and reach for his own goals. He recalls a seminar on human potential with Professor Peggy Armitage that resonated throughout his career. “She helped me and all the students realize that inside of us, we could be more than what we thought we could be,” Jenkins says. “It gave me the confidence to go out and do what I knew I wanted to do.”
A few years after graduating with his associate degree, Jenkins took what he learned to pitch Carroll Hospital on why they should create a new biomedical engineering department and hire their own staff to maintain equipment more effectively and efficiently. He got the job and launched the hospital’s BioMed program, managing it until he retired in 2020. During his tenure, Jenkins also continued to hire other HCC alumni from the same program.
“HCC gave me a direction in my life,” Jenkins says. “Being a young married kid just out of high school, not knowing what you’re going to do, and having a family with responsibilities – you have to get yourself grounded. That’s what this program and professors did. They gave me that drive and that foundation to be a better person and have a career that has been unbelievable.”
As one of HCC’s earliest students, Jenkins marvels at the growth of the campus and the continuing impact that the college has on students and the community today.
“Looking back on the past 50 years, I’m amazed at how well the college has expanded, and I hope that continues,” he says. “I am so grateful that HCC’s faculty was there to point me in the direction of a career that gave me purpose and made a great life for me and my family, and I hope that others may experience the same.”
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