RSNA 2014 – Personal Touch Points Across the 100 Years

Tom Zimmerman

My wife and I worked together on the manufacturing team that assembled and tested GE’s first 10 SIGNA MRI’s following that historic launch. With that team we provided input for the blueprints of the now storied, 30-year old “MR building” on the GE Healthcare Waukesha, Wisconsin campus. But prior to that we shared a “cozy” maze of cubicles and lab space in a nearby, and very humble, industrial park. Little did we know what would follow for MRI, or that the SIGNA name would return with such a resounding and welcome re-launch at this year’s gathering in Chicago. It makes us both very proud to be part of that exciting history, and to know our son-in-law is now a member of this 2nd generation SIGNA MRI team!

Just down the aisle at RSNA 2014 there was another historic piece of equipment in the GE Healthcare booth. Much simpler design, but no less a workhorse for its time, is the 1930s era Radiographic X-ray unit. It still rolls on its castors with quiet elegance. But it almost didn’t make it

Back when I joined the company in 1979, there was a small museum display in the customer waiting area of our Wisconsin headquarters building. Ancient glass X-ray tubes and collimators were displayed alongside the newer CT hardware. But somewhere between HQ moving to the United Kingdom and the stunning growth from “GE Medical Systems” to “GE Healthcare,” the little museum gave way to new offices and much more impressive digital technology. And so about four years ago, a colleague called me about the old Radiographic X-Ray. It had been shuttled about in company storage, but it was now time to “move it or lose it.” She wisely recognized its historic value and with the kind cooperation of a facilities manager, we gave the old “DR-I” a prominent new home near our world class CT assembly area. Hundreds of people have now encountered a unique piece of history during factory tours, and that is where it stood while waiting for this year’s 100 year anniversary.

Radiographic X-ray  circa 1930

2014, 1983, 1930…and that takes me all the way back to 1914.

My grandmother was six years old and living on the family farm in rural Nebraska. One of her sisters swung a garden hoe too wide and my grandma went down in a heap. With no phone and no ambulance, one of the brothers took a horse to town and returned with the doctor. Grandma got some stiches and lived to tell us the story.

Was that doctor thinking about x-rays for my grandma? Would he have liked to compare notes with another physician on what to look for in follow-up? That part of the story we’ll never know. But his contemporaries were on the move to learn and share – and what a legacy they’ve given us over the past 100 years!

As we start the next 100 years, be encouraged in all that you do!

Tom Z

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