BLS Featured CMLSO: Patrick Clark

A decade after my ‘college years’ I was looking for a career change.  I had always had an engineering bend but life led me into the business world instead.  I had both friends and relatives in several national laboratories across the country doing laser research and had always been amazed at the work they did.  So in my mid-30’s I went to Texas State Technical College for a degree in Laser Electro Optics Technology.  Interviews began with numbers of companies and labs but the one that found resonance was an offer from the North Carolina Memorial Hospitals in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on the University of North Carolina campus.  They wanted someone to help keep the medical lasers running and controlled.  That was August 1988.  I knew nothing of medical lasers and it was quite a baptism by fire as I learned the process of many medical procedures and the lasers and accessories necessary for those cases.  As a matter of function that made me the Laser Safety Officer.  I went to several courses across the country to understand the aspects and duties of the position. 

In January 1990 we moved to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and I joined a three-person team to perform and teach laser laparoscopy and abdominal endoscopy.  I worked with the LSO’s at the local hospitals and began a new aspect of the medical world as a LSO at one of the first freestanding Surgery centers in the country.  There the duties of LSO were important as we taught others how to perform laser laparoscopy and we performed the first laser laparoscopic cholecystectomies in the Northeast.  There it was important to introduce new medical teams to the world of lasers and the importance and content of laser safety.

March of 1992 found us back in our home state of Texas at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas with five hospitals including the famous Parkland Memorial Hospital.  They asked that someone come to take control of the ‘some 37’ lasers across the campus.  A month into the job I reported to the Laser Committee that the count was incorrect and it was correctly 117 Class IV lasers.  The need and importance of an LSO was never greater.  We had become something of a leader in the medical laser world by default.  Visiting with other LSOs it became clear that a certification system needed to be developed.  I was delighted to be asked to be on the team to develop the CMLSO program and we were the first to be certified.  From 1998-2002 I was the lead LSO for the nationwide Medical Alliance, Inc. group taking lasers into facilities across the country for some 586 physicians.  I was in charge of all the education, both physician and employee, and a member of the technology development team.  I have been an independent educator and consultant as Medical Laser Dynamics, Inc. since 2003.

Being a CMLSO has given me both the confidence to do my job and the credibility to help other hospitals, facilities, and medical offices correctly establish a Safety Program and get their own LSO certified.  The largest single challenge over the last 25 years is keeping up with the changes in equipment, application, and regulation by different states and organizations.  But the decision to step into the world of medical lasers and the duties of the CMLSO continue to be a true life changer for me and I would not change a thing.