David Pietrzak, ATP, VP, Supply Chain & Vendor Management, National Seating & Mobility
Of projects I’m working on, I’m most excited by… I’m part of a Thought Leadership Steering Committee, a think tank to address important subjects in the industry. We’re tackling ideas like outcomes measurements, delivery methodology and technology advances. We have people such as Mark Schmeler and Claudia Amortegui on the committee, and some very seasoned ATPs within our organization, such as Gerry Dickerson and Denise Harmon. We also have some newer folks like [ATP] Zach Stewart. We started by asking, “What’s important to the industry today, and what do we have to do to advance these subjects?” We at National Seating & Mobility [NSM] have topics we think are important, but you bring in people from other parts of the industry, and they shed light on a wider set of opportunities.
Of the challenges facing CRT, I’m most concerned about… the aging ATP population. Given the longevity of our organization, we’re seeing a number of [ATPs] retire. It’s important to bring new people in. We have to find ways to either educate at the collegiate level or at the trade level. We have a successful internal program of career advancement: The typical role is a curious technician or someone who finds themselves doing more deliveries. We have ATP University that advances them through that career path — we’ve had 12 ATPs graduate to this point. We’ve lowered our average [ATP] age, but it’s still too close to retirement age. ATPs have so much knowledge; what’s concerning is how to pass it along. Putting their knowledge on paper is difficult.
The technology segment I’m most intrigued by is… electronic advancements, bringing together things like robotics and chair connectivity. Technology outside the industry, if we focus on it appropriately, can shape and change the industry for the better.
What the industry needs most is… more consumer involvement. We’ve had glimmers through groups like Users First, but the Ice Bucket Challenge was 100-percent driven by people in the field. We need to tap into that voice. We don’t want to get to the point that the only way consumers speak up is if they have access issues.
As an industry, we’ve gained ground on… payor involvement. Our payor relations team is much more educated on the process of getting the product to the end user. This is being driven to and by the payor. The more education we give the payor, the more likely they are to trust us as a profession.
I wish I could change… people getting their equipment faster. It’s still a bit of a travesty that it takes an average of 90 days for consumers to get equipment. As somebody once said, you don’t “kind of” need a wheelchair. As an organization and as an industry, we have a very high rate of success, which means if we can get to the point where [payors] say, “You’re the professional — we believe you, the referral source and the therapist, so on day five, we’re saying yes, you can have the equipment,” that would be so much better than day 65.
A CRT industry member I really admire is… Weesie Walker. She started before there were RTS’s and ATPs, and she was the voice that made sure a lot of changes took place as an ATP with NSM. Then she retired, but saw it important enough to stay in the industry. She’s still putting the time in to make sure the industry progresses.
My favorite tradeshow city is… Nashville. It’s hard to say there are better places to be than here.
My favorite business travel hack is… every eighth row on Southwest flights is where they start the service. So if you want to be served your drink or snack first, you want to be in row 1, 9, 17 or 25.
If I could give my younger self a message, I would say… don’t procrastinate. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some level of success even with some level of procrastination, but it’s something I battle on a regular basis. Also, travel and read more.
In five years, I expect to be… celebrating additional industry wins. I think we’re on the verge of taking some very proactive steps forward.
I want to be remembered by this industry as… somebody who helped shape the industry, to get us to where we are today. Sometimes we think we should be farther along, but we’re probably ahead of schedule. We want to make sure we keep pressing on the gas pedal.
The last great meal I had was… every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday in our house, so every Tuesday is a great meal.
People who know me would say I… go to a lot of concerts. Here in Nashville, we have access to a lot of live events, and we are embracing where we are.
Those people would be surprised that I… started as a respiratory therapist. I could only give so many breathing treatments. I saw that the wheelchair guy I worked with was having a lot more fun than I was.