#MyBSEcho2021 | It shouldn't happen to a rep: My 20 years with the BSE

Two decades with the BSE. How did that happen?!

My journey started in the Royal Signals as an electronic engineer, followed by a BSc in medical electronics. This led to a role as a medical engineer with HP, then echo tech sales with Agilent/Philips, before moving to GE, where I am now sales manager for the UK and Ireland.

My first BSE meeting was in 2001, the year Agilent launched the handheld Optigo, and opened with my first introduction to BSE pioneer, Graham Leech. As you would expect, Graham thoroughly grilled me on the product, but we had a team challenge to talk about the screen brightness, expressed amusingly in Nits, to everyone who enquired. After some time, we got to the price. Graham declared loudly “you could buy a small car for that”, to which I replied, “but you can’t do an echo with a car”. While he considered this, I proceeded to tell him the number of Nits, and I remain unclear as to what impression I made on him as he stalked off.

I left Philips in 2004, ‘upgrading’ to GE following a meeting with the inimitable Simon Robson. Simon and I worked together for many years, with as much laughter as mentoring, and we have remained close friends since he retired. BSE was in Edinburgh that year, and included a competitor new product launch, complete with bagpipes. These were so loud they rendered conversation impossible, and left us all with ringing ears. It was at this congress that, about an hour before the show started, Simon decided to install ‘hot off the press’ software, ready to wow you all with our latest 3D imaging. Regrettably, the software turned out to be a little too hot, and the Vivid 7 crashed mid-install, rendering the scanner unusable. After taking all the panels off and calling engineer support, we just managed to get it working again just as the exhibition opened, moments before a luminary pre-launch show-tell. With our pulses racing, swan like we carried on.

The technicians’ ball was always the social highlight of the year. Fancy dress was the norm, and everyone got involved. Among the most memorable moments from these events are Jon Pither as Mr Incredible, John Chambers as Sid Vicious, Rick as Sherlock, my friends from Southport as cats, and the Stoke team as the pink ladies. Nav, Mark, Graham, and Dawn always really went for it, and Harry Hindle, from RHLogistics, was the guy with the camera and the eye for borderline blackmail material: I have recently learned that Jo Sopala is the current custodian of a box of these prints, so be warned!

After 17 years with GE, 11 of them managing the UKI Vivid business, I’m now up in Keswick with my lovely wife, Zoe, and three children, Amber, 21, Arch, 19, and Alex 16. Many of you were close to us when they were born. Paul Young: do you remember scanning Zoe, while pregnant with Amber on a Sonos 5500? I still have the VHS somewhere!

The BSE conference has always brought the best of the echo community together. It’s so rewarding to help the society improve the quality of echo nationwide; to get new technology developed, deployed, and adopted for better patient outcomes via high quality education and lots of active listening. The open feedback and engagement with this great community continues to be a critical and productive partnership.

As I always say to the team, if you’re doing the job right, you’re just riding around looking after friends, albeit with a few speedbumps from time to time! Working with the BSE as they drive national policy and do what we can for projects like Echo in Africa has been a privilege, and I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to contribute from within industry.

I am proud to have supported and attended the BSE conference for the past 20 years, and, if you’ll forgive me for ending on a personal note, I’d like to close with a huge thank you to all those who were so kind when Zoe was diagnosed with cancer, in 2010. It was a super tough time, with three children under 10, chemo and a sales target to hit – and with hindsight we probably shouldn’t have added a house move into the middle of this! Amazingly, to this day people still ask me how Zoe is doing, and it really means a lot. I believe it shows what a lovely community we have in the BSE – and she’s doing great, by the way, so thank you for asking.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.

Russell Fillingham, Cardiovascular Ultrasound Leader UK&I, GE