Peer Networking for Cath Lab Leadership in 2018

Conference highlights by Darren Powell, RCIS, Program Director, Invasive Cardiovascular Technology, Spokane Community College, Spokane, Washington, with Dan Scharbach, CCPT, MBA, Healthcare Consultant.

Conference highlights by Darren Powell, RCIS, Program Director, Invasive Cardiovascular Technology, Spokane Community College, Spokane, Washington, with Dan Scharbach, CCPT, MBA, Healthcare Consultant.

Who is the NWCMA?

This past November, 60 cardiovascular leaders convened from cath labs across the Pacific Northwest for the 29th annual Northwest Cath Lab Management Association (NWCMA) Conference in Portland, Oregon. Labs were represented from California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The group shared best practices, learned from national speakers, and most importantly, developed and engaged in a strengthened a peer network. The cath lab is a uniquely positioned department with specific challenges. Statistically, there is a high turnover in cath lab management, positioning this event to provide support and resources for both new and experienced leaders. In true spirit of the NWCMA, the conference was organized by the collaborative efforts of a team of leaders comprised from four non-affiliated healthcare systems, bringing together resources and strengths to plan this collegial event to improve the lives of patients in the cath lab.  Support and funding of this event was graciously underwritten by the generosity of many industry partners. The title sponsor for 2018 was Philips Healthcare. We appreciate the commitment and support of our sponsors to help continue this event!

We Did What?

The conference was Wednesday, November 7th through Friday, November 9th, 2018 at The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon. Robust topics included panel discussions on staff retention and engagement, work-life balance, staffing and productivity, regulatory preparation, and much more. Leaders could participate in highlighting their labs, table topics, and networking discussions. Participating physician speakers shared their insights and expertise about stroke treatment, the history of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) treatment, patient safety and a culture of safety in the lab, same-day discharge after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), uterine artery embolization for fibroids, and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair in the lab. Nationally recognized, industry-sponsored speakers shared their vision on value-based healthcare, same-day discharge for PCI, lab guidelines, evolution of health care, and the history and future of electrophysiology. And just as importantly, participants networked before, at break, and late after the conference into the evening!

29 Years…How did it Start?

Like many great ideas, it always takes that special someone with a pressing vision and the passion to make things happen — in this case, it was Dan Scharbach, CCPT, MBA. Dan was the face and heart of the conference for so many years. His dedication kept the event organized for 28 consecutive years. This massive undertaking was the sole task on his shoulders every year, which, even with a team in the 29th year, was an overwhelming feat at times, but Dan kept the single-minded focus of formation of a supportive network for leadership in our industry!

We asked founder Dan Scharbach to share with us his historical perspective from 1989 to 2018:

“The NWCMA was founded in the fall of 1989 and has had annual meetings continuously for the past 29 years. The original meeting was held in Portland and had approximately 15 attendees. The meeting was a one-day event and focused upon new technologies and procedures. While these areas are always of interest, the hidden agenda of the meeting was to establish a working relationship and network of cardiovascular leaders within the Pacific Northwest. Very often those in these leadership positions are caught up in the competitive nature of the healthcare market. This restricts the sharing of new ideas and developments, all of which when shared openly can improve the quality of patient care. Keeping this in mind, each yearly meeting not only contained the elements of new technology and procedures, but also a strong component of leadership networking. I believe this is what has kept this meeting active for so many years.

“Originally the meeting rotated between Portland and Seattle, but at the suggestion of the attendees, the meeting is now always held in Portland. A member email list stays active throughout the year with questions and suggestions between the members. Historically, there have been over 70 members participating in this excellent network of leaders.

“In 2018, the leadership of this group transitioned from Dan Scharbach, co-founder and director of the group since 1989, to a new team lead of Taryn Honey and Brody Ferguson. The new team held their first and highly successful meeting in November 2018. I have high hopes that this new team will keep the NWCMA alive and well for many years to come.”

— Dan Scharbach, CCPT, MBA

If you are a cath lab leader from the Pacific Northwest and would like to be included in future events, please contact Brody Ferguson at: and Taryn Honey at:

On a personal note, we are proud to see some Spokane Community College graduates in leadership/industry:

  • Tom Watters, Manager at St. Luke’s in Boise, Idaho;
  • Colin Olsen, Manager at Asante Health in Medford, Oregon;
  • Michael McDonald, Manager at Multicare in Tacoma, Washington; and
  • Crystal Spink with Philips Healthcare. 

This article is reprinted with permission from and Darren Powell.