Kurt Kulschar: From DCTC To Doctorate

After losing the job he had worked at for nine years, Farmington native Kurt Kulschar made the decision to undergo a complete career change from the airline to the healthcare industry. Now, just a few years later, he has graduated from Dakota County Technical College with a diploma in biomedical equipment technology and is about to pursue his doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Minnesota.

Kulschar had been working as a licensed airframe and power mechanic for Northwest Airlines (NWA) when he and many other members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) lost their jobs in 2003. Though he held a bachelor’s degree in aviation technology, he knew that finding new work as an aviation mechanic looked bleak due to job cuts throughout the aviation industry stemming from the aftermath of 9/11, increased competition, and the outsourcing of mechanics.

As a result, he decided he was ready for a career change, which meant he needed to be retrained.

Having always had an interest in medicine, Kulschar chose to enroll at Dakota County Technical College in the fast track biomedical equipment technology program. This program had been specifically designed by DCTC, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System office, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and the AMFA to allow the mechanics to earn a diploma within nine months.

“Our goal was to respond to the layoffs by identifying programs where the NWA folks could utilize transferable skills,” said Larry Raddatz, a DCTC Customized Training instructor who was key in bringing the program to the college.

Individuals who work in the biomedical equipment technology industry (BMETs) typically inspect, calibrate, maintain, and repair diagnostic, monitoring, therapeutic, and life-saving equipment in healthcare facilities, working closely with scientists and healthcare professionals. On average, a BMET can expect to make $52,000 a year.

Already versed in pneumatics, hydraulics, and electronics, Kulschar and the other mechanics adapted their skills to the biomedical equipment courses with ease. The required physiology and anatomy course, however, were slightly more difficult for most of the mechanics.

Kulschar was the exception. He couldn’t get enough of the subjects.

One of Kulschar’s instructors, Dr. David Juncker – better known as Dr. J – took note of Kulschar’s interest.

“Kurt had a natural inquisitiveness essential to anyone entering the medical field. He stood out in a class of highly prepared people,” said Dr. J.

In fact, Kulschar stood out enough that after class one day, Dr. J told him that he should be a doctor.

“That was an epiphany for me. I have always been interested in medicine, but I never thought I had the aptititude for it,” said Kulschar.

After graduating from the DCTC biomedical equipment technology program in 2004, Kulschar landed a job at Universal Hospital Services repairing and maintaining equipment. He found that he enjoyed traveling to the different healthcare facilities and interacting with medical staff that relied on his expertise, and he definitely preferred the climate-controlled environment to the frigid aircraft hangars he had spent time in during many a Minnesota winter.

Although he was doing well at UHS, Kulschar was ready to take the advice of Dr. J and pursue his doctorate. He enrolled for general education courses at Normandale Community College and then endured a rigorous selection process in order to be accepted into the pharmacy doctorate professional program at the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy.

Kulschar was granted acceptance to the program. He will begin classes in fall 2007, and will graduate with his doctorate in 2011.

Having come so far since 2003, Kulschar looks back on his start in the healthcare industry at DCTC with fondness.

“The biomedical equipment technology program was very well tailored. I am very grateful that the school had the foresight to put the program together. It filled a need in the right place, at the right time,” said Kulschar.

More information regarding the biomedical equipment technology program at DCTC is available by visiting the Web. Dakota County Technical College is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and an Equal Opportunity Employer and Educator.