Professionalism and Laughter Sparks a Couple’s Commitment

Apr. 28, 2016

Norm & Barb HenteHumor fuels a conversation with a couple who embrace the radiation sciences in its many forms.

“Why did I apply to go to nuclear medicine school? Because I worked in research, they lost a grant and I needed a job, and Norman says, ‘You need to go back to school.’ And I said, ‘OK’. I didn’t even know what nuclear medicine was. But I knew all the people who worked there because the nuclear medicine lab was actually across the hall from the cancer research lab where I worked,” says Barbara Hente B.A., R.T.(N), CNMT, FASRT, FMoSRT, a fierce advocate for the ASRT Foundation and the profession as a whole.

Barb also talks about being trapped in an elevator with Norman Hente M.S., R.T.(R), FASRT, FMoSRT, and being much more timid in her youth. Norm denies their story began the way she describes that first meeting. “You need a rebuttal witness here,” he says in response to Barb’s version of events.

And so it goes, if you’re lucky enough to talk to this pair about what the radiologic sciences mean to them, along with why they are planning an endowment that supports their fellow R.T.s.:

“You told me I needed to go back to school.”

“That’s not quite true.”

“You told me to go back to school several times.”

“That’s true, but I was thinking of an advanced degree so that you could teach.”

Barb had earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and communication, with a minor in biology, and Norm had served in the Air Force, where he trained as a basic medical specialist. After he returned to Illinois from being stationed in Texas and California, Norm trained in radiologic technology at Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Chicago.

“At the time, there were two big things in radiography that I considered important. Number one was there were plenty of jobs for x-ray techs, and the second is that you could get a job anywhere,” says Norm.

They worked in the same hospital and that incident in the elevator ended with Norm asking Barb if she wanted to attend a dance held by the Fourth District, which he described as the local x-ray professional group.

“Norman was the big dude with the camera hanging around his neck who was always telling people what to do because he was taking pictures,” says Barb about her first impression of the R.T. and medical photographer.

Norm describes his work with the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology more along the lines of going from a special procedures technology position to that of staff photographer because “they couldn’t keep anyone and they needed photos for slides and publications.” He did both for about a month, and then wound up with photography as his main job.

By the time the cancer research lab lost the grant, Barb and Norm were far beyond their meeting in the elevator and into discussing how to earn the money to support themselves as a couple. They already were immersed in the professional and congenial culture surrounding medical imaging and radiation therapy.

“We became active in state and national societies at once,” Norm said. They both laugh remembering the time Barb was made an honorary radiologic technologist by the Missouri Society of Radiologic Technologists before she even started in nuclear medicine. “For me, it was always the concept that we are professionals and you have to give back, and that means participating in any way you can,” says Norm.

He adds that all the offices they have held in affiliate societies and the extra volunteer work on journals also taught them skills that they could use at work and in other parts of their lives. “What you tend to learn in one place is valuable someplace else.”

“I have to agree with that. I don’t have a job, I have a career,” says Barb. “In fact, I married the profession. Norm was involved in state and national offices, and that’s just the way it was.”

Another “way it is” involves the support both Norm and Barb give to the ASRT Foundation in terms of consistent donations, along with the promise of funding through their wills. They also support their fellow R.T.s by sponsoring a few per year to be elevated to ASRT Fellow. Norman has sponsored two, with his third planned for next year, and Barb sponsored numbers seven and eight this year and plans to support several more in the years ahead.

“It always comes back to either you act like a professional or you don’t. And you can’t expect others to act professional if you don’t,” says Norman.