There is not a single piece of medical equipment that has not been touched by Martine Kersaint, MBA, and her Clinical Engineering team before it reaches the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s new Pavilion, opening later this year.
Rows of ventilators, EKG machines, and patient monitors stretch throughout the rooms on the Mezzanine floor of the new hospital building waiting to be checked in, examined, and tested thoroughly.
“It’s all about safety. We have to do our due diligence,” Kersaint says of the Clinical Engineering department, which is responsible for checking in, testing, calibrating, and maintaining all medical equipment at HUP. “It could be one of our own relative’s lives depending on one of those machines.”
Wearing her Louis Vuitton mask, gold bracelets, and freshly manicured nails, Kersaint has sometimes been mistaken for a hospital receptionist by vendors dropping off equipment. “I’m looking for Martin,” they’ll tell her. “Hi, I’m Martine,” she answers back to an eye raise.
Hospital-based clinical engineering has traditionally been a field dominated by men. But Kersaint doesn’t mind defying expectations — her toolkit is pink, and she is often one of the only female managers at conferences she attends.
Kersaint joined Penn Medicine in 2017 and has since been promoted three times. Now, as the Senior Clinical Engineering Manager, she is responsible for a team of about 20 employees who are tasked with preparing all of the Pavilion’s patient care equipment prior to its fall opening. She is in charge of activities related to diagnosing medical equipment problems, repairs, preventative maintenance, and quality assurance. Overall, she oversees 29,000 medical devices throughout HUP today, and an estimated 32,000 more planned for the Pavilion.
Kersaint started off her career 25 years ago while working as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home. She found out that Delaware County Community College was offering an associate’s degree in biomedical equipment technology, and she decided to take a leap into the field. She then completed an internship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital that turned into a full-time job.
Despite working full-time since that first entry-level position, Kersaint has remained in the classroom, gaining new skills and knowledge in order to progress in her career and stay up-to-date in a quickly changing job field. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree and then later an MBA at Strayer University, and she is currently working on her PhD in business management, with a focus on strategy and innovation, at Capella University.
Now, as the go-to person (nicknamed “The Fixer” among her colleagues) for all equipment-related questions, Kersaint squeezes class assignments in between attending meetings that sometimes go until 7 pm and dishing out advice to clinical staff.
“I always tell people, ‘If you can find a time on my calendar, I will help you,’ I like the trust that I’ve built at Penn — the staff looks to me for advice, and they take me at my word. That’s very fulfilling for me,” Kersaint says.
As for the Pavilion, Kersaint says she sees it as a “game changer,” since it was designed with the future in mind. She sees that health care in 10 or 20 years will take advantage of innovations like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, in order to train physicians and other health care staff on surgical procedures.
“It’s wonderful to be right at the beginning of something. That way, once we’re open and start running, we can start thinking about what’s ahead,” Kersaint says.