When John Millett enrolled in Santa Fe College’s Nuclear Medicine Technology program, he did not intend to start his own mobile cardiac imaging business.
“I thought I would take a job in a lab,” says Millett, now the owner and president of Nuclear Medicine Professionals, Inc. (NMPI), which is based out of Gainesville, Florida. “I moved from Tampa to go to Santa Fe College because it has one of the best nuclear medicine programs in the country. I needed a career that would give me a good return on my college investment. Dollar for dollar, my Associate of Science degree has been a solid investment.”
Millett’s original ambition was to become a pediatrician, but that changed when he took a tour of UF Health Shands Hospital.
“I took a tour at Shands Hospital, and when I walked into the Nuclear Medicine Lab, they were doing a bone scan on a patient and it looked like something from the future,” Millett said. “I fell in love with the field.”
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of low-level radioactive material to diagnose diseases and determine their severity. Nuclear medicine technologists help doctors and patients by providing therapy, analyzing biologic specimens and creating images of body organs.
Hard work reaps rewards
Millett, motivated by his family responsibilities, was driven to be a top performer in the nuclear program at Santa Fe College. As he neared the end of his two-year program, he started making calls to people in Florida with a radioactive materials license looking for work. His tenacity was rewarded.
“I graduated on Friday and went to work on Monday at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville,” he said. “There was another job opening when I was hired so I recommended one of my classmates for the other position. The person who hired me said, ‘If she’s a Santa Fe College graduate, she must be good.’”
After graduation Millett was awarded the Palm Dohr Scholarship and had the honor of traveling to Sweden to study nuclear cardiology under Dr. Olle Palm at the University of Lund, one of Europe’s oldest institutions. For the next four years, Millett would spend time working for a hospital, a mobile provider, an imaging clinic and a nuclear pharmacy.
Seeking new opportunities, Millett recognized the severe shortage of technologists and decided to start his own staffing company, Nuclear Medicine Professionals, Inc. At first, Millett hired himself out as a private contractor but was soon able to begin hiring other trained technologists to provide staffing for labs, hospitals and doctors’ offices throughout Florida.
Millett continued to keep track of the ups and downs in the market for nuclear medicine and eventually decided to evolve his company into the full-service nuclear imaging provider that it is today. With this new service option, a physician or hospital needs only to sign up for the service, schedule and bill. NMPI handles the imaging, staffing, accreditation and all required licensures. Other services offered by NMPI include staffing, mobile imaging and lab management.
NMPI takes flight
Millett recalls building the first mobile nuclear lab to be a major challenge but says it paid off in the end. By 2007, NMPI had two trucks that could provide diagnostic imaging equipment at doctors’ offices. With these setups, patients could be tested inside the trucks. Later that year at a trade show, Millett met an entrepreneur who was developing a small-footprint, dedicated nuclear cardiac camera. Together with the entrepreneur, Millett helped design what are now the mobile imaging cameras used by NMPI. Nine months later, Nuclear Medicine Professionals purchased the first two mobile cameras built to Millett’s specifications.
“With the ability to bring the nuclear cameras into the physician’s office, demand for our service skyrocketed,” Millett said.
INC. Magazine took note of NMPI’s success, naming it one of America’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years (2009-2012). Mercedes-Benz was also impressed, noticing NMPI’s adaptation of their Sprinter vans for medical health care delivery and showcased NMPI in their Sprinter ad campaign.
With mobile imaging, the future is now
“We had to do a lot of innovating because most of what we do has never been done before,” Millett explained. “The result is an affordable means to provide extremely sensitive in-office cardiac imaging allowing physicians to provide these services at their office, lab or healthcare facility for a fraction of what it would normally cost. Our services are ideal for population health.”
According to Millett, the biggest challenge for mobile imaging providers today is getting physicians to fully understand the benefits of these services under the Affordable Care Act.
“More and more doctors will be called upon to do in-office testing because the way they are being paid is changing,” he explained. “Instead of getting paid a fee for service, doctors will be paid according to how many patients they treat successfully. With our service, physicians are able to reduce costs and offer testing that they otherwise would not be able to afford for their patients.”
His proudest accomplishment to date, Millett said, is receiving U.S. and Canadian patents for his Mobile Cardiac Positron Emission Tomography (moPET) Camera. This design will give physicians and technologists a more sensitive, useful and diagnostic tool. While the production of the moPET is still pending the necessary funding, Millett believes his invention and the ability to provide mobile PET imaging will be the next big advancement in the nuclear cardiology field.
Santa Fe College is an incubator for success
Millett credits Santa Fe College for contributing to his success. And, he knows firsthand the high level of education SF students receive. In fact, all of Millett’s current employees are Santa Fe College graduates.
“The quality of instructors at Santa Fe College is phenomenal,” he said. “The classes are small, and the professors are always available.”
When asked for his advice to nuclear medicine technologists in training, Millett was quick to respond.
“Put in the effort, and don’t be satisfied with just getting by,” Millett said. “Keep on top of how the nuclear medicine field is changing, what the doctors and hospitals are doing, and what’s going on with the equipment. Our field is still in its infancy, don’t be afraid to invent a solution to a problem.”
Learn more about Santa Fe College Health Sciences programs at our Health Sciences Web page.
Nuclear Medicine Professionals, Inc. (NMPI) provides simple equipment and staff leases, which allow physicians to offer cardiac stress tests in their offices, eliminating the need to refer patients to physicians outside of the practice. This, in turn, allows for greater continuity of care for patients and dramatically increased positive health outcomes.