Long-time respiratory care educator and AARC Life Member Bill Galvin, MSED, RRT, CPFT, AE-C, FAARC, retired from his position as director of the respiratory care program at Gwynedd Mercy University (GMU) in Gwynedd Valley, PA, at the end of July.
“I decided to retire because it was time — almost 50 years as a proud respiratory therapist and 40 years teaching and cultivating aspiring respiratory care students was simply long enough to fulfill my life’s work and dream,” Galvin said. “I saw the need to spend time with my family and tend to unfulfilled lifelong aspirations.”
But if you think that means he’s finished with the respiratory care profession, you would be wrong!
Like many other Baby Boomers, Galvin decided that while it was time to step back and spend more time with his family — including his nine adorable grandchildren — he wasn’t ready to leave respiratory care behind altogether. So, in addition to all the activities you’d expect an active 70-something to be involved in during retirement (golf, travel, watching sporting events, exercising, and reading), he’s still finding time to teach. As an adjunct professor at GMU, he’s leading a course called “Teaching in the Health Professions.” He’s also maintaining his role as a commissioner on CoARC’s Board of Commissioners.
A perfect fit
Galvin says the GMU course is a perfect fit for him, as it gives him the chance to give back and interact with RC students and others, along with the opportunity to espouse the merits and values of the baccalaureate degree.
“The course is designed to address the criticality of patient education, clinical preceptor development and training, classroom teaching, and maintaining strong professional involvement,” he said. “I can champion the need and value of teaching and learning, and even preparation and cultivation of future presenters and professional speakers at our Summer Forums, International Congresses, and state and regional meetings and conferences.”
He is passionate about the need for veteran RTs like himself to cultivate, mentor, and nurture the new generation of respiratory care educators. He sees his involvement with the course as one way to help.
Galvin’s work with CoARC is simply a continuation of efforts he began many years ago.
“I found my niche with CoARC, as it merges my desire to continue to work in the world of respiratory care education and strive for quality and excellence in respiratory care education,” he said. “There are many challenges and difficult issues facing RC education, but I am hopeful that my years of experience and strong desire to see us evolve and establish more credibility in health care will provide value.”
Galvin says he finds his work with CoARC extremely gratifying and counts himself lucky to have met so many “smart and dedicated” people along the way.
“My plan is to continue to contribute on various CoARC committees, assist in developing policy, and participate with accreditation self-studies and site visits,” he said.
If that sounds like a lot to take on in retirement, you’d be right. But for Galvin, it’s one more step in a career that has already brought him joy and fulfillment. So what are some of his favorite memories of working as an RT and an RT educator?
He says some of the best came simply through the opportunity to teach.
“The most memorable moments occur in the classroom when you see students having that ‘ah, ha’ moment–when the lights go on, and you know that you got through to them on a very complex topic,” he said.
Seeing his students walk across the stage at graduation is high up on his list too, but the one experience that always sends chills up his spine comes when they call or text to say they have passed their NBRC exams.
“The elation and scream of excitement on the other end of the line that, ‘I passed,’ is so gratifying,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better from a purely professional sense, as you know they achieved one of their milestone professional achievements. And you helped make it happen.”
Of course, Galvin has had a lot of celebratory moments of his own over the past 50 years as well. In addition to receiving numerous awards and honors from GMU and AARC state societies, he has been inducted into Lambda Beta, the National Honorary Society for Respiratory Care, and was named a Fellow of the American Association for Respiratory Care for his long service in RT education. He won the Mike West Patient Education Achievement Award as well, along with the H. Fred Helmholtz MD Distinguished Lecturer award, Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Education Section’s Specialty Practitioner of the Year award.
But his highest honor — and indeed, the highest honor the profession has to give — came during the 61st AARC Congress in Tampa, FL, when he received the Jimmy A. Young Medal for his lifetime of service to the AARC.
“The greatest personal achievement would have to be receiving the Jimmy Young Medal,” said Galvin. “I sat in the audience for 30+ years and heard the names of so many of my dear friends and colleagues called out and watched them come to the stage and talk about their passion for the profession. Being in the same company with them was humbling, as I know full well that there are many, many more deserving individuals. But being recognized by one’s peers — well, it remains one of the highlights of my professional career.”
Even though he is still teaching a class at GMU, Galvin says he misses his day-to-day contact with his faculty in the respiratory care department and all of his other colleagues at the university. “I established some great relationships over the years, and not seeing them on a daily basis saddens me,” he said. “They are like family.”
He sings the praises of the Sisters of Mercy, who oversee the university, noting what exceptional teachers they are, in addition to being good role models for humanity as a whole. And he cherishes the time he was able to spend with all his students over the years.
“I have met literally hundreds of students over my 40-year tenure, and with few exceptions, they have been eager to learn, develop their personhood, and transition to professionals making a difference on the front lines of patient care,” said Galvin. “I will truly miss them.”
Galvin says teaching those students was at the center of everything he did during his career in respiratory care. Still, learning was just as important, and that’s something he’s planning to embrace in retirement as well.
“When I left GMU I took with me a sign that unobtrusively hung in my office that says, ‘Imparo Ancora.’ I will leave those of you reading this who are intrigued or curious to look it up,” he said. “It is a creed — a mantra of mine that I try to live by.”
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