JAMES CHITTY (Continued)
He then accepted an offer from Chapman University's Semester at Sea Program, to travel around the world twice a year as the Director of their audio-visual programs.
Shortly after his new contract's ink had dried, he received a telephone call from his parents in Chicago. His 13-year old sister's two-year battle with an aggressive form of cancer was taking a bad turn. He put his future plans aside and went home to be with her.
An upbeat person with a "can do" attitude, Jim was a survivor who always landed on his feet. He just did know where his feet would land, back in Chicago.
A friend mentioned that American Hospital Supply, a large publicly traded corporation, was hiring.
"I figured I would work for them for a couple of months and spend time with my sister," Jim remembered. "But, when I arrived in this corporate environment, I felt like a fish out of water. It was, shall we say, a very quiet world compared to my television production days back in Los Angeles."
Yet, his fast learning skills combined with his outgoing personality led to early success at the international medical supply corporation.
Two years after starting his new Chicago career, he ran into Mary Howard, the young woman he had dated and taken to his college prom. Marriage and a family soon followed.
Fast forward to 1984. Jim had spent ten comfortable and successful years in Chicago working for American Hospital Supply. "One morning, I picked up the newspaper and read a review of a big budget movie that Thom Eberhardt, an old friend from my KOCE-TV days had directed. We got back in touch."
Talking to his director friend stirred up Jim's love of film and video production. Eberhardt said he should relocate to Los Angeles, if he wanted to be in the game. Six months later, Jim managed a corporate transfer to American Hospital Supply's large Southern California facility. Soon, he and his family were enjoying the L.A. lifestyle.
He began networking with his old entertainment industry contacts. Many of them were spending as much time looking for work as they were working. He quickly realized how risky it would be to try supporting his family with short-term production assignments. He decided to stick with his successful corporate position selling medical and surgical supplies and equipment.
Another decade went by and Jim had accumulated a 20-year track record of success, with a salary to match.
The creative Southern California environment energized his entrepreneurial spirit. He had accumulated the experience and know-how to start his own company. He also had the connections and business networks needed for a good shot at success. He formulated a plan to launch his own medical products company.
"I discussed it with my wife Mary, and she told me to go for it," Jim remembered.
So, in January of 1995 Jim launched Altomec with a line of surgical scissors. He soon had Altomec's name branded on high quality European surgical instruments. Johnson & Johnson became the exclusive distributor of the Altomec surgical scissors line for years.
When hospital representatives started asking him about repairing surgical equipment, he took action.
"I already had my finger on the pulse of surgical supply companies around the country, particularly the Midwest, where I had worked. In 2001, a small scope repair company closed their doors in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Several months later, I hired four of their highly skilled technicians. We started Altomec Endoscopy in a facility so small, I nicknamed it, 'Little House on the Prairie.'" Jim became a bi-weekly commuter on the L.A. – Kalamazoo flight route.
Today, that small company Jim founded with four employees has 20, located in Kalamazoo and Southern California. His new Vice President of National Accounts works out of Denver. His scope repair business reaches hospitals around the country through a network of 120 sales representatives.
"When I'm not traveling between Kalamazoo and Los Angeles, I am visiting our customers around the country, and squeezing in time to attend European surgical equipment conventions," he explained.
Recognizing the need to stay on the cutting edge of new surgical equipment designs, he and his team created their own rigid endoscope, the Infinity line. Hospital and clinical evaluations will start in June of this year.
"Our new scope is 100% made in the United States. It is designed to meet the exacting needs of our surgery clients," Jim said, " And it has been approved by the FDA."
(See next column)
Jim has another major focus in his life. He uses his specialized knowledge and his multitude of contacts to help others. "One of my greatest fulfillments is using my connections and networks to help provide medical goods to Third World countries who are in dire need of assistance."
When Jim decided to take his wife Mary and their children on a South African vacation, it was an eye opener. Aside from the natural beauty of the country, Jim and Mary witnessed the devastating impact of the HIV virus and AIDS at the Agape AIDS Center, a clinic and outreach center. His wife and he were so moved, they set about raising funds to construct the Jim and Mary Chitty Wellness Center in Paarl, South Africa. Today, impoverished AIDS patients rest and receive treatment at the facility.
His Project Lifeline Foundation has given away medical supplies all over the world. The multitude of items have included 100, 000 vials of a bronchodilator (to help asthmatics breathe), donated to the Mozambique Ministry of Health, furniture for 600 hospital rooms in South Africa, an ambulance to Kosovo, 1000 surgical instruments to Turkey, as well as medical equipment and supplies to the Cuban Council of Churches' Medical Commission.
Jim and his team are always considering new precision surgical products for the Altomec pipeline. He also has new support to round up for his list of charitable projects to help the disenfranchised, the sick, and the injured in various Third World countries improve their lives.
Jim Chitty's work will never be done.
"The James Chitty story is just another example of the wealth of talent that resides in our beautiful Ladera Heights. It is so good to know that he and his wife, Mary, share their hearts as well as their good fortune, to help improve the lives of others around the world. The story only touched on their benevolence, which begins right here at home, with civic engagement, and history of support of our neighborhood school, Frank D. Parent Elementary School.
I wish Jim continued success, especially with the launch of his own design of the Infinity line Endoscope. 'Made in America" is part of our community, and we are proud!"