Outreach Messenger: Marketer Bobbie De Los Santos helps bring “Bones” to the Witte Museum

Just as the knee bone’s connected to the thighbone, Bobbie De Los Santos has a personal tie to the exhibit she helped bring to the Witte Museum. That’s “Bones: An Exhibit Inside You,” created by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and presented locally by Advanced Medical Imaging, the San Antonio-based company De Los Santos serves as marketing director. Opened here in February (with Lilly, Mission Pharmacal and the National Science Foundation as co-sponsors), the exhibit takes a look at the way bones work and how to keep them safe and healthy.

With a background as a technologist (including nuclear medicine, ultrasound and mammography), De Los Santos has seen her fair share of skeletons along with other interior body parts. But it was during her own son’s recovery from an injury that she caught a glimpse of young patients’ inner feelings about the procedures and equipment used in settings like her company’s clinics.

While attending a professional conference in Chicago, De Los Santos stopped to examine an exhibition of children’s drawings of what they remembered of diagnostic imaging. As a professional as well as a parent, she says, “I found myself reading every word and studying every drawing.” With few exceptions, the crayoned pictures showed the same thing over and over again: “huge machines and tables with a tiny figure in the middle of the table,” says De Los Santos. “One drawing had teeth on the X-ray tube positioned above the child.” Though most drawings weren’t as extreme, she says, “In my mind, none of them should have been.”

On the same trip, she saw an airport promotion for “Bones.” De Los Santos remembers thinking that Boney, its skeleton/guide character, gave a friendly face to some hard information about bone health; she hoped the traveling show would make it to San Antonio someday, so she could take her own younger children.

A few months later, the lesson she’d learned at the conference was brought home, after her son Matthew, 11, suffered a serious knee injury in a trampoline accident. When Matthew had to go for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, says De Los Santos, “He hopped up on the table, lay down, had his scan and never gave it a second thought.” De Los Santos – whose husband Armando also is a technologist with Advanced Medical Imaging – was struck by the difference between Matthew’s reaction and those of the children whose drawings she’d seen in Chicago.

With two parents who had been able to prepare him for what would happen at the imaging center, Matthew had felt much more comfortable than many patients of any age. “I asked myself, ‘What is the difference?’ Knowledge makes the difference,” says his mother, who made a mental note to emphasize public education further in her next marketing plan.

Soon after, the Witte approached Advanced Medical Imaging for title sponsorship of the “Bones” exhibit. “It was a good fit,” says De Los Santos. “We do a lot of pediatric imaging, and we are also the Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital radiologists. So pediatrics is very important to us.” The company already had donated wheelchairs to the museum for the use of visitors with mobility impairments. It was time to increase not only Advanced Medical Imaging’s contribution but also its visibility, thought De Los Santos and the group’s steering committee.

Bringing the exhibit to San Antonio would help chip away at the fear factor among potential patients, they agreed. At the same time, event sponsorship looked a like a big part of the company’s marketing future.

“Physician referrals are not the only way to go anymore,” says De Los Santos, who has addressed fellow radiology marketing professionals on this topic. “People have more of a voice in their care now. They can make their own choices. We want them to know that if they’ve had a good experience at an imaging center, or know of someone who has, they might be able to ask to go there for the procedures their doctors order.”

Author: Paula Allen

Photographer: Liz Garza Williams

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