Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Surgical Tech EJ Imperial, Jr.
Sep 13, 2019 Kyle Beswick
Meet surgical technician Edilberto "EJ" Imperial, Jr.!
EJ is a music enthusiast and former chef who has been passionate about assisting surgeons and patients in the operating room ever since he was a surgery patient himself.
"Like with basketball, success as a surgical tech is about being a good team player."
We sat down with EJ to learn more about his life inside and outside of the operating room.
Why did you become a surgical tech?
EJ: I had my right kidney removed when I was 15. I couldn't play basketball and I was in the hospital for over 2 months. It was a really hard time in my life.
When I was in the hospital, a nun came to visit me almost every day. She used to come play the guitar for me, and she told me that music in your life will always make you happier. That led me to playing guitar even to this day.
Then, when I was a chef in my 20s, I blew out my ACL playing basketball and I got my knee repaired at Cedars-Sinai.
I was fascinated with how they were going to put my knee back together, and that inspired me to apply to medical tech school. I've been at Cedars-Sinai ever since.
I actually see my knee surgeon, Dr. Robert Klapper, around Cedars-Sinai once in a while. I thank him because I'm back to playing basketball.
Like with basketball, success as a surgical tech is about being a good team player. I love seeing my team come together and do great things.
What's your typical workday like?
EJ: A typical day starts with our morning huddle. Spending that time with my co-workers is one of my favorite aspects of the job. The staff is really friendly and we all get along really well.
Then I'll usually have 1-2 surgeries that I assist every day on the robotics floor. I really enjoy robotic surgery.
Our big responsibility is getting the operating room ready—making sure all the supplies, instruments, and medications are there and ready to go before every surgery.
Personally, kidney transplant patients are important to me because I was a kidney patient! I like to follow up with the patients and see how they're doing. That's a highlight for me.
What's your role during surgery?
EJ: My central role is being one step ahead of the surgeon—knowing which instrument the surgeon needs next, which suture is next, which step is next.
Also, being a patient advocate is important, making sure that the patient is safe and doing well. Everything is about patient safety, such as ensuring the medications are properly labeled.
What do you love about robotic surgery?
EJ: It's amazing to see the entire surgery in 3D.
I'm scrubbed in, sitting bedside, while the surgeon is performing the surgery through the robot. It's incredible to watch!
I'm just blown away by the technology. These procedures are minimally invasive and the surgeons are fun to be around.
"Surgeons are people too, so sometimes they need techs like me to help creatively solve problems in the operating room."
As a music enthusiast, how do you rate the operating room playlists?
EJ: There's always great music going on!
On Wednesday nights we'll have reggae playing to keep everyone relaxed and focused.
On Fridays you might hear Rascal Flatts—all types of music. It all depends on the surgeons and residents picking the music.
Music is really important to me. I play the guitar after a long shift in the operating room, so music is my safe haven.
I love sharing music with my friends and co-workers.
So you share your music, but what about your cooking?
EJ: I learned to cook in an Italian restaurant, so my co-workers ask me to bring in the pastas I make at home!
I love cooking because it's another creative outlet for me. As a surgical tech, you have to be quick on your feet and be creative with solving problems.
Surgeons are people too, so sometimes they need techs like me to help creatively solve problems in the operating room.