My Other Life with Steve Zlotnick

PM360 recently spoke to Steve Zlotnick, PharmD, Principal Medical Science Liaison, Immunology at Genentech, about expanding his global reach with ham radio.

my-other-life_1016PM360: How did you get started with amateur radio?

My dad was an electrical engineer and I was always involved with electronics as a kid. I used to fix old radios and got involved with citizen band (CB) many years ago. Typically, CB is limited to a short distance, but when the sun spot cycle is high, radio signals can bounce off the ionosphere and I was able to talk to a station in Japan. That’s what motivated me to get my ham radio license. Ham radio has a lot more power and frequencies and I wanted to expand my reach around the world.

How have you been able to expand your reach?

I’ve talked to people from more than 100 countries. There’s also an international ham radio flea market, or Hamfest, called Hamvention in Dayton, OH, every year. It’s drawn about 40,000 to 50,000 operators from around the globe and I’ve met people from Australia, South Africa, Israel, Germany, and more. One of the coolest radio contacts was when my daughter had to do a report on a country and I got on the radio, found someone from that country, and she got a chance to ask questions for her report.

Did you build a ham radio or just buy one?

I built one radio myself many years ago, but they’re so technical and digital now that it’s very difficult to build them. Today, I buy it and try to figure out what all the digital menus and knobs do or just plug it into a computer and work off an interface.

What else has changed since you first started?

Integration into the Internet allows you to work your radio from San Francisco, even if it’s in New Jersey. But that doesn’t feel like radio to me. Also years ago, I could call in an emergency thru the radio patched into a phone from the road. But with cells everyone can do that now.

What do you like to do with radio today?

Public service, meeting new people, and making friends. I’ve volunteered at many multiple sclerosis bike tours and even the NYC Marathon as backup communications for the medical teams. I’ve provided communications as a control station or by actually getting on the road in what we called the sag wagon, which is a radio-equipped van. We get a call, “Hey there’s a biker down somewhere around this mile marker. Go find him.” And we do!

Also, my friends and I formed a radio club, and one of the things we try to do every year is go to Newington, CT, where the American Radio Relay League headquarters is located. And now that my son and his best friend are licensed, they join us on this mecca trip to this station where they have radios you’d normally never be able to touch or afford. It’s like driving a Maserati. It’s just unbelievable and a lot of fun!

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