Carlos Castro never intended to become an X-ray technologist. In fact, the McAllen, Texas, native never even intended to go to college.
“I’m a first-generation American, and college was a pipe dream,” Castro said. “There was just no money, so I went straight into the Marine Corps at 17 after I graduated high school.”
After serving four years as an infantryman, Castro moved to Houston in 1995 where his family relocated. He found a job with an employer that offered on-the-job welding training.
The warrior-turned-welder enjoyed his job, but he developed back problems from 12-hour days and six-day workweeks. Four years later, his doctors advised him to find a new profession.
“That’s when a doctor friend of mine recommended radiography. I’ve always dabbled in photography, so I became fascinated by the profession,” he said. “I took a bus and walked the rest of the way to HCC [Houston Community College] Coleman College and enrolled in the radiography program.”
Castro stayed on course until he graduated in 2002. He became an X-ray technologist and began working in a Memorial Hermann hospital trauma unit.
“I graduated at 29, so I felt I would be behind in the trade,” Castro said. “I made it a point to learn as much as possible and as quickly as possible. I really dove into it the first couple of years. I worked at the hospital on the weekends and a couple of acute care centers during the week.”
In 2006, representatives from GE HealthCare who witnessed Castro working in the operating room were impressed by his ability to comfortably speak and efficiently work with doctors. They offered him a job as an imaging specialist.
“I worked for GE from 2006 to 2009, and doctors would always tell me about their imaging problems,” he said. “That’s when I got the idea to go out on my own.”
Crafting a business plan
Castro developed a business plan to help doctors with imaging needs in the operating room and surgery suites, better preparing X-ray technologists in C-Arm mobile imaging. He would also rent and deliver top-of-the-line C-Arm equipment to surgical suites.
In 2009, a recession meant that banks were unwilling to lend Castro the $230,000 he needed for three machines and a delivery vehicle. He decided to take an $80,000 private loan to purchase one, new C-Arm machine and a used box truck.
“From then on, I was completely committed to my business. I would drop off equipment myself, and I would do the staffing myself,” Castro said. “There was a lot of tears, sweat and sometimes doubt, but I just took it one day at a time and with many prayers.”
Over the next five years, the entrepreneur successfully expanded his business with more clients, machines and satellite locations across Texas, including Houston and satellite locations in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth. His staff has grown to a team of 15.
With business flourishing, he added on in 2014 by creating a statewide staffing agency for X-ray and computed tomography technologists. Last year, he started an in-house training laboratory for medical device companies, students and technologists to practice C-Arm mobile imaging.
The healthcare professional and entrepreneur is grateful for the doors his education at Coleman opened in his life.
“Coleman has a great program, and it gave me a great foundation to go out in the field and prove myself,” he said. “My instructors were also my mentors, and they gave me the confidence to go out there and do the work.”
Helping the next generation
Castro visited his alma mater in October to give radiography students the opportunity to practice C-Arm imaging.
“I try my best to expose them to the C-Arm so they are prepared and comfortable when they’ll later need to use it in the operating room,” he said.
As a student, Castro never imagined he would find so much career and business success. He credits passion over ambition.
“If you have a passion for lemonade, you build a lemonade stand,” he said. “I used that same principle to do what I’ve done.”