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term is not entirely an exaggeration. In eight weeks, the fellows meet with 110 guest lecturers, including many leading lights of the local medical device industry like Bill Hawkins, CEO of Medtronic, Manny Villafana, founder of St. Jude Medical, plus numerous vice presidents, researchers, physicians, entrepreneurs, patent attorneys, and venture capitalists. “Most days, it was four lectures per day, two hours apiece,” said Vollmers. “You’d go home and your head would be exploding.” Next comes clinical immersion. The program takes advantage of the resources available at a major research institution. Fellows don scrubs and observe surgeries and accompany doctors on rotations. They visit medical device companies. The rest of the year is spent on identifying medical needs—the goal is 200 ideas—filtering them to a list of 20 and then drilling down one-by-one to devise solutions. “We dispel the myth that it doesn’t take that much work, and it just takes a great idea,” said Johnson. “We drill down the fact that it takes a ton of work.” Fellow Eric Little, a Ph.D. mechanical engineer and lawyer, was struck by the extent to which medical specialties were isolated from one another. “The number one surprise was the siloed-ness of the medical industry,” said Little, who became interested in medical devices when his 9-month-old son was diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss. “The cardiologists are very focused on the heart, pulmonologists are very focused on the lungs, and nephrologists are very focused on the kidneys. Many times, there’s not a lot of interaction between the various specialties.” On the bright side, that means those who can work across disciplines—as the fellows are trained to do— can see new possibilities. “It opens up a wonderful opportunity,” said Little, “because, if you can bridge some of those gaps, not only do you get better health care but you get some pretty neat products too.” Some fellows like to say the program gives them license to ask dumb questions, which may provoke smart answers. Christopher Scorzelli always asked too many questions in medical school—a habit that sometimes annoyed his instructors and classmates. “I was always directed away from asking too many ‘why’ questions—why do we do it this way? Why don’t we do it that way?—when I saw inefficiencies and problems treating patients,” he recalls. Scorzelli wasn’t a cookie cutter med student; he had worked as an artist and house remodeler before enrolling in St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. He also was a handyman with a knack for building homemade devices such as a contraption to hold a bottle for his infant daughter and a ski-borne baby stroller.

Medical Devices Fellow Christopher Scorzelli, who holds a doctorate of medicine degree, postponed his medical residency to focus on his long-time interest in medical device innovation.

The primary objective

of this program is to be smart about what you’re inventing.

–Christopher scorzelli

FALL 2010 INVENTING TOMORROW 11

Inventing Tomorrow, Fall 2010 (vol 35 no 1)  

Mid-career professionals spend a year innovating medical device solutions; Stimulus funds support faculty research; International alumni are...

Inventing Tomorrow, Fall 2010 (vol 35 no 1)  

Mid-career professionals spend a year innovating medical device solutions; Stimulus funds support faculty research; International alumni are...