Worthwhile careers are waiting in the expanding field of medical technology
High-tech instrumentation is part of the
picture; so is the IT that backs up every aspect of healthcare
“Bringing engineering and medical devices together to better care for patients
is fascinating to me.” Yashdeep Kumar, Stryker Corp
By Laura Gater
Important advances in medical and surgical technology are on the way, spurred by the growing needs of the aging Baby Boomer generation. Today’s more durable surgical implants offer an earlier solution to problems of aging joints. Minimally invasive surgical procedures, made possible by advances in high-tech instrumentation, are another highly appreciated product of the expanding field of medical technology.
Marvelous diagnostic machines back up the physician at every turn. And behind it all, IT folks manage QC and clinical data, coordinate the rollout of new products and support the business functions of their progressive companies.
Medical technology brings the medical disciplines together with engineering, science and, of course, business. The techies who work in the field come to it from a variety of backgrounds, and find great satisfaction in helping others live more satisfying lives.
Jia Ma works in diagnostic imaging at Mayo Clinic
Jia Ma began her professional career in 1994 as a radiology medical resident in Beijing, China. She added a BSCS after she came to the U.S., and successfully combined her medical interest with IT development. Today she’s an analyst/programmer at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN), working in the IT department’s enterprise imaging systems unit.
In China physicians learn to perform medical imaging scans, and Ma had the opportunity to develop test routines for new machines there. She was particularly interested in systems that combined digital images with communication (DICOM), and thought about combining her work in radiology with IT. So when her husband accepted a job at Mayo and the couple moved to the U.S., she took the opportunity to attend Winona State University (Rochester, MN), completing a BSCS in 2002.
Then she found a job at Mayo as an IT intern in the PACS/archiving unit, where she did a lot of very basic software testing. The next year she became an analyst/programmer, part of a team of five working together on problem-solving, sometimes along with the equipment manufacturer or the software vendor. There are at least twenty departments at Mayo with some or a lot of diagnostic imaging equipment, and none of them can afford to have equipment down, so it was a tense and responsible job.
Ma is currently working on an enterprise image archive, which stores imaging like computed tomography (CT), X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The quality control aspect of her job is essentially automated, but she and her team need to ensure that the application is always running and always checking and verifying patient data.
Every single image is sent to the system as well as to the clinical viewer, where doctors access the images. Ma supports the archive and checks it against an Oracle database.
The Mayo IT department has an enjoyably diverse atmosphere, Ma notes. Her manager is from the U.S., two co-workers are from India, and she’s currently mentoring an Indian man to bring him up to speed in the department.
There are plenty of challenges in her work, but “I don’t feel it’s because I’m a woman or because I’m from China,” she says. “Our customers in the DICOM system don’t always understand the IT aspect or terms, but helping them understand it is part of our job.”
Cheryl A. Wilson, in HR at Mayo, concurs. “Mayo Clinic leadership is devoted to promoting diversity as a strategic advantage,” she says. “It gives us access to the broadest pool of qualified employees, letting us recruit and retain the best talent.”
Mitali Aon is a biomedical engineer at BD
Mitali Aon is R&D manager for filled delivery systems at BD Medical, a segment of Becton, Dickinson and Co (Franklin Lakes, NJ). The systems she works on not only help improve patient care, but are enormously helpful to the hospital staff using them. Such fulfillment is very satisfying to Aon and her colleagues.
Aon earned her 1993 BS in biomedical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) and a 2005 MS in biomedical engineering at Columbia University (New York, NY). The dozen diverse techies in her group have degrees in biomedical, mechanical, chemical and materials engineering.
The team’s main focus is medical syringes pre-filled with saline and heparin solutions, used to flush vascular access devices during IV therapy. The use of pre-filled syringes diminishes the potential for cross-contamination and medication errors, and saves time for doctors, nurses and technicians.
Beyond creating new devices and taking concepts from design to the marketplace, Aon and her group continually work to improve products already in use. “We incorporate customer requirements into the features and specs of our designs,” Aon explains.
Aon’s team comes from varied professional areas, like medical devices, pharmaceuticals and consumer products. “We have a very dynamic group, and we leverage our diversity to meet challenges and get the best products,” she says.
Alisha Bergin develops orthopedic products at Smith & Nephew
Alisha Bergin’s dad was mechanically minded and saw that she had plenty of building toys and projects. “As I grew up I wanted to do something that would have personal impact on people,” she says. She settled on a career in medical technology, and today she’s a senior product development engineer in the orthopedic reconstruction division of Smith & Nephew (Memphis, TN).
“Implants are getting better,” she explains. “Physicians are able to utilize implants in younger patients because the implants are better and last longer. Improved design and materials come together to advance the patient standard of care.”
Bergin leads a cross-functional team that’s designing a hip device. The team includes manufacturing engineers, regulatory specialists, test engineers, research engineers and even people from marketing. Rigorous QC to ensure that design specs are met includes measurement with calipers, micrometers, precision gauges and more. “Each of our components goes into someone’s body so we have to be very rigorous. Each part we make represents the wellbeing of a person,” she explains.
Bergin’s current responsibilities include design and development of revision hip replacements, which she says is more challenging than the first joint replacement because of subsequent bone loss and other variables. She works with sales and marketing teams to answer their technical questions.
Her current project is a very comprehensive “platform” revision hip device. “To learn more about how to improve hip replacement products, the design engineers observe hip surgery. The surgeons identify the problems and we identify possible solutions.”
This particular product should be available soon; it is currently being reviewed by the FDA.
Bergin graduated from Mississippi State University in 1998 with a BSME. Her 2005 MBA is from the University of Memphis (Memphis, TN).
While she was at Mississippi State Bergin did a co-op at Baxter Healthcare Corp. After graduation she went to work as a project engineer for Exxon Co USA (Houston, TX). The work was interesting, but it didn’t hold her attention as medical devices had.
So the next year she moved to Smith & Nephew as a product development engineer, level II, and became involved in developing new hip replacement products, including implants and surgical instruments.
To start, she was putting together design input criteria, preparing drawings, coordinating prototypes and organizing testing. In 2002 she advanced to senior product development engineer, leading design development of hip replacement products.
Since 2005 she’s also been providing technical expertise to sales, marketing, manufacturing, quality and regulatory personnel and assisting the legal department with patent applications. Her current role is relatively independent, she notes, letting her take ownership of the various projects that she oversees.
Bergin was the only female ME grad at Mississippi State in her semester, and until recently the only woman in the hip engineering department. She enjoys the diversity of the group in the orthopedic reconstruction division.
Leigh Ann Stradford, Smith & Nephew VP of HR and internal communications, agrees that “diversity and inclusion allow creativity, and enhance our company’s ability to generate
Yashdeep Kumar directs Stryker’s global tech center in India
Yashdeep Kumar of Stryker (Kalamazoo, MI) directs the company’s global technology center in Gurgaon, India. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur, India) in 1993 with a BSEE, and followed it up with a 1995 MS in biomedical engineering from the University of Tennessee.
“In engineering school I saw that there were many specialty areas in software and electronics. The idea of bringing engineering and medical devices together to better care for patients was absolutely fascinating to me,” he declares.
Kumar’s father, a mining engineer, taught his son to develop things in a logical way. As he grew up Kumar realized he could also create a better environment through engineering.
After he completed his MS Kumar went to work for Stryker’s instruments division in Kalamazoo. He started as a design engineer and advanced to project engineer.
In 1999 he became project leader in the company’s Navigation computer-assisted surgery business unit. He led the global effort of R&D, engineering, operations and marketing to bring the first Stryker Navigation product to market. He was responsible for functional specs, regulatory approvals, clinical evaluation and pre-market launch efforts.
In 2000 Kumar became a tech sales specialist in the Mid-Atlantic region. He led the sales and tech support effort for the launch of ear, nose and throat, neurology, spine and virtual fluoroscopic Navigation products in his region, and also completed an MBA from the University of Michigan.
In 2002 he advanced to product manager for orthopedic Navigation. In this position Kumar was responsible for launching knee Navigation and promoting the first imageless Navigation system in the U.S. He also formulated market strategy across divisions for the implant product launch, and led global product development efforts to establish leadership in orthopedic Navigation.
He became group marketing manager of orthopedic Navigation in 2004. He developed a marketing team to support global business and cross-divisional efforts, and achieved a triple-digit growth rate in the U.S. for three consecutive years.
“Quality is very important,” he notes, whether writing a report, looking at product design, or communicating with others. “In every function we have to ensure quality control at the
In 2006 Kumar was asked to conceptualize and create a global technology center for Stryker in India. Today he has direct responsibility for nine managers and works with a team of sixty engineers.
“We try to engage people in what they do best: matching tasks and people, helping people grow their talent,” he says. “We have to do a lot of hands-on work with customers to understand what they need, such as making surgery go faster or go better, and translate that into project specs.”
Kumar notes that the need for Stryker’s products is increasing. People consider orthopedic joint replacement at an earlier age, so they can continue to lead a more active lifestyle.
Stryker has a great environment of formal and informal mentoring, Kumar says. He has worked with several mentors, and now he mentors others in Stryker’s culture of “constant coaching.” The idea is to “grow more people who will create more solutions that will impact more people.”
Mike Rude, HR VP, adds that it’s a fundamental part of Stryker’s business “to leverage the strengths and talents of all 16,000 Stryker employees. We aim to deliver on our business commitments worldwide to ultimately improve people’s lives.”
Christy Chen: business intelligence at King Pharmaceuticals
Christy Chen completed a BSEnvE at Jilin University in China in 1993, but she’s been in IT ever since. She’s currently project manager of business intelligence admin at King Pharmaceuticals (Bristol, TN). This pharmaceutical company develops, manufactures and markets branded therapies and technologies, focusing on specialty markets like neuroscience, hospital and acute care.
Chen’s first job was with Tianjin Chemical Co in China, where she worked for about six years. She rose to responsibility for the company’s database management. Then she got a scholarship to study in the U.S., and in 2003 she completed an MSCS at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY).
She started work as a software engineer at the University of Tennessee, then moved to Data Research (Knoxville, TN) where she worked in the software product cycle. She was developing and testing software, installing it onsite and training the customers.
Two years ago she joined King Pharmaceuticals. Today, as technical leader of the SAP business intelligence system, she’s in charge of system infrastructure as well as the reporting portal. She develops dashboards for upper management groups and reports for functional groups like finance, manufacturing, sales and inventory. She also administers the back end, “where we collect all the data sources and design the data architecture.
“I focus on quality at all times because of the level of impact my position has,” Chen notes. “We provide analytical tools that help upper management and the accounting people understand how the business is going.”
What’s next for this business advocate in the pharmaceutical industry? “I remain open to new things and have trust in management that they will help me reach my full potential,” Chen declares.
King Pharmaceuticals is very willing to help fulfill her trust. “This commitment is the very heart and soul of our diversity strategy,” states Mark Millwood, senior director of talent acquisition and diversity at King.
Shadwa Ibrahim: IT engineering at Siemens’ Medical Solutions
“The value of information is increasing,” notes Shadwa Ibrahim, who manages IT engineering at Siemens Medical Solutions USA (Malvern, PA). “There seems to be less resistance to taking on technology, and more interest in getting meaning from data.”
Since Ibrahim joined Siemens in 2006 as IT engineering manager, her major task has been reengineering business processes for the third-level support team. This work, she notes with pride, increased productivity and reduced operating costs by more than $50,000 a month.
Ibrahim’s third-level support team can total as many as fifty people, including support analysts, developers and account managers. Nine direct reports are based in Malvern and the remaining team members report to Ibrahim on a rotational basis, some from other locations. She was brought in specifically to reengineer the team’s processes.
There are two aspects of quality control in Ibrahim’s job. From the production side, she and her team deal with defects in applications, using feedback and internal regulations to make corrections. From the quality side, all processes must pass automated quality checkpoints
Ibrahim graduated from Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) in 1994 with a BS in biochemistry. She went to work at Centocor, Inc (Malvern, PA), a biotech and biopharmaceutical provider. As clinical data assistant, she reviewed protocols, case report forms and completion instructions.
She moved up to clinical dictionary coordinator. That meant managing the company’s dictionaries of proprietary medication and lab procedures; she also created a training program and standard operating procedures for the department.
In 1998 Ibrahim took a job as information specialist at CareScience, Inc (Philadelphia, PA), a company focusing on clinical quality improvement in hospital settings. She went on to operations manager, using her working knowledge of software development lifecycles and tools to coordinate the rollout of key products.
In 2003 she became manager of informatics, responsible for data supporting CareScience products and departments. The next year she moved to online analytical processing engineer and business objects developer, working in an Oracle database. She went on to senior software engineer, tech lead and configuration manager.
At Siemens, Ibrahim became part of the company’s “junior top talent” program. She was mentored by a senior manager, among others, and was recently asked to be a mentor herself. “My mentors taught me to take more ownership of my career,” she notes.
The challenges she’s faced have been related to her age rather than her gender. As she moved into her first management role, she recalls with amusement, “Some of the people I was directing asked me if I had enough experience for the position!”
With business processes well under control, Ibrahim would like to become an R&D manager at Siemens. “I believe in the products I’ve been supporting. An R&D role would be the next logical challenge,” she declares.
OPPORTUNITIES IN MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY
Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies.
|Company and location
(Santa Clara, CA)
|High-density microarrays and processing tools;
assays, reagents, instrumentation, data management and analysis
|Baxter International Inc
|Medical devices, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology for complex medical conditions
(Franklin Lakes, NJ)
|Defibrillation, ECG, stress, rehab, Holter and
cardiology informatics products
|Medical imaging and IT, diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, disease research, drug discovery
(Lake Forest, IL)
|Specialty generic injectable pharmaceuticals, infusion therapy and medication management products
|Branded therapies and technologies for specialty markets including neuroscience, hospital and acute care medicines
|Integrated, not-for-profit group practice
|Therapies and devices to treat heart and vascular disease, neurological disorders, chronic pain, spinal disorders, diabetes, and ear, nose and throat disorders
|Laboratory, manufacturing, distribution, IT and corporate HQ in support of five diagnostics business areas
|Siemens Medical Solutions
|Medical technologies, healthcare information systems, management consulting and support services
|Smith & Nephew
|Medical devices for orthopedics, endoscopy and advanced wound management
|Develops, manufactures and internationally
markets specialty surgical and medical products
Back to Top