Hands-on involvement in medical technology
leads to stable & useful careers
“There are many pieces to the puzzle when you’re running multiple projects, so life as a project engineer can be hectic.” – Peng Ng, Stryker Endoscopy
“All my professional life has been related to work which ultimately will make people’s lives better, save them or cure them.” – Martin Gonzalez, Talecris Biotherapeutics
By Laura Gater
Healthcare-related companies in areas like medical devices, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology tend to respect and value diversity. They draw on engineers and IT specialists from many different cultures and backgrounds in their worthwhile and profitable mission to develop products to improve and sustain human health. Many companies in the medical technology arena are intrinsically multicultural, as they operate in a number of countries around the world.
Lori Cornin, associate HR director at Gen-Probe (San Diego, CA), speaks for many in her industry as she notes that her company values diversity. Diversity, she reflects, “is expressed through the blend of similarities and differences in employees’ skills, educational backgrounds, cultures and life experiences, as they work together to achieve the common objective of enhancing our ability to create quality products for our customers.”
Dr Ramiro Castellanos: engineering director at Baxter International
Ramiro Castellanos, PhD is a director of engineering on the applied science and technology R&D team at Baxter International Inc (Deerfield, IL). He grew up in Mexico and completed his 1991 BSEE at the Minatitlán Institute of Technology (Minatitlán, Veracruz, Mexico) and a 1993 MSEE at the National Center for Research and Technological Development (Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico). Then he moved to Texas Tech University where he earned a 2000 PhD in EE.
He went to work as a researcher for Semiconductor Technologies and Instruments (STI, Plano, TX). When he interviewed for the job, the company was the process automation control division of Texas Instruments, but by the time he came aboard it had become part of a corporation based in Singapore.
In 2002 he moved to a systems engineering post at GE Healthcare (Waukesha, WI). His responsibilities were to support manufacturing, systems and algorithms teams as the image quality lead for a new computer tomography introduction, making sure the devices met users’ requirements. In 2006 he became systems engineering manager while continuing to design software.
His manager at GE was his mentor, supporting him and challenging him to learn and grow in systems and software design, manufacturing quality and supply-chain management. Then the manager moved to Baxter International, which specializes in areas like medical devices, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. In 2007 Castellanos joined him there.
Today, Castellanos and his team of ten work on sensing platforms, wireless communication, control systems and all-
electrical systems. “There are different ways to communicate data, and one is by using wires,” he explains. “Many communication devices are set up around patients’ beds. We want to avoid wires around patients, so we are trying to find a way to send data from wireless medical devices.”
This, of course, is design for the future. “I’m working on technology platforms that probably won’t be used or applied for five to ten years from now,” he points out.
Eight of Castellanos’ team members are from overseas: India, China, Hong Kong and Greece; and one is a woman. Baxter managers are encouraged to mentor their employees, and a company-wide mentoring program is in the pilot stage.
“A diverse and inclusive environment is a critical foundation for innovation and business growth,” says Robert L. Parkinson, Jr, Baxter’s CEO and president. “Organizations that embrace inclusion at all levels are positioned to provide rewarding careers as well as superior business results.”
Holly Hillberg is CTO and VP at Carestream Health
Holly Hillberg locked into her future career in junior high school, when a woman engineer came in to speak about her profession. Hillberg went on to Michigan Technological University for her 1983 BSChE, and then completed a 1987 BSEE at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT, Rochester, NY), graduating first in her class. In 1992 she got her MSEE from RIT, and in 1983 she began working at Eastman Kodak Co (Rochester, NY).
Kodak exposed Hillberg to many different people and cultures, and gave her experience in engineering, marketing, operations and general management. It opened many exciting doors and put her in a position to take the important job in healthcare that she now has.
She started as a development engineer in the copy products division and went on to senior manufacturing engineer, senior development engineer, product marketing manager, product line manager and strategic business manager in the office imaging division.
Then she moved to director of business planning in CD imaging, general manager of an online imaging service, program and commercialization manager for business imaging systems and, in 2001, director of Kodak’s engineering technology center for R&D. In 2006 she was appointed director of corporate engineering and VP of R&D.
At that time Carestream Health (Rochester, NY) was a unit of Kodak, the Kodak Health Group. Hillberg was part of the executive leadership team for the unit, and she helped engineer its sale to Onex Corp, and then the establishment of Carestream Health as an independent company. She led the development of R&D, manufacturing and IP functions in the company, and its transition to a lean new organizational structure.
Hillberg has been CTO of Carestream Health, Inc since day one. She has leadership responsibility for a global team of R&D pros working on creation and commercialization of digital imaging and IT solutions for healthcare institutions worldwide. She has strategic and operational responsibility for more than 800 R&D techies in twelve locations, and is responsible for technology and intellectual property strategy, research, innovation and key commercialization efforts, as well as regulatory affairs, quality systems, environment, health and safety and more.
“I work with our teams to drive growth,” Hillberg declares. “We identify market opportunities, identify and deliver new products and are working to become more efficient. We work very closely with industry leaders in radiology and medical and dental imaging.”
In 2007 Hillberg was asked to take on the role of Carestream’s interim chief marketing officer. She moved the new company into global branding and helped with government and media relations, internal and external communication and Web strategy.
A long way from that junior high assembly that set her on her path! “It all comes down to being a great communicator, and making sure everyone on my team buys in and understands what we’re doing,” she says.
Hillberg loves what she does now and loves the opportunity to lead people and help them grow their capabilities. And, she adds, “I look forward to new opportunities that may come my way.”
Peng Ng is an R&D manager at Stryker Endoscopy
When Peng Ng was fifteen he came to the U.S. from Singapore to further his education. In 1984 he graduated from Mesa Community College (Mesa, AZ) with an associates degree in business.
But he thought an engineering degree on top of his business degree would put him in a better position to understand and respond to evolving customer and market needs. So after completing his service in the Singapore military he went on to Oregon State University and got his BSME in 1996.
He had expected to go immediately into an MBA program, but before he did he interviewed with Stryker Endoscopy (San Jose, CA), “just for the experience.” He was “dumbfounded” at the opportunities he saw there. He put his MBA on hold, although he still intends to earn one some day, and went to work at Stryker “because they had so much to offer.”
Ng has been at Stryker for twelve years now and finds it an amazing place to work. He likes his co-workers and enjoys applying technology to healthcare products.
He started as a design engineer, learning the fundamentals of bringing a medical product to market. He learned the documentation process, how to evaluate technologies and how to work with suppliers.
“Shortly after I started at Stryker I was given the lead role in designing our new video camera,” he recalls with pride. “It was a steep learning curve for me but my managers and mentors were very supportive and the collaborative culture here is instructive and motivating.”
In 1999 he was promoted to senior design engineer, then associate project engineer and, in 2003, project engineer. He was involved in launching multiple endoscopic video products, and his team won a new-product contest among all Stryker R&D teams worldwide.
“Running projects involves maintaining strict timelines and managing budgets, resources, technology and suppliers as well as building strong relationships inside and outside the Stryker organization,” Ng says. “There are many pieces to the puzzle when you’re running multiple projects, so life as a project engineer can be hectic.”
In 2006 he became manager of an R&D team focused on endoscopic scopes and light sources. Three-quarters of his engineers are from overseas: India, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, the Philippines and Singapore, and there are three woman on the team.
Throughout his career at Stryker Ng has had the benefit of mentors who were highly experienced people with remarkable records of achievement. From them, he reflects, “I learned to be a successful mentor myself. You must be a good listener and offer advice, but not the solution to a challenge.
“I was given encouragement and guidance that helped me come up with innovative solutions on my own. Now that I’m a mentor myself, I apply the same approach.”
Mark B. Lipscomb, VP of HR for Stryker Global Endoscopy, notes that the company “appreciates and respects the diversity of its employees and has created a culture of inclusion through leadership and teambuilding programs.
“Providing employees with the resources they need to thrive and succeed is a key part of our culture and is fundamental in achieving exceptional business results,” Lipscomb explains.
Allison Tripp is a development scientist at Beckman Coulter
Allison Tripp began her career at Beckman Coulter (Brea, CA), which specializes in diagnostics and biomedical equipment, with a summer internship. The internship lasted three months, and then she came in fulltime. She graduated from California State Polytechnic University in 2008 with a BSChE.
“One of my professors introduced me to a ChE alumnus working in the pharmaceutical field. It was through him that I was exposed to instruments from Beckman Coulter,” Tripp explains. “I didn’t want to go into petroleum, as many ChEs do, and some of my undergraduate projects were related to materials engineering for the medical field. So when I found out Beckman would be at the college career fair I took the opportunity to meet them.”
Today Tripp is working at Beckman Coulter on a new product which is currently in the feasibility phase. The product is a series of biomedical tests involving multiple components; the goal is to integrate all the components into one.
Tripp estimates that this huge project will last about five years. The product team is just at the beginning, determining feasibility, finding supporting documentation and getting other departments involved. The first phase of the project calls for lots of chemistry; in later phases engineers will configure chemistry to instrumentation. Other small teams will join in as the project advances.
Tripp notes that she’s the only one in the chemistry department with an engineering background. As an engineer, her perspective on a problem may differ from the others: all to the good.
Meanwhile she’s planning to apply to grad schools in the fall of 2010, most likely aiming for an eventual PhD in materials engineering with an emphasis on biomaterials. She hopes to continue and flourish in the medical field.
Kenneth Shipp: Medtronic Spinal & Biologics senior principal engineer
Kenneth Shipp did not start out thinking of medical devices, he just sort of “stumbled in,” he says. It all began when his father suggested a career in engineering because young Ken always did well in math and science. After graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology with a BSME in 1983, he went to work at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (Akron, OH).
He enjoyed three years there, but realized that his skill set as a tire engineer wasn’t very portable, so he decided to look for a job with more potential. In 1986 he joined Zimmer (Warsaw, IN), the orthopedic product and instrument maker, as a development engineer in a group which customized implants for patients. He moved up to senior development engineer; engineering manager; senior manager of applied technology, a research-oriented position with responsibility for making technology production-ready; and program manager/project leader for an alternate bearing project.
Ten years ago Shipp went to work as an engineering manager for Medtronic (Memphis, TN). He has held several positions at the company, all of them centering on product development.
“We take well-understood technologies and use them to develop new products,” he explains. “We rely on our product managers to understand customers’ needs, but a lot of times we also talk to customers ourselves.”
Medical device product development is a complex process. “There are tradeoffs between cost and customer requirements,” Shipp says. Regulations must be adhered to, the manufacturing staff want to modify the design so it will be easier to make, the sterilization group considers how the product will be cleaned, the packaging people want to know what kind of packaging the product needs. “We have to balance all their requests.”
He has been development manager, senior development manager, director and senior manager, and now he’s senior principal engineer. “My years of experience have prepared me for my current job,” he says. “Like any other profession, the more you do, the more you know.”
Most of his time at work is now spent independently reviewing projects as a second set of eyes on product development. He looks at what engineers have done on a project, comments on their work, and helps them figure out what to do if they’re struggling with a problem. “The marketing people can afford to be vague, but engineers can’t,” he says with a smile.
Shipp credits his mentor at Zimmer for teaching him about managing people, and his mentor at Medtronic for helping him weather industry ups and downs and organizational changes.
Shipp got an MBA at the Memphis campus of the University of Phoenix in 2006. His main focus was technology assessment. “I want to help companies figure out if other organizations’ technology is really viable and worth purchasing. Acquisitions are done mainly for the purchase of technology and I’d like to help companies in this area,” he explains.
Jim Price, senior manager of workplace inclusion and diversity at Medtronic Spinal and Biologics, notes that “Our business unit is moving beyond diversity toward full inclusion. Diversity has been at the forefront of Medtronic since day one. We offer our employees careers with a passion for life!”
Patricia Pomar: lean product development strategy at GE Healthcare
Patricia Pomar is strategy program manager at GE Healthcare (Waukesha, WI), a company that supplies products used in fields like medical imaging and IT, diagnostics and patient monitoring. Pomar graduated from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2000 with a BSME and is currently working on an MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business (Chicago, IL).
She joined GE Healthcare as a program manager in 2006, after a six-year career at General Motors (GM, Ypsilanti, MI).
At GM she began as a college-grad-in-training engineer, working to improve the fluid dynamic efficiency of automatic transmissions. As her technical expertise grew she moved on to release engineer for a transmission electrohydraulic controls module. A year later, she was promoted to lead release engineer for a new technology module with customers in China, Germany and the U.S. She also received the Women of Color award as a 2006 rising star of technology.
Now at GE Healthcare, she leads strategy initiatives that benefit product teams. “In essence, our strategy group looks at various aspects of how things are done and figures out ways of how they can be done better,” she explains. “Right now, I’m helping global teams get funding for their products. They have to gather a lot of information related to disease trends, market segments, customer input and service offerings. It’s a lot of work to get a new product funded,” she says.
She’s developed a strategy to help product teams see the entire life cycle costs of current products and determine the profitability of new products. She also developed a strategy to expedite product development in emerging markets. “We have many emerging markets in healthcare today, like Brazil, India and China. They are going to be our growth areas in years to come,” she notes.
Most of her product teams at GE Healthcare are global, and include at least a half-dozen people. Meetings are primarily via Web and teleconferencing with only the occasional face-to-face.
At GE Healthcare Pomar looks for mentors who emphasize leadership. She was recently selected to participate in a new manager development course at GE’s leadership training center in Crotonville, NY, and hopes to move to a role that involves more interaction with customers.
“It’s great to be part of the healthcare industry,” she says. “These products touch people’s lives and at the end of the day we go home with a real sense of accomplishment.”
Mordi Iheme is a senior
manufacturing engineer at Gen-Probe
When Mordi Iheme started at Youngstown State University (Youngstown, OH), he was planning on a degree in microbiology. After his first year he switched to ChE. After graduation in 1982 he lived and traveled in Nigeria for three years.
In late 1985 he took a temporary job in a chem lab at the University of California-San Diego. The next year he was hired as a formulation assistant at biotechnology leader Gen-Probe (San Diego, CA), where he formulated bulk solutions, processed solutions for cDNA synthesis and iodination, and maintained lab equipment.
He moved to production chemist I in 1988. Now he interfaced with R&D personnel to do in-process testing and identify and resolve technical problems.
He became a senior production chemist I in 1989. He designed scale-up equipment for the production of in-house chemicals, initiated pilot runs, identified performance problems and recommended solutions. In fact, he was recognized by Gen-Probe’s president for his contributions.
In 1990 Iheme became a senior production chemist II. In addition to his chemist I duties, he now helped with budget preparation and review of reports, worked to resolve technical problems, purchased equipment, assisted in planning and did process testing.
In the drought of 1991-1992 Iheme led an initiative to re-engineer Gen-Probe’s water purification system from reverse osmosis to ion exchange. City water is purified through deionization tanks now, which eliminates water rejection.
Iheme became a process engineer in 1993, and was promoted to senior manufacturing engineer, his current job, in 2001. His primary responsibilities today include managing the company’s five high-purity water systems and troubleshooting manufacturing processes. “High-purity water is one of the most critical raw materials in all our products,” he says. “We cannot make a single product without it.”
As the company grew, Iheme has seen the transformation of production from small-scale to large-scale operations. “When I joined the company we made our products in one- to fifty-liter tanks,” he says. “Now they are made in 8,000-liter tanks!” He’s proud of the important part he played in the scale-up operations.
In the past twenty-two years Gen-Probe has grown from fewer than 200 employees to more than 1,200, and Iheme is proud to have been part of its growth and product optimization.
Gen-Probe is proud of its multicultural workforce, half women and over 40 percent members of minority groups.
Jorgine Ellerbrock, SVP of operations, declares that “A diverse workforce lets organizations which value innovation, like Gen-Probe, tap into a variety of talent, perspectives and experiences. Ultimately this results in more creative problem solving, improved productivity and a richer work experience. Such diversity brings tremendous value to biotech companies.”
Brenda Roselle is a program test manager at Siemens Healthcare
Brenda Roselle graduated from LaSalle University (Chicago, IL) in 1987 with a BSCS and went on to a career in IT, working as a software, installation and technical support consultant. She worked for JP Morgan (Newark, DE) as a lead QA tester, for Citibank (New Castle, DE) as a QA project manager and at Cornerstone IT (Dallas, TX) as system integration training test lead, then support, QA and program manager.
In 2005 Roselle went to work at JP Morgan Chase (Wilmington, DE) as VP-QA manager. She managed a team of forty QA testers and was a key contributor to proof of concept automation. She was also a technical business analyst for Independence Blue Cross (Philadelphia, PA).
She joined Siemens Healthcare (Malvern, PA) as program test manager in 2007. It was her first experience with the clinical part of healthcare. That year she also completed her MS from Wilmington University (Wilmington, DE).
At Siemens, Roselle manages all clinical test projects for Soarian, Siemens’ Web-based health information system that helps hospitals manage enterprise-wide workflows more efficiently. She’s accountable for delivery of all Soarian projects, including planning, execution, monitoring, final quality recommendations and meeting project commitments globally.
Roselle assesses impact across projects to improve quality and efficiency. She works on test management consistency and efficiency to improve product time to market. She has implemented automation process improvements to reduce the cost and time of test execution and boost efficiencies across departments. She can call on people in various departments to get all this done, and she informally mentors other women at Siemens.
“My previous jobs involved QA, process improvement and knowledge of various types of software. These same skill sets enable me to provide positive impact on my job today,” she says.
Owen S. Moore, director of diversity at Siemens Healthcare, notes that “We live in a global village, and at Siemens Healthcare we view diversity as the inclusion of different thinking, cultural backgrounds, experiences, expertise and individual qualities across all organizational levels.
“Diversity helps our business by broadening our pool of talents, strengthening our global growth and creating more efficient and dynamic workplaces.”
Martin Gonzalez: senior scientist at Talecris Biotherapeutics
Martin Gonzalez is a senior scientist II in the formulation group at Talecris Biotherapeutics (Clayton, NC). “I am the formulator lead for several projects,” he explains. “I’m a member of several teams.”
He’s also headed up a large cross-functional group as R&D team leader for a new project developing a high-protein concentration liquid product. He led his own group and other groups as business required.
Gonzalez graduated from the School of Chemical Sciences (Cordoba, Argentina) in 1991 with an MS in biological and biophysical chemistry. One of his favorite subjects was instrumental analytics, about the theory and physical principles behind techniques used in biology, physics and chemistry.
He spent nearly ten years as an assistant professor at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina. He also worked at the school’s blood derivatives labs, doing early-stage formulation development for plasma-derived antibodies.
In 1998 Gonzalez moved to the U.S. to work in chemistry and biophysics at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD). His work involved characterizing DNA/protein interactions, and through it, he says, he acquired broader skills in structural characterization and stabilization of proteins.
In 2002 Gonzalez was recruited by Medimmune Inc (Gaithersburg, MD). His new work related to formulation of monoclonal antibodies, and he designed and developed various product formulations.
In 2005 he joined Talecris Biotherapeutics. He’s now leading new projects in the formulation group of the technology department.
“All my post-graduate time and professional life has been related to work with biotherapeutic molecules, which ultimately will make people’s lives better, save them or cure them,” he reflects.
His many technical skills were polished over the years by his exposure to technical challenges: the accumulated experience helps him hit the ground running on each new job or assignment.
In the future Gonzalez would like to have his own group and lead multiple projects. “I know I can make a difference and leave my own imprint on something that will endure through time,” he says.
Perhaps he already has.
DIVERSITY-MINDED MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES
See websites for latest openings.
|Company and location
|Baxter International (Deerfield, IL)
|Products to treat chronic and acute medical conditions
|Beckman Coulter (Fullerton, CA)
|Biomedical testing instrument systems, tests and supplies
|BD (Franklin Lakes, NJ)
|Develops, manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents
|Carestream Health (Rochester, NY)
||Medical and dental imaging systems and IT solutions;
molecular imaging systems
|Draeger Medical (Global HQ: Luebeck, Germany, US HQ: Telford, PA)
|Global medical device company
|GE Healthcare (Waukesha, WI)
|Medical imaging and IT, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies
|Gen-Probe (San Diego, CA)
|Nucleic acid tests (NATs) to diagnose human diseases and screen donated human blood
|Medtronic (Minneapolis, MN)
|Cardiac rhythm disease management, spinal and
biologics, cardiovascular, neuromodulation, diabetes
|Philips Healthcare (Andover, MA)
|Medical devices and healthcare services
|Roche Diagnostics (Indianapolis, IN)
|Diagnostic tests and systems
|Siemens Healthcare (Malvern, PA)
|Detection and diagnostic systems, IT, therapy systems, patient care solutions, laboratory diagnostics
|Stryker Corp (Kalamazoo, MI)
|Medical technology, orthopaedics
(Triangle Park, NC)
|Critical care treatments
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