Meet the Neurosurgeon Driving Spinal Innovation at DePuy Synthes
hen I began my career as a neurological surgeon, the patients were always what mattered most. Interacting with each individual one-on-one is critical to a successful outcome, and surgeons form a close-knit relationship with each person we treat. But there’s a limit to the amount of lives a single surgeon can touch. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. When I was building The Center for Spine and Brain Health at Affinity Health System in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we took care of about 2,000 patients in a year.
At the time, I thought that was a huge number. Today, I have a much different perspective.
At DePuy Synthes Spine, part of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, I have the opportunity to touch many more lives. It’s an opportunity I’d call “anything but ordinary.” You could say the same thing about how I got here.
Much of my early career looks like that of a typical neurological surgeon. After finishing my M.D. and Ph.D. at Duke University, I practiced as a neurosurgeon at institutions like the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare/Iowa Spine and Brain Institute and Affinity Health System/The Center for Spine and Brain Health. These roles were fulfilling, rewarding and definitely challenging. But I soon discovered that I wanted to have a much bigger impact than I could while practicing as an individual surgeon.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always done multiple things at once. In high school, I played both piano and saxophone. In college, I studied both music and zoology. In residency, I studied both clinical surgery and basic science at the National Institutes of Health. So it was only natural that I wanted to contribute in a way well beyond just performing neurological surgery.
Soon, I was helping build and develop neuroscience centers in Iowa and Wisconsin. These projects taught me a great deal, including showing me just how much I still had to learn, especially regarding the business side of healthcare. So I did something a little unconventional: I took a year off and earned an MBA at a physician-only program at the University of Tennessee. I learned a lot during that year. I also learned about what I could accomplish at Johnson & Johnson.
The Opportunity of a Lifetime
While I was working on my MBA, I started reaching out to other physicians who’d transitioned out of practice and into internal roles at medical device and pharmaceutical companies. I wanted to find out, among other things, what their experiences had been like and how they’d found their current roles.
I knew they were at a cutting-edge, research-driven company since I’d also used their products in my own neurosurgical practice.Share
Among the people I talked to were several physicians and surgeons who had taken leadership roles within various divisions of Johnson & Johnson, and found myself speaking directly to some senior executives within medical affairs. I knew they were at a cutting-edge, research-driven company since I’d also used their products in my own neurosurgical practice.
I soon found myself walking into my first day at DePuy Synthes as a new hire and it didn’t take long to realize that this was where I belonged. There’s an extremely high level of intellectual curiosity and collegiality here. It’s the kind of environment where everyone’s always learning—especially me.
Just a few weeks ago, I attended a working session where 35 young leaders like me sat with Johnson & Johnson’s CEO Alex Gorsky and other senior leaders for an hour. In most large companies, you don’t get access to the CEO at any level. To me, that’s an example of Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to developing young leaders and fostering innovation.
Personal Involvement, Global Reach
Today, I work with a variety of divisions at DePuy Synthes, including regulatory, legal and marketing. Much of my job involves providing deep clinical insights to the business and making sure every business decision is clinically informed and medically accurate. In laymen’s terms, this means it’s my job to make sure that the devices we produce meet the needs of the surgeons who’ll use them and the patients who need them.
I’m involved at every step of the development process on all our spinal technologies, but there are two products I’m especially proud to have been involved with: the SYNFIX® Evolution Secured Spacer System, a spine implant, used to treat degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine, or lower back, and the Zero-P® Natural Plate, used to treat degenerative disc disease in the neck. I personally used the first generation of these products when operating on my own patients, and soon after joining DePuy Synthes, I was the Medical Director directly responsible for launching their updated versions.
I realized that I had gone from being a single surgeon helping 2,000 patients a year to helping thousands of surgeons touch many more lives each year.Share
It may sound like a small thing—contributing to updates of just two products—but for me, it was both a humbling and eye-opening experience. I realized that I had gone from being a single surgeon helping 2,000 patients a year to helping thousands of surgeons touch many more lives each year.
The reach of what we do here is truly awe-inspiring, and we’ve got a responsibility to get it right. But we can’t do it alone. If touching millions of lives each and every day sounds like a calling to you, Johnson & Johnson would be happy to help you answer it.
If you’re ready to find a challenging, rewarding career with measurable positive impact the world over, we’d love to meet you. We’ve got positions available at Johnson & Johnson locations around the globe. Apply today. We can’t wait to meet you.