Advice for building a medtech career inside a big company from BD CTO Elizabeth McCombs

BD EVP and Chief Technology Officer Elizabeth McCombs [Photo courtesy of BD]In the opening keynote for DeviceTalks Boston 2024 today, BD (NYSE:BDX) + EVP and Chief Technology Officer Elizabeth McCombs offered advice for building a medtech career inside a big company.

Reflecting on her 20-year career at Johnson & Johnson MedTech (the world’s second-largest medical device manufacturer) before joining BD, McCombs advised aspiring medtech leaders to strive to deeply understand customers and the clinical state “almost as well as the customer.”

“It’s easy in a big company to get internally focused and get caught up in the technology,” she said in a live interview with DeviceTalks Editorial Director Tom Salemi. “But when we take the time to define an important need and then solve it, that’s where the success comes.”

“We can get ahead of ourselves with our car…

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DeviceTalks and our team are finalists in the Software & Information Industry Association’s Neal Awards

DeviceTalks Editorial Director Tom Salemi (left) interviews BD Chair, CEO and President Tom Polen at DeviceTalks Boston 2023. [Photo by Jeff Pinette for Medical Design & Outsourcing]

DeviceTalks and the WTWH Media Life Sciences team — which includes editorial staff from DeviceTalks, Medical Design & Outsourcing and MassDevice — are finalists in the Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) 70th Annual Jesse H. Neal Awards competition.

SIIA calls the Neal Awards “the most prestigious editorial honors in the field of business-to-business journalism.”

DeviceTalks is a finalist in the category of best range of work by a media brand for our DeviceTalks podcasts, live events in Boston and California, and print and online coverage through MassDevice and Medical Design & Outsourcing.

DeviceTalks Boston 2023: Registration is now open for our life event on May 1-…

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Small patients, big design challenges: Pediatric device experts guide engineers on solutions

Abbott’s Amplatzer Piccolo — designed for catheter delivery inside an infant’s heart — is among the smallest pediatric devices ever made. [Image courtesy Abbott]

“What sets pediatric devices apart? It’s about giving children a chance at a full life,” said Dr. Lars Søndergaard, divisional VP of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Abbott’s Structural Heart division. “The solutions we design can’t just tackle the issue at hand — they need to enable normal development and stand the test of time across decades of life.”

Unlike the predictable anatomies of adults, young patients — some barely larger than the palm of a hand — are constantly changing, and those changes need to be accounted for in the long-term efficacy of the device. And though the challenges are substantial, the reward is immense. Successfully addressing an unmet need in pediatric care not only offer…

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January 2024 edition: The Leadership in Medtech issue


Opening the brain’s secret back door: A conversation with Synchron co-founder and CEO Dr. Tom Oxley

How Recor Medical won the renal denervation race for FDA approval

Medtech’s biggest personnel moves of 2023

Leadership and innovation in medtech

Creativity, energy, agility — those are three words Recor Medical CEO Lara Barghout used to describe the culture at the world’s first device developer to win FDA approval for hypertension-treating renal denervation (RDN).

You can add persistence to that list. Ever since its founding in 2009, Recor Medical and its team has been pushing to deliver a safe and effective RDN system. The seemingly long odds got longer as larger competitors pulled the plug on their own programs — or in Medtronic’s case, pushed on despite clinical trial failures and won approval shortly after Recor.

Our annual Leadership in Medtech issue of Medical Design &a…

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Here’s our medtech events calendar for 2024

The show floor was bustling in May 2023 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center during DeviceTalks Boston and its companion Robotics Summit & Expo. The events drew nearly 4,000 people. [Image courtesy of Jeff Pinette for WTWH Media]

Medtech events have a new energy to them after the COVID-19 pandemic as industry insiders once again seek opportunities for in-person networking and learning.

Here are medtech events that we’ll be following and attending in 2024, including our own DeviceTalks conferences and expos.

JPM Annual Healthcare Conference (JPM 2024) Jan. 8–11, 2024 The Westin St. Francis San Francisco

CES 2024 Jan. 9–12, 2024 Las Vegas

MD&M West Feb. 6–8, 2024 Anaheim Convention Center Anaheim, California

AAOS 2024 Annual Meeting Feb. 12–16, 2024 Moscone Center San Francisco…

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New DeviceTalks series with MedtechWOMEN indicates a shift in medtech leadership

See more so you can be more in this new DeviceTalks web series.

It’s 2007 and I’m lost in a sea of shoulder-to-shoulder blue and black suits, nearly lifting out of my seat to try and see the stage over row after row of people, all easily a foot taller than me. It was my sixth medical device conference that year, and I was there to learn from the most experienced, most successful, and most influential members of the medical device community.

But I couldn’t see.

It wasn’t just that I couldn’t see the stage. It was what I should have seen but didn’t: me.

Nearly 30 panel sessions into my new career, and I never once saw myself on that stage. Not until Amy Belt Raimundo (then a VP at Advanced Technology Ventures) took center stage — or, more accurately, owned center stage.

Until that moment, I never realized the true weight of the saying, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

It’s been my personal mission since then to create oppo…

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Four steps medtech startups can’t put off

Greenberg Traurig shareholder Ginger Pigott [Photo courtesy of Greenberg Traurig]

Developing and commercializing a new medical device is a success worth toasting for medtech startups — but that success also makes it more likely that litigation is in their future.

There are steps medtech startups can take to protect themselves down the road, said Greenberg Traurig shareholder Ginger Pigott, a litigator who defends major medical device manufacturers in court. She also advises medtech startups on early decisions and strategies that could have major ramifications down the road.

Pigott and two other women — Greenberg Traurig lawyer Miki Kolton and Fogarty Innovation Chief Innovation Officer Denise Zarins — will offer their expertise at our DeviceTalks West show in an Oct. 18 panel, “Going the Distance: Building Startups to Last.”

Pigott offered a preview of the panel for Medical Design &…

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Two technologies that will be huge for robotic surgery, per Intuitive’s Dave Rosa

Intuitive President Dave Rosa [Photo courtesy of Intuitive]

Intuitive Surgical President Dave Rosa says he doesn’t get too excited by the idea of better robotic surgery graspers or more flexible wrists.

Instead, Rosa identified two technological opportunities that are going to advance surgical robotics and minimally invasive surgery in a major way: improved visualization for surgeons and focal therapy.

“How can we help surgeons see more about what they’re doing? … That, to me, is a huge piece of the puzzle going forward that I’m really excited about,” Rosa said in an interview with DeviceTalks Editorial Director Tom Salemi for our Intuitive Talks podcast.

DeviceTalks West: Intuitive President Dave Rosa will give a keynote interview in Santa Clara, California on Oct. 19 

Improving visualization

The difference between the best and worst surgeons isn’t…

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Find solutions to your most demanding medtech problem at DeviceTalks West

Add some essentials to your toolbox with engineering expertise from our upcoming show in California.

Intuitive President Dave Rosa will give a keynote interview at DeviceTalks West 2023. [Photo courtesy of Intuitive]

In the medical device industry, stubborn problems can cost millions in development expenses and delay the introduction of new life-saving tools and technologies.

That’s why we build our DeviceTalks meetings as a forum where successful medical device engineers, manufacturers and market-builders can share their best practices, providing solutions that help clear hurdles, speed product development and potentially save lives.

DeviceTalks attendees leave our meeting with notebooks full of critical advice and pockets full of business cards. We’ll help fill both at DeviceTalks West, which takes place Oct. 18-19 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. You can view the full agenda on our…

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July 2023 edition: Life-saving LVADs, supplier innovations and AI breakthroughs

LVADs save lives: So why aren’t more available?

What’s new in 3D printing: medical devices, research, innovation, automation and partnerships

AI breakthroughs in medtech: 7 ways to enhance healthcare

Life-saving LVADs, supplier innovations and AI breakthroughs

Kyree Miller recalls the day his heart stopped beating.

“I remember the entire room going white,” he said. “And I actually turned over on my side and I said, ‘Tell my mom I love her.’”

A couple of weeks later, the heart failure patient — who was only in his 20s at the time — received his first left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implant while he waited for a heart transplant. One year passed, then two, then three. Finally, after surviving on LVAD technology for seven years, his new heart came.

“When you get your transplant, there’s a whole new energy that you get. … But I can honestly say there was a whole new energy that I got when I had my LVAD,” Miller said.

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Artificial intelligence: What medtech’s top influencers think

Artificial intelligence’s effect on medtech was a question that came up continually during our DeviceTalks Boston show in early May.

Here is what some of the top influencers in the industry had to say:

Boston Scientific CEO Mike Mahoney [Photo courtesy of Boston Scientific]

Boston Scientific CEO Mike Mahoney on artificial intelligence and medtech

“I’ll give you some practical applications. … We have manufacturing plants around the world, and we have great quality systems, and we have great quality engineers who inspect everything, and we have a zillion microscopes looking at every little product that we have all over the world. Our team is leveraging AI capabilities for visualization inspection rather than the human eye constantly doing that with the mistakes that are inherent and scrapping products and so forth. … We’re seeing cost productivity and better quality by just leveraging AI in our…

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Boston Scientific’s Kathryn Unger on how to stand up an ESG program

Kathryn Unger is VP of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at Boston Scientific. [Photo courtesy of Boston Scientific]

Kathryn Unger, VP of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at Boston Scientific, joined the medical device developer and manufacturer in September 2022 to form the ESG team.

“The patient is and must be at the center of everything we do,” she said DeviceTalks Boston in May. “We’re constantly trying to ensure that we have the absolute best patient outcome, from a risk-to-the-patient perspective, period. That has to be our guiding principle, right? However, that’s not an excuse to not improve the design of our medical devices. … There has to be product stewardship that starts before you get to the manufacturing piece. And that design needs to be circular and consider the full life cycle.”

Unger had advice for companies that want to launc…

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