Key insights and takeaways from the 2022 Howe Lifetime Achievement Award winners
Each year, we’re proud to recognize individuals whose achievements in technology and innovation significantly contribute to healthcare through the Wesley J. Howe Awards for Science and Technology. These awards, named in honor of Wesley J. or “Jack” Howe, whose 40-year tenure with BD included his leadership as President and CEO, reflect the ideals he exemplified and his legacy of creative excellence and execution in breakthrough technologies.
We asked this year’s winners in the lifetime achievement category—Jürgen Dorn, associate principal R&D engineer; Weston Harding, associate principal engineer, product development; Ron Pettis, senior director, clinical translational research; James Price, director, R&D molecular development—to share some of their motivations, secrets to success and life lessons as they look back over their long, impactful careers.
- What made you want to work in Med Tech/Healthcare?
PRICE: I love science, so the ability to apply science to improving the health and lives of others is both motivating and rewarding. So many health issues have a chance to progress too far before they are detected and treated. Knowing that my colleagues and I have been working to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering has brought a great sense of purpose throughout my 33 years at BD.
DORN: It’s always been in my nature to seek to understand how things work and to solve technical problems. Early on, a hands-on approach—taking things apart and putting them back together—gave me a foundation upon which I could put ideas in practice to prove theories and reduce improvement cycles. After embarking on a career in MedTech, I found it fascinating to interact with physicians in the operation theatre, learning what needed to be improved for better patient outcomes.
HARDING: I’ve been with BD for nearly 28 years. Originally, I wanted to work in MedTech, because I saw it as a more stable industry than others. After working at BD for a number of years, I had an opportunity to move to a consumer electronics company. That opportunity really underscored how important it was to me to remain in the healthcare industry where I could have a greater impact on people’s health.
- What innovation(s) are you most proud of and what impact did it provide for healthcare?
PETTIS: Looking back over the years, I'm most proud to have had a fingerprint on products that have ultimately made it to market and impacted literally millions of patients. What does that impact look like? Helping patients effectively manage chronic disease or helping to reimagine a patient’s experience in a hospital with breakthroughs like the PIVO™ Needle-free Blood Collection Device, which enables a "One-Stick Hospital Stay" vision. However, I'm also proud of technologies that amounted to false starts and can think of many examples of how these “failures” continuously expanded our total body of knowledge at BD. Applying those learnings strengthened our ability to innovate in completely new areas and impacted numerous subsequent programs.
PRICE: It’s difficult to pick just one, but I’d say I’m most proud of being a part of the evolution of many of our molecular products. Diagnostic testing plays a critical role in clinical decision making. BD’s first molecular assays were robust but required significant user interaction and manual manipulation. Over time, and through some innovative approaches, many of our molecular diagnostic instruments have evolved to become fully automated and user friendly to enable clinical labs to accomplish more in less time and with fewer resources, so that, ideally, labs can deliver accurate results to healthcare providers to aid in diagnosing patients sooner. Most recently, I was excited to be part of the team working to extend the capability of our sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests to additional specimen types, including self-collection. I look for this to expand the use of these products, thus enabling a broader population access to diagnostic testing.
HARDING: I was blessed to be able to help design and develop a needle tip safety device designed to prevent the catheter adapter and the tip shields from separating until the catheter has been fully advanced. Then it shields the needle tip to protect a healthcare worker from a sharp, contaminated needle. The same “V-clip” safety technology is currently used on several safety catheters or closed IV catheter systems.
- What made BD the kind of company where you’d want to dedicate your life’s work?
PRICE: The people. Any one of us could not achieve alone what we do together. Collaborating with, and learning from, associates from various disciplines, functions and diverse backgrounds makes BD a place where we can continue to grow and develop no matter how long we’ve worked in this industry. BD’s focus on high ethical standards and doing what is right is also a motivating factor, as it helps to instill a growth mindset in associates and reminds us of our goal of improving patient outcomes.
DORN: I really had the feeling like being in a family culture. We all work close together. We help each other. We all are working toward the same goal, which is reflected in the products we deliver to healthcare providers and patients.
PETTIS: Without a doubt it's been the people and teams that it's been my pleasure to work with over my 25 years at BD. I've run the gamut from an early industry trainee straight out of academia and learning at the hands of some very seasoned professionals, to having the opportunity to mentor and coach many new up and coming leaders. I can honestly say that I've learned much from each and every one of them regardless of our relative roles.
- What advice would you give your childhood self about a career in MedTech innovation?
HARDING: I would advise my childhood self to do three things. First, work hard at my engineering studies—they provide the foundation for understanding how to make things work. Second, study how everything else already works in all industries, both in and out of MedTech–it provides the database and inspiration on how things are done. Third, keep a vivid imagination—it is the key that allows you to use your engineering skills and database of knowledge to innovate and create new thing that no one has done before.
PETTIS: Always keep trying. It's a very complex and often convoluted process to ultimately achieve something that can work consistently for millions of patients, when used by thousands of caregivers, in potentially billions of different ways. Never underestimate all the possible permutations that need to come together to find that specific “Goldilocks” combination. But also remember that everything that doesn't work ultimately gives you a lead on something that may work.
DORN: Through a career in MedTech, you’re continuously growing and can find a great sense of purpose. Having been with BD for more than 23 years, I can tell you that there will be no shortage of challenges you can turn into opportunities to help people living with diseases or otherwise improve their lives.
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