As busy practicing physicians, we often have novel ideas for medical devices and techniques. Unfortunately, we usually lack the time and expertise needed to translate these ideas into clinical practice. But despite these limitations, we remain a valuable resource to government and industry. It troubles me to see this resource so rarely tapped by the powers that be.
There are ways, however, to have a voice in technology development. In 1995, I was a founding member of a Boston group called CIMIT (Center for Innovative Minimally Invasive Therapy). We began as a small group of practicing physicians who met weekly to exchange ideas. The group included a gynecologist (myself), general surgeon, urologic surgeon, interventional radiologist, and a gastroenterologist with an interest in lasers. Because we all shared an interest in minimally invasive therapy, we came up with several novel product ideas. Our hospital supported this concept of breaking down the silos and gave us the financial support to expand.
CIMIT has grown considerably over the years and is now a consortium that is funded mostly by the federal government and includes physicians and engineers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Newton Wellesley Hospital, MIT, Draper National Labs, and over 50 industrial partners. The consortium's primary mission is to link the clinicians who really understand the clinical problems faced in day-to-day practice with the engineers and financiers who can solve these problems and translate the ideas into useful, marketable products.
Like the physicians who make up CIMIT, several of the experts who contributed to this special issue on technology have found innovative ways to work with industry to bring novel products to market. Dr. Larry Demco from the University of Calgary has worked with Karl Storz Endoscopy to help develop a novel light source that detects endometriosis. Dr. Peter Rosenblatt and Dr. Samantha Pulliam from Harvard have worked with several companies to develop novel products that can benefit clinicians who specialize in urogynecology. And Dr. Yona Tadir from Tel Aviv University has an impressive background as a true pioneer in the field of lasers in medicine. In his article, he describes a unique program sponsored by the Israeli government that promotes the merging of clinical problems with technological solutions. The technology detailed in his article is a direct result of this program.
Gone are the days when academic physicians had their institution's financial support to put aside time dedicated solely to clinical or bench research. As the examples in this issue show, clinicians will have a far greater impact on the future of medicine by developing strategic partnerships with government and industry.
Keith Isaacson. Editorial: Turning creative ideas into innovative hardware. Contemporary Ob/Gyn Apr. 15, 2004;49:6.