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It’s nice to know when someone has your back. For Seph Naficy, M.D., who specializes in vascular and cardiothoracic surgery, that someone is actually a couple of colleagues who are at his side during procedures, standing by their devices, and ready to make changes at a moment’s notice.
They are Richard Smith and Kevin Bowman of Medtronic Inc., clinical specialists, but so much more. “They don’t just represent a powerful and innovative company,” says Dr. Naficy, “They have been very attentive with their support and availability.”
That means that at least one of them will be in the operating room during procedures that involve their devices, ready to consult if plans change. In the case of Paul Nolin (see story on page 10), that’s exactly what happened. “Our primary role is to discuss the case strategy, primary plans and a series of alternative plans with physicians,” explains Smith.
Medtronic was founded in 1949 as a medical equipment repair shop. Now it is a multinational company that uses technology to transform the way debilitating, chronic diseases are treated.
Smith and Bowman are based out of the Santa Rosa division, so they’re geographically close, which is a plus, says Dr. Naficy. Then again, they cover 44 hospitals in California and Hawaii, so they’re traveling a lot.
The advantage of doing 20 to 25 cases each month is that they make a lot of contacts with specialty doctors.
“Recently, Dr. Naficy consulted with a doctor from Baltimore via the Medtronic network regarding a specific patient he was treating. They can share direction, approach and strategy, and best practices,” explains Smith.
“These doctors are a special breed. They’re a subset of a subset of doctors. They’re highly specialized. They never stop learning, and they’re always feeding off each other for information. They’re constantly reaching out to the thought leaders in their industry to strategize on how to do things better,” said Smith.
Endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm repair has been around since 1990, when Juan C. Parodi performed the first one in Buenos Aires. Medtronic has had a number of devices in the pipeline for more than a decade, explains Dr. Naficy. “They are on the cutting edge.”
The devices themselves are made of nitinol, a self-expanding metal, and Dacron cloth, hand-sewn perfectly to fit the patient’s vessel. Physicians are able to place the device inside a patient’s vessel, and the heat causes it to expand to the appropriate width.
All measurements are handled via highly accurate CT scans and the Intervascular Ultrasound (IVUS) technology, which involves a catheter that takes images via ultrasound.
Devices are often placed in several pieces and conjoined during the procedure. It’s no cakewalk, but then Smith and Bowman are always up for a challenge. “I love my job,” says Smith. “We make a great product, we’re involved with a high-caliber audience who value our services, we’re treated well by our company, and we get to be involved in life-saving procedures. What’s not to like?”