Milton Little, MD, FAAOS | Linda Suleiman, MD
September 21, 2022
As a young surgeon begins to advance their career, grow their reputation, and gain national recognition, it is inevitable that they will receive additional attention from “Industry” and medical device companies. Navigating these relationships can be extremely daunting at first, but it is important to establish some career aspirations as that may guide your considerations for these relationships.
How do I get involved?
Everyone’s situation is a little bit different, but one way is to be open to observing and using implants, devices, and instruments from different companies. Often, following residency and fellowship we fall back into the things that we were trained on because of the level of comfort. Feel free to branch out and explore other companies because you may be able to learn about some novel products that can improve your fixation or eliminate gaps in your implant options. This doesn’t mean you have to dive into being an early adopter, but it means that you should keep your eyes open. This may open the door for the opportunities for cadaver or saw bone labs where you may be able to better explore implants and techniques rather than simply using them on patients without some more experience. Be sure to understand your city, state, and institutional regulations on participating in these courses.
Does my reputation matter?
Building a strong practice through great patient care and surgical skill is a critical step in starting these relationships. Company representatives, regional directors, and local physicians will see your work and occasionally even see your patients. Word of mouth from patients and those in the medical field really do matter. Establishing a strong reputation in your hospital and community will gain the attention of those managers in the region. Often, these individuals are responsible for helping to provide recommendations for implant development teams. Establishing these relationships will put you on the short lists to be contacted when new instruments and implants are developed. Being an innovator gains the attention of these individuals and may increase visibility and open the door for additional industry opportunities.
How do I get my great idea off the ground?
The stronger your reputation grows, the more your surgical skills flourish, the greater the opportunities exist. Be thoughtful and thorough with developing new ideas. You should understand your institution’s policies for intellectual property and grants, support, and funding which may be available for bringing your idea to fruition. If you are at a university, they may have stake in a significant portion of your innovation (up to 75% at some institutions), so please make sure you investigate this well in advance. Apply for patents early to protect your intellectual property and avoid someone else moving forward with a similar idea. Often, the relationships you have built through your previous product development, may foster additional support for bringing the idea to fruition. Follow through and trust your idea but recognize that gaining success will require significant time and effort on your part. There are no easy roads to success in this arena.
Industry relationships and opportunities are built through excellence at your craft. They can help you build a brand and niche if you are able to bring your ideas to fruition. This is an area that can allow you to have a large impact on patient care through innovation and ingenuity.
DISCLOSURES: Dr. Little Globus Medical, Consultant: Depuy Synthes, Committee Member: AO Fellowship Committee; OTA Membership Committee; OTA Diversity Committee; OTA Wellness Committee. Dr. Suleiman serves on the Northwestern Faculty and as a Depuy consultant.
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