Bret Hauser Meet The Innovators

The Medtronic Technical Fellow talks about an unwavering commitment to solving problems in a way that benefits the patient.

Bret Hauser grew up in Texas, and began his engineering career working on compressors and engine design. Now a senior principal R&D engineer for the Medtronic Enabling Technologies group, he focuses on surgical drilling and was recently named a Medtronic Technical Fellow.1

Q. Please tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Amarillo, Texas. My father was an agricultural engineer, which probably is where my engineering interest came from. He grew up on a farm and worked hard. His work ethic became my work ethic. On a farm, you learn to fix things. That’s what you do. So, I learned to fix things, too. I’ve always been a very mechanical person. I like the analytical process behind the engineering.

Q. What brought you to Medtronic?

In conversation with a headhunter, I asked about job requirements. I was told the project they needed someone for required solid engineering skills and wisdom. He said the medical device piece could be learned. So, when I joined the company, the first thing I did was buy a dictionary of medical terms. I learned that instead of front and back, we should refer to distal and proximal. My education about medical devices began there. I was excited to have a job that would make an impact on someone’s life.


Medtronic is the first company that I’ve been associated with where in-house technical symposia were offered.

Bret Hauser

Q. You’ve made significant improvements in the stability of one of the company’s drilling systems, largely by reducing vibrations in the hand piece. What would you like others to know about your approach to problem solving?

This is about using modeling and simulation to address a technical problem. Historically, this has been an empirical problem based on observation and experience, because models haven’t been available. The problem with vibration is that there isn’t a nice, linear response. Modeling and simulation help me sort all that out. 

Q. Where will the next breakthroughs come in surgical drilling?

There will be a whole raft of near-term breakthroughs, especially in the areas of connectedness and intelligence as we connect more elements with computers. We already have high-speed drills that are connected to navigation tools to enable surgeons to see where the drill is during surgery. We need continue to connect these different pieces and add intelligence for surgeons.

Q. In 2016, you chaired a session of the Medtronic Modeling and Simulation Symposium. What prompted you to take on that responsibility?

Medtronic is the first company that I’ve been associated with where in-house technical symposia were offered. Of course, we can always go to the public symposia that are held by various societies, but everyone has to be careful about what they share because so many in the audience are working for competing companies. The Medtronic Science Technology Conference and the Modeling Symposium don’t have that problem. They are great ways to learn details of so many different types of work.


DRM is a succinct way of saying these are the things we should do, and if we do these things right, we’ll not only have the right product, but we’ll also have the product that’s right.

Bret Hauser

Q. How do you respond to people who say Design for Reliability and Manufacturability2 (DRM) is just “good engineering”?

There’s an element of truth in that, but I don’t agree with the word “just.” DRM is good engineering, and it is the engineering that we all should be doing. DRM is a succinct way of saying these are the things we should do, and if we do these things right, we’ll not only have the right product, but we’ll also have the product that’s right. As engineers, we often focus on building the product right, making sure we’ve performed all of the reliability testing and calculations, but we pay less attention to whether or not it is the right product in the customer’s eyes. DRM puts a heavy emphasis on that.

Q. What are the top three lessons you would teach someone just starting out in the business?

  1. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.
  3. Find a mentor and a mentee. We often learn the most by teaching.

Q. What would surprise others to know about you?

I have a pilot’s license, but I am afraid of heights. This doesn’t bother me when I am inside an airplane, but it was a challenge one time when the door came open on take-off.

Q. What does the Medtronic Mission mean to you?

Several months ago, my mother had a Medtronic pacemaker implanted. I thought about the fact that there was a point in time when the device implanted into her body was an image on a CAD screen somewhere. Somebody had to approve a raft of drawings along the way. It can be easy on a day-to-day basis to look at that pile of papers and forget they make a difference in a product that really does impact people. We touch the customer with everything we do.


1

The Technical Fellows program was created in the 1980s to foster technical excellence within Medtronic by recognizing employees who contribute to the company through technical expertise, education, mentoring, and consulting efforts. Currently, there are more than 190 Technical Fellows within Medtronic.

2

What is DRM? Design, Reliability & Manufacturability — or DRM — is a Medtronic initiative aimed at improving product development outcomes including customer satisfaction, quality, reliability, performance, cost, and development predictability. DRM consists of a set of frameworks, best practices, and tools that optimize effectiveness and efficiency of product development through a predictive engineering philosophy.