Bakken Research Center
With 41 years of service – and counting, Paul’s full working career is with Medtronic.
In 1977, he started with employee number 052, and yes: a lot has changed since then!
Today, Paul is a Principal R&D Engineer at the Research & Technology department of the Medtronic Bakken Research Center in Maastricht.
As a Principal Research & Development (R&D) Engineer with a mechanical engineering background, I am responsible for frontier product and therapy development, which include discussions with physicians and marketing about unmet medical needs and new therapies. I also visit congresses to scan for future directions of the healthcare industry as well as the treatments. On a daily basis, I am the project manager and design engineer for different research clinical projects focusing on products, to study those new therapies or new product features and applications. Next to that, I also participate as a team member in larger development projects where I am responsible for the mechanical design.
I started in 1977 as a Technical Draftsman and got promoted to Mechanical Design Engineer a few years later. After 8 years in this job, I took on the position of
Packaging & Labeling Design Engineer at the time that local language requirements became mandatory for medical products. In 1989, I moved back into the field of product design again by becoming a Senior Mechanical Design Engineer, followed by a promotion to Senior R&D Engineer. After 19 years in this function, I got the opportunity to become a Principal R&D Engineer, and I still hold this position today.
Most challenging in my current role is discovering unmet medical needs and consequently coming up with medical and technical solutions. Once we have come up with a solution, we need to review it and file the new Intellectual Property (IP) to protect the idea. Currently,
I am the owner of 25+ patents for Medtronic. The next step in this process is to create the conceptual design and make sure that prototypes are manufactured to proof the technical feasibility of the concept.
In my current role, I am privileged to be able to collaborate directly with physicians; this helps me in capturing their and the patients’ unmet medical needs and converting these into requirements. Another element of my job which I really like, is that I get the possibility to be creative and innovative, and to launch new products or therapies which help the involved patients accordingly.
Medtronic gives me the opportunity to have a direct relationship with physicians and to collaborate with them. I have the freedom to accept challenges and to strive for an optimal treatment of their patients.
Medtronic – together with the larger healthcare industry and the healthcare professionals – strives to provide optimal treatment to patients and to improve the quality of life of as many patients as possible.
This is a question I find very difficult to answer because I have been with Medtronic for over 40 years. So much has happened in all these years, but I will list a few highlights here:
From a technical standpoint: the impact of the development of the single-pass ventricular dual chamber pacing and sensing (VDD) lead; this was the first cardiac lead within Medtronic having four conductors and electrodes, which created a valuable foundation for many quadripolar Medtronic pacing leads to be developed later.
From a clinical perspective: the impact of the research and development of the first cardiac left atrial and left ventricular pacing leads, which were the first steps towards the cardiac resynchronization therapy; this therapy is nowadays used to help treat heart failure patients successfully.
Most satisfactory: the design, packaging & labeling engineering and qualification activities during the development of the first heart wires, the temporary pacing wires designed for use during open chest surgery. I was involved in the entire process, from the early concept phase until the high-volume products which have been used on hundreds of thousands of patients so far.
What hit me emotionally: the close cooperation with several anesthesiologists and neurosurgeons to successfully develop and manufacture low-volume frontier electrical nerve stimulation leads, to help some of their most desperate and sometimes suicidal patients with extreme chronic pain, as a result of their trigeminal neuralgia or cluster headache.
The development of the pacing technology still amazes me. At the time that I started at Medtronic, physicians could only adjust the pacemaker rate by means of a screwdriver which was pushed through the skin of the patient into the pacemaker pocket. When looking at the technical and clinical features of our products nowadays, these almost seem like two completely different worlds to me.
I am proud that Medtronic offered me the chance to contribute to human healthcare and the quality of life of so many patients all over the world. Many patients live improved lives, partly due to my 25+ patents which are results of my long, educational and exciting Medtronic journey!