Annual Employee Holiday Event Honors Founder, Inspires Thousands

The 58th annual Medtronic Employee Holiday Program honored company co-founder Earl Bakken while highlighting patients who’ve benefited from medical technology.

Mission Driven

The Annual Employee Holiday Program celebrates patients and the Medtronic Mission to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.
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Once again, Medtronic employees paused for an annual tradition — the Employee Holiday Program. The main event, held at the company’s operational headquarters in Minneapolis, MN, has become — as Medtronic Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak puts it — “the most important date on the company’s calendar.”

More than a thousand attendees watched the event live, while across the globe thousands more viewed it online or held similar events.

Medtronic employee standing at podium with husband and two children.

"Our hero"

Karen Kubischta, and her son, Mason, share their story.

This year’s program also included a special tribute to Earl Bakken, the company’s co-founder and first CEO. In 1960, Bakken began the tradition of hosting an annual holiday program as a reminder to employees that their work is part of the Medtronic Mission — to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

In October, Bakken passed away at his home in Hawaii at the age of 94.

“This holiday program is one of the best traditions Earl left for employees,” said Ishrak. “And the Mission he wrote was not just a business mantra — but words to live by.”

As part of the program, patients from around the world travel to Minnesota and share their stories about how medical technology has made a difference in their lives. 

“Insulin pump therapy from Medtronic has given our hero, our son, control over a disease that is seemingly uncontrollable,” Karen Kubischta told the crowd. Her son, Mason, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age. Today, he is an active and thriving 10 year old who loves flag football, math, and wants to become an engineer.

“To me, heroes save lives and change the world for the better,” said Mason. “To me, my hero is all of you. You have made my life better each and every day.”

 Woman in red blazer sitting in audience at the Medtronic holiday program.

"The most important date on the calendar"

The annual tradition brings thousands of employees together to hear from patients.

Patients invited to participate in the program are often joined by the doctors who have treated them. Medtronic stresses to its employees — through events like the holiday program — the importance of strong partnerships with physicians and a commitment to patients.

At the company’s Canadian office in Ontario, a regional holiday program has been a tradition for the last 50 years. Medtronic Canada president and regional vice president, Neil Fraser emphasized to employees what the Canada event signifies in the context of the larger organization.  

“The program is an opportunity to put a face and a story behind at least a few of the millions of patients we help every year,” he said.

In 2018, Medtronic therapies impacted the lives of more than 71 million people, globally.

“We need that yearly reminder of why we come to work every single day,” said employee Meghan Turok. "I don't work directly with patients on a day-to-day basis, so to be able to hear firsthand how we made their lives a little bit better — it just brings me so much joy."