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CEO Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference

How Medtech CEOs Are Falling Short – On Purpose!

After two long years, Advamed’s annual MedTech Conference took place in Boston last week. Over two thousand executives, entrepreneurs and medical device professionals gathered to share ideas, learn, network and connect for three days.  The importance of a company’s purpose – the overarching guiding principle for why the firm exists – was raised many times by the CEOs who took part in panels and presentations.

Purpose was cited repeatedly in response to questions about how to encourage their people to accept change, how to motivate and inspire, how to recruit and retain the best, and avoid losing top talent due to the Great Resignation. In the three panel discussions I attended and recorded, purpose was mentioned twelve times during the Leadership in Times of Change session, nine times in the EY Pulse of the Industry panel and seven times during the Top Trends Shaping the Medtech Industry.

CEO Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference

Jim Welch – EY
Ashley McEvoy – JNJ MedTech
Geoff Martha – Medtronic
Gary Guthart – Intuitive

The gist of the CEO responses is the medtech industry has a “built in” purpose, or as one CEO described, an “Uber purpose”, due to the life enhancing nature of the sector’s work.  In other words, people employed in medtech should be motivated because the work they do improves lives worldwide. One CEO of a company that treats cardiovascular disease, said his company was unlike companies that make “toaster ovens”, which presumably have a less important purpose for existence. Another CEO remarked, “We’re not making and selling baked beans, what we do matters to patients around the world.” Every CEO stated their businesses operate in accordance with a shared company purpose.

Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference 2022

Ashley McEvoy – JNJ Medtech
Mike Minogue – Abiomed
Barry Rosenberg – Boston Consulting Group

From my own early career experiences at Baxter and Boston Scientific, I agree working at a medical device company that operates by a shared purpose statement can be motivating. But that alone is insufficient. Purpose doesn’t stop with only the company purpose statement. While it is admirable these CEOs embrace purpose statements and purposeful work, that’s the beginning of the purpose journey. It’s only table stakes.

After their panel appearances, I asked a few of the CEOs if they helped their team members discover their own personal purposes. I received the “deer in the headlights” look in response. They apparently aren’t encouraging their people to discover and operate with a sense of personal purpose. By failing to do so, these medtech CEOs are falling short – on purpose! They aren’t embracing purpose-driven leadership.

What is purpose-driven leadership? For starters, it is leading and making decisions in a way that is consistent with the company’s purpose and values. But that’s not all. It’s believing that every person craves meaning in their lives. It’s understanding that every person has a personal purpose – even if they haven’t yet defined it. Purpose-driven leaders know their personal purpose. They live by their personal purpose as they carry out the company’s purpose. The two purposes are not in conflict. They openly share their personal purpose with others when asked. They teach and encourage others to find their unique purposes, too.

Why should leaders teach and encourage others to seek their unique personal purpose, when the company already has a purpose statement? Because they know that a personal purpose is the overarching principle that gives your life meaning.  It’s a forward-pointing arrow, that gives you clarity and helps you get out of bed in the morning. A personal purpose must serve a bigger cause than just yourself. The company purpose isn’t a personal purpose. You can be fired, quit or retire from the company’s purpose, but once defined, you’ll never quit your personal purpose.

Panel Discussion at The MedTech Conference

Nana Mohtashami – Russell Reynolds
Jim Hollingshead – Insulet
Bronwyn Brophy – Thermo Fisher Scientific
Quentin Blackford – iRhythm Technologies
Deepak Nath – Smith & Nephew

With personal purpose defined, purpose-driven leaders help their team members apply that purpose in a way that meshes with the company’s overarching purpose. Encouraging team members to create and live by their personal purposes is important for three reasons:

First, all medtech companies share an identical purpose. Each one is worded slightly differently, but it’s a version of, “We exist to enhance (or save) the lives of patients through _________ (pick a buzzword: innovation, technology, medical procedure, global, etc.)”

Don’t believe me? The company purpose statements of the CEOs on the panels are listed below. Throw the purpose statements of these companies in a hat (Abiomed, Insulet, Intuitive, iRhythm, Johnson and Johnson Medtech, Medtronic, Smith & Nephew, Thermo Fisher Scientific) pull them out, and match them to the respective company. I bet you can’t do it. There is nothing that distinguishes one from the other. (The correct matchups are at the bottom of this post.)

  • To enable our customers to enjoy simplicity, freedom, and healthier lives through innovative technology.
  • A leading provider of groundbreaking medical technology that provides circulatory and oxygenation support.
  • Helping people get back to what matters most.
  • We unleash diverse healthcare expertise, purposeful technology, and a passion for people totransform the future of medical intervention and empower everyone to live their best life possible.
  • To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.
  • To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

Secondly, since we agree medtech company purpose statements are virtually identical, the company’s purpose statement can’t make the critical difference in the employee experience. What makes the critical difference then? A direct manager who is purpose-driven and coaches others to become their best. The direct manager creates upwards of 70% of the working climate a team member experiences. Many companies intentionally create a desired macro-culture for the company, but there are many micro-cultures within the firm that create very different employee experiences.

Gallup has reported that 70% of leaders don’t know their personal purpose. A study published in Harvard Business Review reported that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their individual purpose. That number is likely even higher in the general population. If I’m a prospective employee, I need to know my manager’s personal purpose. Is the manager purpose-driven? How do they mesh their personal purpose under the company purpose? If my manager doesn’t have a personal purpose, why in the world would I want to work under that person?  I’ll take the managers who know their personal purpose and embrace the company’s purpose – while coaching and encouraging others to do the same – all day long.

Third, people who operate by their personal purpose in sync with the company’s purpose are your passionate value creators. They take great care of your clients. They are your “A” players. They are clear about their gifts, their purpose, their values and they know how to apply them in support of your company’s mission of enhancing and saving lives worldwide.

If it is true that fewer than 20% of employees operate with a defined personal purpose, as CEO, how can I expect them to take great care of our customers, perform at a high level, create great value, and grow and stay with the firm? If I’m not helping them define their purpose, and showing them how to thrive at our company, won’t they vulnerable to being poached by more insightful companies and leaders who are purpose-driven – and can help them discover and live by their individual purpose? Here’s how you can help others discover their purpose.

My invitation to medtech CEOs is to embrace purpose at both the company and individual levels. It’s your job to be a great value creator and make an enormous impact. You are the role models for purpose-driven leadership. Harnessing purpose in all your team members – and connecting it to the company purpose – is a critical step forward in creating great value for all your stakeholders.

“I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned.”Clayton Christensen, late professor at Harvard Business School and bestselling author

Company Purpose Statements

  • To enable our customers to enjoy simplicity, freedom, and healthier lives through innovative technology. Insulet
  • A leading provider of groundbreaking medical technology that provides circulatory and oxygenation support.Abiomed
  • Helping people get back to what matters most. Intuitive
  • We unleash diverse healthcare expertise, purposeful technology, and a passion for people totransform the future of medical intervention and empower everyone to live their best life possible. Johnson and Johnson MedTech
  • To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Smith & Nephew

Frustrated Mom’s Startup Company to Create Home-Administered Diagnostic Test for COVID-19 


It was a Friday afternoon in 2018 and Hopkins, MN resident Patty Post found herself at the clinic, for the third time that week, waiting for her daughter to be tested for strep throat.  On Monday it was her younger son who needed a strep test, on Wednesday it was older son, and on Friday, her daughter had a sore throat, needed a test and likely a prescription.

When Patty called her children’s pediatrician Friday morning to explain her daughter’s symptoms and request a prescription, it fell on deaf ears. “Bring her in the office and we’ll test her here,” she was told. Faced with burning yet another afternoon at the doctor’s office for a simple test, Patty asked herself, “Why can’t a strep test be administered at home? It’s a simple immunoassay. Why isn’t there a home test available for parents to administer to their children who are susceptible to strep? And if the test is positive, why shouldn’t you be able to get a treatment plan virtually and a prescription?”

A self-described “problem solver”, Patty says she caught the entrepreneurial bug when she was only ten years old, when she began marketing her babysitting services to families who vacationed near her family’s lake cottage, where she lived during the summers with her parents.

Frustrated by the status quo of going to the clinic to get checked for a simple infection, motivated Patty to start up a company of healthcare and technology experts to find a better solution to this problem. She founded Checkable Medical and became its chief executive officer.

Checkable Medical’s mission is to empower individuals to make clinical, evidence-based decisions from the comfort of their homes. They are focused on delivering innovative at-home diagnostic testing to employers and individuals.

Without having to go to the doctor, Checkable Medical’s diagnostic tests paired with a digital platform allows individuals and caregivers to administer their own tests for infectious diseases thus reducing the burden on our healthcare system and minimizing exposure to the population. Checkable Medical focused their energy and resources on developing an in-home, over-the-counter in vitro diagnostic and digital platform for the rapid identification of Group A Streptococcal bacteria

In March of 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis spread across America like wildfire, Patty and her team explored whether their technology could help in the fight against the coronavirus.  They became a distributor of a COVID serology antibody test and are now creating a platform for individuals and employers to detect antibodies of COVID from home. For individuals who test positive, they should seek the assistance of a healthcare provider. For individuals who test negative, that finding may help them in getting back to a new way of normal.

Their rapid-result antibody serology test, administered at home or at the office, will determine if the individual has the antibodies to fight COVID-19.  It is anticipated the test will detect the presence of both an acute IgM and chronic IgG immune response to infection of the COVID virus with a 95% accuracy. Patty Post’s hope is the serology antibody test will be a vital tool in reopening the economy.

Post said, “We believe the test will help identify if you’ve been exposed to the virus or have developed antibodies against the virus. We believe it can be helpful in identifying asymptomatic carriers and in identifying bigger groups of individuals who have been infected – potentially helping us get back to a more normal pace faster.”

“We’re in the early stages of a clinical trial, we will have data in late summer to submit to the FDA. Our hope is for a quick approval and we can offer the test and digital platform directly to consumers and employers.

Patty is a woman of faith and says her purpose is to serve others. She believes God has given her the gifts and nudge to create and provide diagnostic tests that can be administered around the world.

She described the heartbreaking problem of young women in parts of Africa and India who die during childbirth due to undiagnosed heart conditions caused by damage from strep infections.  She sees a day when diagnostics can be brought into rural villages of third-world countries to diagnose diseases like strep, influenza and COVID and pair positive diagnoses with antibiotics.

When asked if the COVID crisis has made her purpose more profound, she said, “Absolutely, I’ve been more purposeful since the crisis. We all have felt helpless, watching the virus coming down the pike. As a family member, you can’t visit your loved one at a hospital. We all feel a great deal of uncertainty. I’m an entrepreneur and I’m very driven to make a difference.  At Checkable Medical, we have tools and we are developing new tools. It’s our place – and it’s my place – to use my gifts and our company’s tools to make a difference.”

While Checkable Medical has regulatory hurdles yet to clear, the diagnostic tools and digital platform they offer will help consumers and companies make evidence-based healthcare decisions from home and work. Their success could make for an important tool that could boost the economy by allowing employers to safely bring their people back to work.

Patty Post is a leader who is driven by her purpose.  Through her focus, energy and leadership, she and her team are making a great impact during the pandemic.

Positively Impact Others in the Chaos of Life

When the men’s small group that Dave Hemink is a member of collectively decided to mine for and define their individual life purposes, just over two years ago, little did Dave know how valuable that exercise would be in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis.

At the time, Dave was a division president of a $1B global publicly-traded medical device company. As a seasoned leader with twenty-five years of experience running companies, he knew a lot about leadership. The father of two teenage girls and married to his amazing and beautiful wife, Kristin, for nearly twenty years, Dave had a loving family and an important job. Once Dave’s purpose was clarified, it suddenly opened an entirely different way of thinking.

Purpose is the overarching guiding principle that gives your life meaning.  Most people haven’t clarified their purpose. Together with the other men in his group, Dave reflected on some deep questions, his life experiences, his values and gifts.  Dave said, “We looked within and clarified our purposes. Your purpose is deep within you, it is there. It’s up to each person to find it.”

After thoughtful consideration, Dave defined his purpose as: “I live life to break barriers, create paths and enable people to live purposeful lives, that positively impacts others, while living in the chaos of life.”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit the US in full force in March of 2020, we all experienced chaos in our lives. Dave included. Dave is the chief executive officer of Nonin Medical, a Plymouth, MN-based medical device company, that has been a world leader in innovating and manufacturing pulse oximetry systems for 35 years.  The mission of the company is to improve the quality of people’s lives throughout the world by expanding the capabilities of noninvasive measurements.

The pandemic and resulting public health crisis have created a shortage of pulse oximeters, which have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a critical clinical therapy in treating COVID-19 patients, citing: “Oxygen therapy is a major treatment intervention for patients with severe COVID-19. All countries should work to optimize the availability of pulse oximeters and medical oxygen systems.” Dave and the Nonin team provide the equipment needed for healthcare workers and patients on the frontlines of this global pandemic.

“In the past few months, Nonin has seen a dramatic increase in demand for its mobile pulse oximeters. I don’t think anybody could have predicted what we are seeing today”, said Dave. “We’ve been fighting this from day one and the global demand for pulse oximetry products globally has been unprecedented,” Dave further stated. Nonin Medical’s executive chairman, Phil Isaacson, added, “The people who have been buying from us in the past are now trying to buy 10 times more. We can’t keep up.”

Dave and the Nonin team are literally working around the clock, expanding manufacturing capabilities and strengthening their supply chain to provide pulse oximeters to healthcare professionals worldwide to diagnose and treat COVID-19. “We have product lines that are up 2,600 percent,” reported Hemink.

Dave said his purpose helps center him during this unprecedented period. “My purpose is front and center now. Your purpose is magnified at different times of your life. You live it – it is embodied in you in times like these,” said Dave.

“As a leader, you have a lot of tools at your disposal, I compare it to a mechanic’s Craftsman red tool chest. Some of the tools you use daily, some of the tools you will never use, until one day, you have a unique job that requires a unique tool.  That is where we are today.  The COVID-19 crisis has our team reaching so far in the back corners of the tool chest.  That chaos component is amazingly real. We’ve got supply chain issues and challenged suppliers. We are an essential employer and we’re committed to keeping our team members safe and well. We have customers who are demanding and desperately in need of product. Every hour it is something different. What I’ve learned is you live your purpose – and that tool chest – to guide you. To provide the team with the path”, Dave continued. “I think of purpose as the grout between the tiles. It holds everything together.”

When asked how he uses his purpose to lead his team, Dave replied, “I’m using it to create calm during the chaos, so I can give our team members the confidence to act. They are doing heroic things. The definition of a hero is an ordinary person in an extraordinary time who takes action. That describes our team members.  They are having to really stretch – sometimes doing things they’ve never done – for the greater good.  Figuring out as we go, as we’re driving 120 miles per hour. For example, helping our suppliers open shuttered factories in the Philippines and India. Finding new sources of raw materials to meet our customers’ demands. Figuring out how to process and ship orders even faster.  Working with the FDA proactively and creatively to accelerate new product approvals. We’re doing this and more, all in real time. I couldn’t be any prouder of the team and the amazing work they are doing.”

If meeting the dramatic demand for Nonin products wasn’t challenging enough, while ramping up their production capabilities, Nonin Medical has had to deal with additional chaos, when one of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota was an employee of the company. “Suddenly, that individual, as well as 10% of the Nonin team, were in proactive quarantine, just when Nonin needed every hand on deck. Thankfully, no other team member to date has tested positive and the individual who tested positive has recovered, is healthy and back to work,” said Dave.

Christine Horton, Nonin’s vice president of global marketing states, “Great leaders and individuals grow from adversity and chaos. I see Dave as someone who is positively impacting others through the chaos of life. He’s navigating the company, the leadership team and individuals through this adversity in order to better everyone. It hasn’t been about Dave, about his title or any of that. He could have any title and people would follow him. He doesn’t need to lead with his title. They are following because they feel empowered when they follow him. He’s navigated us through so many obstacles, where we could have had failures, we’ve found opportunities. We are finding solutions. He’s navigating us to make the entire company better and very, very rapidly. In a very short time.”

“The character of a leader is defined in the time of a crisis. This is who we are and what Nonin is all about. It’s a new frontier and we need new solutions. We’re flexing our adaptable muscle for those on the frontlines. This can be – and will be – our finest hour. Having a clearly defined purpose is my rudder in the chaos of life, so I can provide the leadership all our stakeholders desperately need,” Dave said.

When leaders lead with a clear purpose, everyone benefits. It serves as your North Star, the overarching principle that gives your life meaning. Would you want to be led by someone without a purpose? What if that leader, without a clear purpose, was you?

Leading with purpose provides a path, that positively impacts others in the chaos of life. In today’s unprecedented time, while leading Nonin Medical, Dave Hemink is creating great impact.