Job seekers need to emphasize timeless soft skills, according to YJ Oh, vice president of global and US marketing for the transcatheter heart valve business unit at Edwards Lifesciences. “How can you demonstrate what you have done in teams? How have you been able to bring ideas forward and bring others with you? How have you made the group better?” • Chris Lee/UCI

Merage Career Center Event Shows How Technology Improves Medical Outcomes and Bends the Cost Curve

May 13, 2019 • By Jessie Yount

Fifty years ago, a heart valve replacement surgery was no small task. A surgeon would saw open your sternum, stop the heart and take out the blood, before removing the valve and stitching in a new one.

The surgery would take hours, and after that, your recovery would last two months.

“That’s where Edwards came in, and said, there’s got to be a better way to do this,” YJ Oh, vice president of global and US marketing for the transcatheter heart valve business unit at Edwards Lifesciences told the audience at the recent UCI Paul Merage School of Business career and networking event dedicated to the medical industry.

The event, presented by the Merage School Career Center and Merage Healthcare Association at UCI, was the first healthcare-focused community networking event for graduate students and alumni at the Merage School. More than 200 participants attended.

In 2002, Edwards performed its first transcatheter aortic valve replacement. In other words: a surgeon inserts a catheter into the femoral artery, travels to the aorta, and opens the valve with a balloon. No valve replacement, no hours-long surgery and no two-month recovery required.

During the procedure, “the patient is wide awake, and often, the patient is gray and doesn’t feel well,” Oh said. “But within minutes, you see the color coming back and they’re ready to go. Then it’s a next-week discharge.”

Several medical device companies are leveraging new technology to produce life-altering results, and incredibly, the improvement in a patient takes just hours or days, according to Mark Dickinson, vice president of global strategic marketing at Johnson & Johnson Biosense Webster.

“(J&J has) entered an exploratory agreement with Apple to diagnose patients with irregular heart rhythms but no symptoms, in order to earlier diagnose patients. The hope is that if we can earlier diagnose, we can earlier treat patients,” Dickinson said.

Meanwhile, Aliso Viejo-based company Microvention is employing the same forward-thinking approach, with prevention in mind, to reduce the number of patients that will suffer from a stroke, according to Todd Zive, vice president of worldwide marketing at Microvention-Terumo and Merage alumnus.

For those seeking to join Microvention, or another medical device company, Zive recommends getting to know the company. “Understand that we all have problems we need to solve. If you can do your research, and understand what those pain points are, and you can present a solution –– that’s a whole different approach. It turns it all around.”

During the chat, Dr. Romilla Batra, who is chief medical officer at SCAN Health Plan, professor of medicine at UCI and a lecturer at the Merage School, encouraged the panelists to discuss how their companies are leveraging technology to address the triple aim to improve outcomes, improve customer experiences and bend the cost curve. 

She added, “Merage’s theme is leadership in a digitally driven world, and a lot of organizations like the ones that are represented tonight are doing just the same.”

For job seekers, Oh and Dickinson emphasized the importance of soft skills –– skills that are hard to teach –– such as collaboration and innovative thinking.

“How can you demonstrate what you have done in teams? How have you been able to bring ideas forward and bring others with you? How have you made the group better?” Oh said.

Dickinson, who works in one of the most technical divisions of J&J, but has a degree in English literature, added that, “I can translate complex ideas into simple messages. If you can do that, you can find an important place in technical businesses.”