Those who know me, know that I’m a storyteller. So, when telling the story of CanvasGT, I’ll be taking several blog posts to get there. Starting from the beginning: dinosaurs roamed the earth… OK, I’m not going back that far. It really started when I was working as a set dresser in NYC while studying mechanical engineering in Hoboken, NJ. But I’m not going to start there either.
CanvasGT was conceived in Medical Devices. Where I am going to start is circa 2001 while working at Alaris Medical Systems (now CareFusion, a division of BD). It was my first job out of grad school and a rude awakening into the world of Medical Device Design Controls and the FDA’s Quality System Regulation. I still have the training handbook from employee orientation.
Sure, it was something we all went through, and something everyone I know in medical device product development struggled with. It was this desire to be creative and the feeling of constraint by the regulations. But it was seeing first hand how crushing these constraints could be that was the real eye opener. While just a young design engineer myself, I distinctly remember the interview process for a new addition to our team. John came to Alaris right out of college from Penn State. He moved to North Carolina, started a new job, bought a new car, and was filled with seemingly infinite energy.
But that unlimited source of inspiration, creativity, and positive energy that the young design engineer brought to the team was quickly crushed by the box of design controls. He didn’t last long, maybe six months, and John was cleaning his desk to move on to bigger and better things.
Flash forward about 5 years. I’m not going to tell the story in the middle, as it would take a novel. Suffice it to say, a lot transpired. So in the fall of 2006 when starting a new chapter in my life as a professor at NC State; the story of John had stuck with me. So much so; it would become a story told to every class in the 12 years that I taught Senior Design in Biomedical Engineering.
To this day I can vividly remember preparing for my very first class that Fall of 2006, and what my mission was for the students. More than anything, I wanted to give them the best educational experience they’ve ever had. I wanted these bright young students to graduate college armed with skills and knowledge that would put them in the best possible position for a life of health, happiness, successful careers, and prosperity. I also wanted these young adults to become the future leaders that would transform our healthcare system for the better, to improve health outcomes and reduce the growing cost of care.
This whole experience from my past at Alaris was inspirational from both perspectives. I never wanted what the outcome that John faced fresh out of school to be the story for these students. Thus, I ensured what they were going to face in industry was not a surprise. If they hated it, they could figure that out here in college. And some did. To my surprise, often the opposite happened. Students that had lost interest in studying BME based on their college experience were reinvigorated as they discovered the realities of managing real-world medical device design.
Equally important was the challenge of creating an environment that demanded creativity, while simultaneously imposing the constraint of design controls. I would tell them,
“It takes special people to be innovative and creative in such a constrained environment. The future of our healthcare system is dependent on such special people; and those special people are you.”
I personally had been lucky to have been thrown into a world of creativity in NYC while simultaneously living in a world of engineering constraints at such a young age. And I was lucky to see John go through the reality of what my students had coming for them. BME Senior Design circa 2006-2018 was all about taking luck out of that equation by curating real experiences in creative constraints.
This foundation of providing simultaneously creative and pragmatic (left and right brain) experiences to students persisted into providing holistic solutions for for diverse stakeholders later in my career at NC State and into my time at Trig. There is no doubt this foundation is at the core for what we are currently building at CanvasGT.
The CanvasGT platform is all about doing fun, creative, meaningful work that can have realized long-lasting impact for the health and wellbeing of society. Rather than design controls being a burden that stifles creativity, it becomes what it was intended to be: a system that ensures products are safe and effective for those they serve. And what was conceived in medical devices then extends into applications for anyone doing creative and analytical work.
Health & Happiness for All