Where Medicine and Engineering Meet
While many of his current peers came straight out of school wanting to build bridges and sophisticated mechanical systems, Mike Meyer took a slightly different path. He decided to double up on his biology degree by returning for one in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on biomedicine.
Like other engineers, Meyer wanted to solve problems and design solutions, finding his passion in cardiac medicine, working on a series of heart valves used to treat many different conditions and patients.
About 10 years ago, he went to Germany and spent some fateful time with a group of pediatric cardiologists. “I realized they were a very different group. We’d go into children’s hospitals, and you could tell, these doctors were something special,” he said.
“They had extraordinary knowledge and skills and were the best bets for these children to survive and thrive.”
Those same physicians, however, would quickly concede that their skills have limited impact without pediatric cardiology technology like the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder, a smaller-than-a-pea device that Meyer and team helped develop.
The device closes the connection between two blood vessels leading from the hearts of premature infants, blocking harmful backflow of blood, allowing babies to breathe easier and get them off a ventilator faster. A catheter delivers the device, which eliminates the risks of open-chest surgery.
‘That’s When It Really Hits Home’
Even after working on this and similar cardiac technology for years, Meyer continues to be amazed at what this combination of medicine and engineering can accomplish.
“Working on cardiovascular products is always cool because you can tell that your work is making a difference. Knowing someone will have 5, 10 or 15 extra years of quality life because of your work is amazing,” Meyer said.
“But seeing a Piccolo occluder being used on a pre-term infant and realizing that we are part of a team that may be the reason this baby has a long and full life? That’s been incredibly meaningful to me.
“You see pictures of little babies on the table and realize you aren’t engineering a car part or a new set of headphones, but actually giving a chance at life — and a quality of life — to these young kids. That’s when it really hits home.”