Spend A Minute with Matthew Fishler

Get to know Matthew Fishler, whose family history helped lead him to this: Developing the Aveir DR pacemaker.

Matthew Fishler knows well — and what's real — when the ones you love suffer from heart events. He knows that real loss. And from that hurt has come the curiosity necessary to develop technologies that can save lives and others from the pain his family has felt. It's what's driven him from an early age to now: The development of our Aveir DR system, the first of its kind device that keeps hearts in their rhythms without the leads found in traditional pacemakers. Fishler has always had the will. With the Aveir system, he found the way. It's the stuff of TV dramas ... except it's all very real, thanks to Fishler. Let's get to know him.

You'd describe your childhood as ... Supportive and enriching. Loved tennis and swimming, building models. Really, building anything. Also loved problem-solving — formally and informally — including "MacGyver-ing" clever solutions where possible, necessary. Still do!

Your 20-words-ish resume … BSE (Duke), PhD (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), MBA (Cornell). Product development leader at several implantable medical device companies and start-ups — mostly in the cardiac space — culminating in my becoming part of Abbott through the acquisition of Nanostim by St. Jude Medical.

Why this work, what drew you to it … From as early as I can remember, I always loved the engineering of the human body (i.e., "how" it worked). In parallel, my strong interest in how the heart functioned (or didn't) was likely shaped quite significantly by family events: My paternal grandfather died from a heart attack when he was just 38 (when my father was just 6), and my father had his first cardiac event and bypass surgery when he was 39 (when I was around 10). Thus was born my passion for engineering inquiries into cardiac electrophysiology and its dysfunction, as well as for inventing and developing means to treat those dysfunctions.

Your proudest professional moment ... It definitely has to be seeing our Aveir VR system — and more recently and significantly, our Aveir DR system — being used for the first time in humans. With the Aveir DR system, we have accomplished something that no one else has yet implemented in humans — having two independent implanted devices communicating and maintaining real-time synchronization to provide coordinated therapy to a person. And these aren't just research devices. It is a commercially-viable system. It's really amazing to witness the dream become a reality!

When you're not Dr. Fishler, for fun Matthew likes to ... I enjoy day hikes when I can, whether it’s a county or state park along the California coast near where I live, or perhaps a hike up in the Sierras.

Your dreams for the future ... I am living out my dream: To continue to be able to invent and develop cutting-edge technologies that make a meaningful difference in the health of real people. ("Real" because it is sometimes too easy to think about the recipients of our products in an abstract sense.) I never forget that all of these patients are people with families, jobs and dreams of their own.

Best advice you ever heard ... I have received and heard lots of great advice over my career and life. But one line that has really stuck with me is a quote attributed to Gene Kranz, flight director of Apollo 13: "Let's work the problem, people. Let's not make things worse by guessing." I love this quote! I most definitely apply it every day in my work, and it even translates quite well to typical life challenges too.

Thanks for joining us. Any closing thoughts? I am so excited to see where this journey leads. Thanks for the opportunity!