Health Care and Technology

The medical legacy of the Midwest

June 30, 2019
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The medical industry relies on innovation and passionate people for new solutions to health care problems. Luckily, the Midwest has contributed significant advances in the industry for nearly two centuries. Although Michigan and the rest of the Midwest are typically known for industrial innovations, the strides made in medical technology here in our hometowns have saved thousands of lives over the years.

Advances in heart health care

Some of the largest advances in the medical industry that stem from the Midwest are in the area of heart health. In fact, people in this region have been creating new medical technology since the 1800s when Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery on the pericardium. This 1893 surgery was performed on a man who was suffering from a knife wound he received during a bar brawl in Chicago.

Not long after, in 1904, a Michigan doctor, Dr. Alexis Carrel, performed the first-ever heart transplant. Although this heart transplant was on a dog and not on a human, Carrel proved that heart transplants were a viable emerging technology and they eventually could be applied to humans. He later received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912 for his work.

This tradition of heart firsts was continued in 1952, when Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and Dr. F. John Lewis performed the first intracardial correction of a congenital heart defect. This procedure was performed at the University of Minnesota on a five-year-old girl and completed using cross-circulation.

A continued legacy

Although the Midwest has a lot to be proud of when it comes to medical history, the region also is continuing to contribute to innovation. Grand Rapids’ “Medical Mile,” which is a designated area of the city that is dedicated to health care research, innovation and medical care, is proof of this. With numerous clinical, research and academic institutions, this area has attracted medical professionals from around the world.

There is constant innovation in Grand Rapids alone, stemming from the Van Andel Institute, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Meijer Heart Center, Grand Valley State University’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and more.

Members of the medical community are working together and pooling resources to spur innovation. One example is the current collaboration between aMDI, Grand Valley State University and us at MediSurge, where teams are weighing the feasibility of producing additive printed devices at manufacturing volumes. Revolutionary studies like this not only help retain talent in West Michigan, but also help attract talent from outside the region, which is vital for our area’s continued success.

Looking to the future

As medical professionals, academia and industry continue working together, the Midwest will undoubtedly continue to be a hot spot for medical advancements. Although it would be easy to simply rest on the laurels of the previous accomplishments of this region, the professionals in the Midwest embody a passion that inspires them to keep pushing the envelope. This drive ensures the Midwest doesn’t just have a rich history, but an equally rich future for the medical industry.