A Legacy of Leadership: Celebrating an Industry Pioneer

by | May 2, 2024 | Fogarty Innovation

We celebrated Thomas J. Fogarty MD’s 90th birthday with an unforgettable event attended by more than 250 colleagues and friends whose lives Fogarty has touched over the years. Guests included the Fogarty Innovation entrepreneurs and teams, as well as many of the luminaries who helped shape our industry. 

Fogarty’s story, from his humble origins as he initially pursued a career as a boxer to the unrivaled mark he has made on the medical field, has inspired so many. Attendees lauded his accomplishments and celebrated his legacy, which includes launching an era of minimally invasive surgical procedures, championing innovation, and nurturing the next generation of medtech leaders. Many of those highlights were captured in a moving tribute video that was unveiled at the event. 

Guests had the opportunity to mingle and interact as they learned more about our educational programming, got an up-close look at our range of incubation programs and the innovative technologies being developed here, and explored our alliances program and diversity initiative, Diversity by Doing HealthTech (DxD), which was founded and is supported in partnership with Stanford Biodesign. 

“I was honored to have so many people attend my birthday celebration, and it was wonderful to reconnect with friends and colleagues, some of whom I have not seen for a long time,” said Fogarty. “It was humbling to hear their stories and the reflect on impact we collectively have had on patients over the years.”

Reflections from the mentees: What Tom Fogarty means to me

The signature event of the evening was an impressive lineup of speakers sharing accolades along the theme of “What Tom Fogarty Means to Me.” But before inviting other industry luminaries to share their remembrances, Fogarty Innovation CEO Andrew Cleeland announced the creation of the Thomas J. Fogarty MD Innovation Prize. Funded through a generous contribution from Mike Mussallem, co-founder of the Linda and Mike Mussallem Foundation and non-executive Chairman of the Board for Edwards Lifesciences, this annual award of $100,000 pays tribute to Fogarty by honoring an individual who has developed a technology or therapy that has demonstrated a meaningful clinical impact. 

Cleeland then addressed Tom directly with these heartfelt words: “Tom, you are an innovator, icon and iconoclast. Over the years of our relationship, you have taught me to be bold, to listen more than talk, to focus on what’s essential, and to swear like an Irish convict. You provided me the opportunity to work at Fogarty Innovation, which has been the highlight of my career.”

Below are excerpts from the other presentations that capture lessons learned; the influence Fogarty had on their professional development; and other takeaways that underscore the breadth of his impact on the field as well as on individual lives and careers. 

Angela Macfarlane, CEO of Perceive Biotherapeutics, Director of RenovoRx and Fogarty Innovation; Managing Member of ForSight Labs

Macfarlane first crossed paths with Fogarty at one of his startup companies, AneurRx. There she had the opportunity to learn his approach to innovation and the important role medical technologies could have in advancing the field of minimally invasive surgery and on patient care. Macfarlane went on to work with Fogarty at Fogarty Research and later became a successful serial entrepreneur, CEO and mentor, forming and leading nine companies.

  • “What drove Tom was patient outcomes. He adopted the approach of ‘I want to make this better, and I think I can so I’m going to.’ He launched Fogarty Innovation because he was less interested in churning startups and more focused on the process of innovation and mentoring to create sustainability. Staying true to this mission is what I hope to bring to those I lead and mentor.” 
  • “He showed me the value of taking on problem-solving directly and not giving up.” 
  • “Tom appreciated me for who I am and not who I should become, which was a transformational experience for me. In addition, he was an early supporter of innovation in women’s health, which I deeply admired.”

Paul Yock, MD, Weiland Professor of Bioengineering and Medicine, Emeritus; Founder and Faculty Advisor, Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign 

Early in his career, Yock was trained and mentored by Fogarty, who helped him advance his first technologies, most notably intravascular ultrasound (Fogarty was chairman of the initial IVUS company that resulted, CVIS). His mentorship also provided a role model for the training approach used in the Biodesign program. 

  • “Tom believed that IVUS would turn out to be useful and was a hugely important source of encouragement and guidance.  But he also made it clear that our first generation wasn’t there yet. He pushed us forward.”
  • “It seems like Tom wants us to think of him as crusty and hard-hearted, but over the years I’ve learned that this is just camouflage. What he’s actually been doing with his tough-love approach is an unusual form of generosity— and one that is really effective.”
  • “He pushes us to be better than we think we can be. We wind up going down challenging paths with a shot at great outcomes. Nobody does that quite like him, and for that, we are all deeply grateful.”

Gwen Watanabe, Managing Director, H.I.G. Capital

Watanabe had just graduated from Stanford University with an MS in mechanical engineering when she interviewed with Fogarty. Despite going through what she deemed a tough interview session, she was hired on the spot and has been involved in the life sciences sector ever since.

  • “Tom has been a mentor to me since he helped launch my career. Even when I had to move away from the Bay Area, I could always call him and seek his advice on anything work related. He was always available to help me.”
  • “I learned from Tom that it’s okay to make mistakes because everyone does. What matters is learning from them and continuing to make progress. Anyone can come up with ideas; the hard part is to make them actionable and execute them. And of course, he always emphasized the importance of the patient as the North Star.”
  • “I’m forever grateful to have had Tom as my mentor as I have utilized the many lessons I learned from him throughout my career, from my early days as engineer all the way o to my role today where I invest in and lead companies.”

George Hermann, Co-Founder, Fogarty Engineering; President at Focal Therapies

Hermann first met Fogarty in 1983 when Fogarty needed engineering support for a vascular clamp he’d been working on. From that time on, he fundamentally shaped Hermann’s understanding of what it takes to be successful in the medical device industry—and in life.

  • “His initial gruff and aloof demeanor belies the supportive, reflective and respectful man that lies beneath.”
  • “His daily feedback over the 15+ year period as I worked directly under him kept me on course, as he routinely gave me the authority to make the majority of decisions. He’d outline the goal and then let me figure out how to acheive it.”
  • “He has passed on a legacy of the ‘Fogarty way’ of success in the medical device industry, with key tenets that include design simplicity and product purpose, with the foremost goal of improving patient’s lives.”

Fred St Goar, MD, Fogarty Innovation Vice Chairman, Board member of Solo Pace and Biospectal; Medical Director of the Norma Melchor and Vascular Institute at El Camino Health

St Goar’s entrepreneurial spirit was first influenced by Fogarty when he was a medical resident and cardiology fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he was exposed to the type of “out-of-the-box” thinking that Fogarty embodies. After St Goar co-founded Evalve, he pitched Fogarty to invest in the company (which he did), thus beginning their long collaboration and friendship.

  • “The first time I presented to Tom the Evalve/Mitaclip idea, he basically said that I was crazy, but, even so, he ‘begrudgingly’ wrote our first check. He subsequently became enthusiastically supportive of our whole team, spending valuable time early on with our engineers in the development lab. 
  • I believe he rightfully deserves the title of godfather of catheter-based structural heart innovations, as well as being recognized as the founder and godfather of all balloon catheter technologies, thanks to his pioneering work with the Fogarty catheter.”
  • “While he has had an indelible imprint on our lives, I also must thank him on behalf of all the patients, their families and their communities whose lives have been better because of all of his innovations. His legacy will be perpetuated through all the great, impactful work that Fogarty Innovation is doing and will continue to do to make the world a better place.”

Dorothy Abel, Partner, Abel and Wolf Consulting

Abel was working at the FDA as a regulatory review scientist when she met Fogarty. At the time she was relatively unfamiliar with the cardiovascular space, so he strove to integrate her into the community. This was just one of the critical ways he helped forge a stronger partnership between the FDA and the medtech industry.

  • “From the beginning, Fogarty understood the need for and benefit of a stronger collaboration between the FDA and the medtech industry, acknowledging that regulation of medical devices would influence clinical advancements.”
  • “The exceptional collaboration between FDA, clinicians, manufacturers and other stakeholders provided an unparalleled, thoughtful and responsible approach for the development, evaluation and adoption of the endovascular aneurysm repair, which was a novel concept at the time.”
  • “Tom always made me feel that my opinions and contributions were valuable and worth sharing, even in unfamiliar settings with luminaries from the medtech industry.”

Allan Will, Executive Chair of the Board of EBR Systems; Chair of the boards of Fractyl Labs and Setpoint Medical; Director of Fogarty Innovation

Will initially met Fogarty at DVI, which Will joined because of his expertise in the field—but also because he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with the legendary pair of Fogarty and John Simpson, MD. It was his first role with a medtech startup and he never looked back. His next venture was AneuRx, which generated approximately $175 million the first year it launched. And so began Will’s illustrious career. 

  • “Tom’s unconventional approach, creativity, perseverance and unique way of quickly recognizing unmet needs and how to solve them are foundational to what I believe led him to be so successful.”
  • “Equally important, he created a family through the companies he started and the countless individuals he mentored, many of whom in turn mentored others, launched their own companies, or otherwise made a significant impact on the field—all originating from Tom’s example.”
  • “Tom really likes to see others succeed. He helped spark my career in the startup world because he placed his trust in me. I learned so much from him in terms of best practices related to leading and running companies—and for that I will be forever grateful.”

The evening ended with Will and Mussallem singing happy birthday to Fogarty. Mussallem, who first met Fogarty when he was heading the cardiovascular group at Baxter International (which was later spun off as Edwards Lifesciences), the company that initially manufactured the Fogarty catheter, noted: “Tom has always been bold, innovative and extraordinarily authentic. He is always curious and he never accepts an easy answer.” The Fogarty catheter was and still is an important and globally-respected component of Edward Lifesciences’ portfolio, having impacted more than 60 million patients over its 60-year history.  

In reflecting back on the event, Fogarty shared one more piece of wisdom: “My advice is now and has always been to persevere—I encourage you to do your part to make sure the next generation continues to find new ways to help patients through innovation.”

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