Medtech POV Blog

CEO Summit Speakers Scale Heights

At AdvaMed, we aim to ensure our event speakers both inform and inspire. Our 2023 CEO Summit delivered in a big way there, and I thought there were a number of key lessons both those in our industry who couldn’t attend as well as those in any industry seeking to do their best work could benefit from. Here are a few messages from our outstanding leaders and guests. We’re planning an equally strong line-up for the 2024 CEO Summit, March 11-12, in Scottsdale, Arizona, including top political advisers David Axelrod and Karl Rove. Their insights in a pivotal election year will be invaluable. 

Here are a few outstanding leaders and guests this year.

Patients come first.

Medtech’s entire mission is the patient: saving lives, improving lives, helping people live longer and better than prior generations is what gets us up in the morning. As Ashley McEvoy, then-head of Johnson & Johnson MedTech, said, “People are counting on us. That should be the fire in our belly.”  

We start every quarterly Board meeting by hearing directly from a patient whose life has been improved by medtech, a tradition cemented by our former Board chair, Mike Minogue of Abiomed, and which sets the appropriate tone for the decisions we make on the industry’s behalf at these meetings. 

Relationships matter.

A famous medtech patient of late is Damar Hamlin, the NFL player whose on-field cardiac arrest riveted the nation and made all of us – at least temporarily – Buffalo Bills fans. His experience raised the profile of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) – the first in a long list of medical technologies that, in the hands of the quick-thinking and -moving medical professionals, were instrumental in literally saving his life.  

I had the opportunity to interview him on stage at our Summit. We had a wide-ranging conversation, but one thing that struck me was his humility and his gratitude not just for the medical pros and the medtech in their hands that saved his life, but for his parents, community members, coaches, friends, and teammates he credits for shaping who he’s become. His hometown of McKees Rocks near Pittsburgh is close-knit, he said. “I really had everyone rooting for me and wanting me to go on and chase my dreams.” 

“I really had everyone rooting for me and wanting me to go on and chase my dreams.”

––Damar Hamlin, Professional Football Player

Topping the list of motivators and supporters are his parents. 

Hamlin’s mother worked up to running two day care centers. His father has a trucking company and runs the family cleaning business. He was Hamlin’s Little League coach, supported his friends, and hosted community days. His parents are always looking for “new things to keep them growing and keep them evolving … They taught me dedication to something that you want to accomplish. They taught me toughness. They taught me entrepreneurship. They taught me life, so big credit to them in my upbringing and making it to where I am now.” 

Hamlin started a clothing line as a college sophomore, starting with a single shirt, realizing a professional football career is never a guarantee. He intends to continue diversifying his pursuits, as his parents modeled. 

Relationships matter in every field.

Recently retired U.S. Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, named Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, as among his closest friends. Contrary to the headlines, members of both parties are friends outside of work and allies inside Congress, he said. Bipartisan policymaking exists and is important because bipartisan bill sponsors protect each other when attacked. Even polar opposites unite for the public good.  

Burr described butting heads with then-FDA Commissioner David Kessler over tobacco, an important crop in Burr’s North Carolina. When COVID-19 struck, Kessler sought Burr’s help in the Biden Administration’s response. Burr agreed. “We came together and worked together, and I think this proves that no matter how long it’s been, you can still come back together on what’s good for the country.” 

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described learning how to reach across the aisle as Rhode Island governor because the legislature was in charge. That forged her success in her current role, which required working with Congress to help achieve the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to promote domestic manufacturing of the semiconductor chips so important to medtech. 

“I’m as friendly with Mitch McConnell as Nancy Pelosi. You’ve got to [be] if you want to get things done,” she said.  

Raimondo is forging relationships with trade and government leaders in countries including India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where manufacturing and markets could be beneficial for U.S. companies, including medtech.  

“India feels ready to make the changes necessary” to reach its economic potential, she said.  

 Use your platform for good.

Hamlin started a toy drive as he was declaring for the NFL, scrambling for donations, later funding it himself because the work brought him joy. With his profile elevated after his injury, donations poured in. He’s working with the American Heart Association to promote CPR training. He’s working on youth violence prevention and a career fair through his foundation. He called his elevated platform and new connections “a dream come true.” 

“I have the tools, the resources, and everything to get what I want done.” 

Learn what motivates you. Use it to motivate others.

McEvoy told the crowd she played college field hockey and lacrosse. “What I learned from the team is number one, two, and three, it’s not about you. It’s all about the team.” 

On the worst days, during the toughest seasons, she learned to face fears and “find one way to contribute.”  

Jane Fraser, CEO of Citi, said she leads with empathy, trying to understand other perspectives and develop solutions. Being empathetic is being insightful. As she said, “Empathy can drive excellence, and it can drive competitive edge.” 

Roger Ferguson, former president and CEO, TIAA, and former vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, said diversity builds resilience in companies and systems, and the evidence bears that out. Diversity includes thought, experience, and age. He now has a business partner half his age, which he credits for helping to “avoid group think. You create brand new ideas. You see the world from many different angles.”  

“Empathy can drive excellence, and it can drive competitive edge.”

––Jane Fraser, CEO, Citigroup

Lean into thorny challenges.

Ferguson said decoupling the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China, doesn’t make sense. “Figuring out a new consensus that allows us to have smart economic interactions with China benefits every business in this country and will ultimately benefit them as well.” The business community should argue that smart diplomacy around economics can be separate from military concerns if done correctly, he said. 

Asked by moderator Tim Dugan, managing partner, Water Street Healthcare Partners, why health care is even more short-staffed than other industries, Ferguson pointed to the labor-intensive nature of health care and suggested immigration policy as part of the solution. Washington bases its immigration response on the fallacy that immigrants are taking good jobs, while in fact high-skilled immigrants are going elsewhere, such as Canada, he said.  

Ferguson encouraged our CEO audience to speak out and urge policymakers to focus on economic policies rather than hot-button issues that get them re-elected. “We have really credible voices. We need to get into Washington, get in the state capitals, and drive what we think is sensible economic policy.” 

Moderator Mike Mahoney, CEO, Boston Scientific Corporation, asked Secretary Raimondo how medtech should navigate China as a difficult but large market. She urged caution and that company leaders understand the risks, such as abrupt price cuts, but to pursue the market nonetheless, knowing the U.S. won’t sell China the best technology, such as leading-edge artificial intelligence semiconductor chips, because of the risk that China would use it for military and surveillance purposes. 

Medtech is remarkable.

Ferguson: “It’s exciting. If I could start over again as a 25-year-old, I’d jump into health tech, medtech. That actually is the future.” 

Raimondo: “You make stuff every day. You’re the last bastion of advanced manufacturing [in the U.S.], which is super exciting.” 

McEvoy: “We do remarkable things for patients. This is why we come to work every single day.” 

“It’s exciting. If I could start over again as a 25-year-old, I’d jump into health tech, medtech. That actually is the future.” 

––Roger Ferguson, former President and CEO, TIAA, and former Vice Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve System

Registration is open for the 2024 CEO Summit, March 11-12, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Read more. 

Hear Patient Stories

The Story of Medtech empowers patients to share their experiences with medical technology in an effort to educate, inspire, and create community.