Medtech POV Blog

“Transparency, Inclusion, and Example”: How to Lead in Congress, Business, or Anywhere, According to Former U.S. Senator Richard Burr 

Former U.S. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina joined me on the Medtech POV podcast to share his perspective on policy and leadership. Having served in the U.S. House and Senate for nearly three decades, including tenure as Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), he’s an expert on health care policy. He also has a historical perspective that anyone involved in health-care policy should value. 

For example, Senator Burr and I agreed that artificial intelligence is at a critical stage. Policymakers need to first better understand exactly what AI is and what it is not — especially in health care, as compared to its other uses in other spheres — and how it is being used by doctors and medtech innovators before rushing to regulate it. Getting the regulation wrong could stifle innovation, the last thing such a promising technology needs — not to mention the patients who could benefit from it.  

Senator Burr recalled an effort to tax the internet in its early days. Congress wisely held off while the internet unfolded, and its use and value became clear. AI is at a similar early stage — and, because of that, policymakers should help it flourish, he said. 

The potential for AI to help in health care alone is enormous. As Senator Burr pointed out, AI could help improve the performance of medical technology by analyzing device data. It could help with early disease detection. “Early detection gives early therapeutic options,” he said. 

Turning from AI to another important issue for patients, an updated regulatory structure for diagnostic tests is long overdue for congressional action. Congress came close to passing the VALID Act to accomplish that task but hasn’t finished the job. Meanwhile, the FDA is stepping in to try to fill the vacuum.  

“What I’m telling my colleagues is, don’t leave this up to the FDA. You know, maybe we don’t get it perfect. Maybe we only get 85 percent of the way there. Maybe everybody’s upset with a different 10 percent,” but congressional authority on this issue would help withstand any court challenges. Absent congressional action, the FDA will act on the authority to regulate the tests it believes it has, and congressional inaction could influence any attempt to reverse the FDA regulation in court, Senator Burr said.  

Turning to his views and advice on leadership, Senator Burr emphasized that, whether in politics or business, there is no difference in what makes a good leader.  

“Leaders are those that inspire others to respond to the challenge. And historically I found, as you did, athletics to play a huge part of that. That people on the field respected you when you gave it 110 percent. And they quickly determined when you gave 80 percent. And it doesn’t mean that they always performed at a hundred percent, but they could be motivated to do it. I think leadership is about motivating others to excel at what you’ve asked them to do. That’s what I did with committees on the Hill, and you do that through transparency, inclusion, and example.” 

Senator Burr encouraged young leaders to focus on the Three Cs: “Character, conviction, and commitment. If you can’t convince somebody of what you believe, if you can’t convince them that you know the difference between right and wrong, and that you’re passionate about accomplishing a task, why would they hire you? If you can answer those [Three Cs], then you’re competitive in the marketplace.”  

“Leaders are those that inspire others to respond to the challenge.”

Former U.S. Senator Richard Burr

To listen to the full episode, download the Medtech POV podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever podcast streaming is available. Visit for more information on the podcast and to listen to past episodes. 

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