The Hero We All Needed

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Last Friday (November 15), San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City for the day, so that five year old Miles Scott could live out his dream and be Batman for the day. If you haven't heard the story of Miles yet, you might want to grab a box of tissues before reading further. Actually, you might want them either way (I spent most of Friday suffering from "allergies").

Ready? Okay, let's continue.

Miles has been living with leukemia since he was a year old. He has fought his disease bravely for most of his life, and is now thankfully in remission. During his battle, his parents submitted Miles' dream of being Batman for the day to the wonderful folks at the Make-a-Wish foundation. And together with the help of the City of San Francisco and 12,000 volunteers, they were able to make Miles' dream come true.

For one very full day, Miles (aka Batkid) raced through the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile fighting evil-doers bent on behaving badly. With Batman at his side, he saved a damsel in distress, captured the Riddler as he tried to rob a bank, and rescued SF Giants mascot Lou Seal from the clutches of the Penguin. When he was finished, he went to City Hall and he received the key to the city from the mayor, all while basking in the accolades of thousands of grateful citizens.

See why you needed the tissues.

The story of Miles teaches us three very important lessons. First, just about the time you think humanity has bottomed out, we manage to rally and do something truly wonderful and inspiring. Second, despite its flaws, San Francisco remains the coolest city in the country. No really, it's over. Q.E.D.

But most important for those of us in the healthcare business, Miles should remind us all of why we do what we do - to help improve the lives of others less fortunate. It's a lesson that's easy to forget. You get caught up in how amazing the technology is, or feel the pressure from investors to get to market, and you lose sight of the fact that what really matters is the people we're making the device for.

Every day, all over the world, there are millions of patients like Miles that are battling cancer, or living with HIV, or slowly fading away due to Alzheimers. They and their families are depending upon all of us to make medical devices that are the best they can be. We shouldn't need regulators or insurance companies telling us that our products are safe and effective. It is something we should all take pride in making sure is true for every device we sell. Our egos and ambitions should never interfere with that goal.

It can be a slippery slope that brings a medical device to market (for a reminder, look here), but it doesn't need to be. Whether we are making a LDT or a pacemaker or a companion diagnostic, we should all never lose sight of the fact that it needs to be as safe, accurate, and reproducible as we can make it. Because we owe it to patients like Miles.

So thank you Miles, not just for saving Gotham City and being an inspiration, but for reminding us of why we got into the business of helping people. Now go get 'em Batkid. We've got your back.

Tags: IVD, Industry, LDTs

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