Dr. Simon Stertzer And The Work of the Stanford Biodesign Program

Cardiologist Dr. Simon H. Stertzer, MD is known for his innovative work with patients, breaking ground by performing the first angioplasty in the United States. However, Dr. Stertzer also has had a long time commitment to mentoring and supporting the education of the next generation of medtech innovators. Part of that commitment is his work as a mentor in the Stanford Biodesign program. This program serves to help promising young health technology innovators learn, grow, and realize their full potential. Mentors like Dr. Simon Stertzer are an important part of that process.

What is the Stanford Biodesign Program?

The Stanford Biodesign Program was born from the Stanford Medical Device Network, a group of faculty who were interested in the development of medical devices. This group was organized by Dr. Paul G. Yock, and they hosted medtech seminars, workshops and challenges.

In the year 2000, this group convinced the Stanford Dean of Medicine and Dean of Engineering that the Medical Device Network should be part of the school's "Bio-X Initiative".  This new fellowship soon found its first sponsors in Guidant and Johnson & Johnson, and in 2001 the Innovation Fellowship was launched. This fellowship had support from mentors like Dr. Simon Stertzer, who helped to guide this new generation of innovators. 

Before long, the program had team members founding companies that would work to change our world for the better. Over the years, more and more companies have burst forth from the budding minds of those who had their talents honed and sharpened by the program and mentors like Dr. Stertzer.  

How Does The Program Work?

The Stanford Biodesign program has an innovation process which it teaches to fellows, students and faculty trainees. They used project based activities to train them to go through the three key phases of this process in a hands on way.  

  • Identify -  This phase is where they identify health needs that are going unmet. They see what problems are occurring during the cycle of patient care, and look for opportunities. They then filter through the needs they have found and focus in on two or three that will have the most impact if solved. 

  • Invent - In the next phase, the Stanford Biodesigners begin to invent. They brainstorm possible solutions for the needs they have pinpointed and create prototypes in a "think-build-rethink" sequence. The solutions with the most promise are then researched for what possible challenges they could face. This "survival of the fittest" method ensures that the lead concept has the best chance of actually improving patient care.

  • Implement - In this phase, trainees take further steps by prototyping and testing their tech, and figure out all of the intellectual property, financial, and regulatory issues and how to approach them. This is the phase where mentors like Dr. Stertzer are brought in to use their knowledge and vast experience to guide them

At the end of this process the trainees will have an invention and a plan that has potential to move forward as a successful business. Not only that, but the trainees have now become masters of this innovation process and can put it into use over and over. 

Why Is This So Important?

The Stanford Biodesign Program and programs like it are vital to the future of medical technology. Any field needs innovators to survive, but when it comes to healthcare we all need those innovations for our health and survival. Having mentors like Dr. Stertzer and others of his ilk share the lessons they have learned over their years of work in medtech gives these students insight that they might not get otherwise. The ability to learn from the triumphs and the errors of the innovators that came before them is a gift that can help them to avoid potential pitfalls.

The program is a massive success as well, with over 3.4 million patients impacted worldwide and 51 healthtech companies being birthed from Fellowship projects. On top of that, alumni from the Fellowship program have launched 68 additional healthtech companies. All of this in just 20 years is a massive success story and proof that when you put time and effort into helping up and coming innovators, it will pay off. 

Dr. Simon Stertzer and the other mentors in this program are ensuring that our healthcare technology stays on the cutting edge. In fact, as they pass down their knowledge and experience, they are creating future mentors who will help keep this spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship alive for a long time to come.

Who Are Some Key Players In The Program?

The Stanford Biodesign Team and it's success is the product of a group of talented individuals who have supported the program through the years. This type of success only is possible with the kind of tireless effort, devotion of time, donations, and other types of contributions these people and others have provided. 

Dr. Paul G. Yock - Creator and Founder

Dr. Yock has recently become Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. He is also the creator of the Stanford Biodesign Program and ran it on a full time basis until recently. An inventor and innovator, in his career he created a plethora of medical devices in use today. The Rapid Exchange balloon angioplasty system he developed is the primary system now used worldwide. As an academic, he authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications, chapters and editorials. As the creator of the Biodesign Program, he was able to put this experience to use to help another generation continue to bring cutting edge developments to the medtech field.

Dr. Josh Makower - Director and Co-Founder

With Dr. Yock's retirement, program co-founder Dr. John Makower has become the director of the Stanford Biodesign Program. Dr. Makower is Consulting Professor of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School, and he holds an MBA from Columbia University, an MD from NYU School of Medicine, and an SB in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. He is also the founder of a medical device incubator called ExploraMed Development and is very devoted to developments of innovative new medical technologies. All these accomplishments and many more have been a key force in his ability to guide new MedTech innovators to success.

Dr. Simon Stertzer - Mentor

Dr. Stertzer has deep ties to Stanford University as a Professor of Medicine of Stanford School of Medicine, and now as Professor Emeritus. His experience on the cutting edge of cardiology has given him an incredible amount of experience and insight that he is able to share as a mentor. Events like the "From The Innovators Workbench" discussion Dr. Stertzer did for the Stanford Biodesign Program also allowed him to share his knowledge with a wider audience. Many of those who were mentored by him or benefited from his efforts as an educator, no doubt will continue to impact the healthcare field for years to come.

Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty - Mentor

Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty is referred to by some as the Mickey Mantle of medical device invention. This distinguished cardiac surgeon and entrepreneur has been a supporter of the Stanford Biodesign Program since 1998, and the program's Fogarty Lecture series bears his name. Fogarty was the inventor of the balloon catheter and he has invented a plethora of devices since, acquiring over 160 patents for his work. He also is founder of Fogarty Engineering, which helps promote ideas for new medical devices and is board chair or founder of many companies that have been birthed from its work. His devotion to innovation and invention has made him a wonderful mentor for those in the Stanford Biodesign Program.

Dr. Peter Fitzgerald - Mentor

Dr. Peter Fitzgerald co-founded the Center for research and Cardiovascular Intervention with Biodesign Program founder Dr. Paul Yock and he is Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Technology at Stanford. He has led or been a participant in over 150 clinical trials and has been a founder of 18 medical device companies. With a dedication to innovation, he serves on the boards or as an adviser to many MedTech startups. He also co-founded a medical technology incubator and venture fund in Israel by the name of TriVentures. As a mentor, this knowledge and experience helps him to hone the skills of the Stanford Biodesign Program trainees.

Brook Byers - Mentor and Philanthropic Contributor

Brook Byers is a venture capital investor who formed the life sciences venture capital group Kliener Perkins Caufield and Byers, which went on to be a top firm in the MedTech sectors. This firm has invested in and helped build over 100 companies. Mr. Byers is a board member of the Stanford Bio-X Advisory Council, and for over 15 years he has worked as a mentor, coach, and supporter in the Biodesign program. His work and contributions are so important, the entire program has since been re-named as the Beyers Center for Biodesign.

The Future

As the newly re-christened Stanford Beyers Center for Biodesign moves forward into the future, it does so with a history of success and innovation. Dr. Yock founded a program that is truly a wonderful place and environment for young physicians and engineers to identify and solve problems in the medical world and create new ideas for innovations in treatment.

The future of the program looks bright, and its ongoing efforts for greater diversity will only help by providing even more perspectives from which innovation can be born. 


The Stanford Biodesign Program has had a significant impact on the future of medtech by helping to train new generations of innovators. Teaching these talented minds how to hone their ideas, find what needs are not being met, and then bring healthcare solutions to market; has been a success that has created new medtech companies and helped millions of patients.

The knowledge that these up and coming talents acquire from mentors like Dr. Simon Stertzer and the others mentioned in this article is vital to their success and continued innovation. The ability to learn first hand from those who have been on the cutting edge and the experiences they have had, contributes to the success the mentees will have in the future in incalculable ways. Dr. Stertzer, his mentorship, and his Fellowships have been just one chapter in the story of the success of the Stanford Biodesign Team; but certainly a very important one.

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