When a desire for real-world results meets life-saving technology

As president of patient monitoring at Medtronic, engineering grad Frank Chan aims to make ‘the biggest possible impact’
August 30, 2022
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By JP Karwacki, BA 11

A group of people gather and pose for a photo outdoors at a restaurant terrace. Chan (far left), pictured with Medtronic colleagues | Photo: Medtronic

In many ways, Frank Chan, BEng 92 — now president of patient monitoring for the $32-billion multinational medical technology corporation Medtronic — is light years away from his undergraduate days studying mechanical engineering in his hometown of Montreal. In other ways, he’s not.

“What I wanted to do was something that I could physically see,” Chan recalls, talking over Zoom from Boulder, Colorado. “It informed an important basis of the early part of my career.”

At Concordia, there was a slew of classes that captured his attention, from thermodynamics and fluid mechanics to material sciences, where knowledge could take on an applied element.

“What I liked about these studies was that it put things together — you were finally looking at the world as a system,” Chan says. “A lot of the theoretical things I [started studying] solved problems that were actually relevant to life, and it was all based in engineering.”

It was the beginning of a thread in Chan’s life of wanting to make a meaningful impact on the world around him, eventually being drawn to biomedical engineering where his studies in the mechanical could be applied to medicine and medical challenges.

“I’m motivated to make the biggest possible impact that I can. [At Medtronic] we make a huge impact towards a cause that I personally believe in,” Chan explains. “It gives me satisfaction in life, and I feel like I can contribute to society in a material way.”

At the cutting edge of patient-monitoring technology

A man wearing a suit and with dark, short hair smiles for the camera. “I’m motivated to make the biggest possible impact that I can,” says Chan. | Photo: Medtronic

After 18 years of work at Medtronic, Chan is focused on the strategic and operational oversight of the company and having a hand in a wide range of departments, including design, manufacturing, sales, and research and development of Medtronic’s patient-monitoring technologies.

Truly as palpable as a heartbeat, patient monitoring focuses on developing technology to enable patient safety by monitoring vital signs or other physiologic signals — think devices such as pulse oximetry, the clip on a patient’s finger to monitor oxygen saturation — that arise from medical procedures, arming clinicians with actionable insights.

“We have technology that predicts which patients might be at higher risk, and technologies that forewarn certain vital signs are trending so nurses or physicians can be alerted to attend to the patient before they go into serious respiratory arrest,” Chan explains.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for this technology in order to reduce contact with the highly infectious disease. The technology allows for a smaller number of caregivers to manage more patients and continues to be useful when staff shortages in health care are increasingly acute.

Fundamental learning to tackle everyday issues

Chan says that in addition to support from his family, along with hobbies and interests to regroup mentally and physically, his formative days at Concordia gave him the foundational skills to weather challenges.

“A lot of people in positions like mine, who run sizeable companies, have a lot of challenges they have to deal with — and a lot of these challenges never have easy answers,” says Chan.

“One of the biggest things I learned about business acumen from my fundamentals at Concordia was problem solving. When you go through an engineering program as your fundamental training, your ability to problem solve becomes a little more systematic and methodical.”

And when the problems you solve means the difference between life and death, that training becomes indispensable.



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