WVExecutive Article Tom McClellan, MD FACS
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WVExecutive Article Tom McClellan, MD FACS

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This is and article that appeared in the WVExecutive Magazine Feb 2014

This is and article that appeared in the WVExecutive Magazine Feb 2014

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    WVExecutive Article Tom McClellan, MD FACS WVExecutive Article Tom McClellan, MD FACS Document Transcript

    • www.wvexecutive.com THE ACA IN 2015 Planning for the Future The Evolution of Information
    • “I’ve heard ‘no’ a hundred times, and that only serves to strengthen my resolve to succeed. It’s the West Virginian in me, I guess.” A Cut Above By Amy Arnett An Introduction to Innovator Tom McClellan Plastic surgery is a field that is oftentimes defined by the pursuit of perfection—facelifts, breast augmentation and tummy tucks—but it is actually a highly diversified and complex field that serves to improve quality of life and solve complicated health problems. “Plastic surgery as a specialty is so much more than it’s portrayed on reality TV,” says Dr. Tom McClellan. “There is a great amount of freedom for creativity in order to solve complex, three-dimensional problems. It requires attention to detail, a bit of OCD and the ability to think outside the box.” McClellan is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Morgantown, WV, as well as a serial entrepreneur within the health care industry. An avid inventor at heart, McClellan holds four U.S. patents for medical devices with approximately 15 more pending with the U.S. Patent Office. Two of his devices have been actively used on patients to improve breast cancer reconstruction and chest repair following open heart surgery. McClellan founded Figure 8 Surgical, with funding from famed Stanford heart surgeon Tom Fogarty and a few West Virginia investors, to design and build the FlatWire sternal closure system. The device increases the stability and strength of the breast bone and reduces bone pain following open heart surgery. FlatWire is FDA-cleared and currently in a multicenter clinical trial across the country. Distribution agreements with companies in Japan, South Africa and India will soon take the FlatWire device global. The FlatWire sternal closure system. www.wvexecutive.com winter 2014 49
    • Missions in Medicine In preparation for each trip, Fogarty sets the dates and locations and begins working with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and fundraisers in order to get the money and supplies required to perform surgery. “We can do surgery in any place,” says Fogarty. “In terms of patient safety, we do the exact same things as we do here. We bring all of our monitoring supplies and equipment.” Being able to perform procedures safely and using advanced equipment provides the communities with outstanding care to which they would otherwise not have access. Fogarty himself has been on trips that range from nine days to a year, but most trips are for more brief periods of time. With a busy practice and a family, McClellan finds it hard to leave for longer than a week or two. “I’m in private practice, and I have a wife and two kids. It’s hard to get away, but it’s something I plan to do more of in the future,” says McClellan. Like many medical professionals, Dr. Tom McClellan entered the medical field in order to help others, and his work in doing so doesn’t stop with his practice at home. He has been on two trips abroad with groups who perform surgeries on patients in developing countries. The majority of surgeries performed on these trips are for congenital deformities in children. “We only do reconstructive surgery, and we see a lot of hand deformities, cleft lip and palette and burns,” says McClellan. “These cases would be dealt with here at a much younger age, but they just don’t have the same surgical opportunities.” McClellan’s first trip was to Pignon, Haiti, followed by one to Tacna, Peru. “I absolutely loved it, and it was a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s the purity of medicine, which I love. I wish I could go on more of these trips.” He explains that working abroad is an adventure. A typical workday consists of performing surgery from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., resulting in about 70 surgeries per week. The trips are coordinated by Dr. David Fogarty, a plastic surgeon and longtime friend of McClellan’s who is also based in Morgantown and who founded the organization Interplast. Fogarty works with surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists and pediatricians from across the globe to assemble teams for these surgical trips that provide locals with access to quality surgery for free. “My last trip was my 101st trip,” says Fogarty. “This has been an integral part of my career.” 50 west virginia executive Having met when McClellan was a resident in Morgantown, the two surgeons have become close friends and speak highly of each other. “Dr. McClellan is an accomplished surgeon and very good at what he does. He’s a team player and fits right in,” says Fogarty. “He understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.” Working for others and meeting new people is an important part of the process for trips like this to be successful. The relationships that are created and strengthened by traveling on service trips are some of the most rewarding, according to McClellan. “You have a lot of fun with the team you go with, and you feel like you’re making a big difference in the lives of the people there, who are wonderful,” he says. “You get to see the richness of the people and how they want their children to have the best, just like we do. They’ll sacrifice like we will. Coming back, I realized we are fortunate people. My trip to Peru was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.”
    • Another patent now being manufactured is the AlloX2, a tissue expander for women undergoing breast reconstruction. This device helps reduce many of the common complications associated with breast cancer surgery. McClellan has two other funded medical device companies in queue: StealthSuture, a knotless suture for repairing tissue during surgery, and AcuArc, a non-operative way to cosmetically improve lower eyelid bulging and darkness. All in the Family Growing up in a family of doctors, McClellan’s future in the medical field was set from an early age. “My great-grandfather, my grandfather and my dad were all doctors, and my sister is a doctor as well. I have wanted to be a surgeon for as long as I can remember,” says McClellan. “I have a picture of myself when I was 5 with a surgical mask on, and I would go on rounds at the hospital with my father and play at the nurses’ station. I would pretend to wear his pager, which is funny because now, I wish I could get rid of mine because it goes off so much.” He thinks the fifth generation McClellan doctor will likely be his 14-year-old niece rather than one of his two sons, who are 7 and 10. “I’ll be making a video of a surgical procedure for my YouTube channel, and my kids will see it. I’ll ask them if they want to be doctors,” he says. “They always say no. They want to work with computers and robots. But given the success of Instagram and Tesla, I am supportive of that choice.” Beyond shaping his career in medicine, McClellan’s family was responsible for his strong work ethic and independence. “My mom and grandmother were supportive of thinking differently,” says McClellan. “It was like a badge of honor to be creative and industrious and to build things. That’s how I was raised.” Today, through his wife and two kids, he has found even more support. Developing new devices and getting them onto the market has taken him to meetings and pitches all over the country, oftentimes on his own dime. “My wife is very supportive,” he says. “She says, ‘Give it a go,’ instead of ‘Why don’t you focus on your real job?’ It’s OK to dream and reach, and to have that is amazing.” The Patents and Project Process Innovation is at the heart of plastic surgery. In an industry where procedures face complications, patients’ lives are improved by problem-solving and constant evolution. McClellan has personally succeeded in helping to reduce some of these difficulties by creating new devices. How does he do it? The process of invention is much like one would expect, but the most important element is motivation. “I think about my ideas continually,” says McClellan. “It might take a year of thinking about something, reducing it to its simplest form. Then I start by drawing sketches in one of my 50 lab notebooks.” From there, he researches his ideas to see why a product or procedure might not already be in use. “If I find an idea that has already been invented, I try to figure out why it didn’t see the light of day. Understanding their failure is tremendously valuable.” Once his idea has been researched, McClellan presents it to his team of engineers and business partners, who give honest feedback. If they are on board, he begins the process of finding a way to design, manufacture, produce and protect his invention. “That’s where the fun and work starts: flying all over the country for meetings, pitches, small wins, losses and frustrations. I love it,” he says. Back to His Roots Originally from Charleston, McClellan has lived all over the U.S., but he moved back to West Virginia because of his love for the state and its people. “It’s like the mountains get in your blood,” he says. “The people here are salt-of-the-earth, hard workers and appreciative; they’re people you want to take care of.” When an opportunity to join a private practice in Morgantown came up, he was thrilled. McClellan also credits his upraising for his tenacious personality. “When you want to innovate, you have to be fearless. People may laugh at me. I may fail terribly, but I’ve got to try it,” he says. To get his first company funded, he flew back and forth to Palo Alto, CA 23 times in six months, usually staying less than 24 hours per trip. “I’ve heard ‘no’ a hundred times, and that only serves to strengthen my resolve to succeed. It’s the West Virginian in me, I guess.” Development in the Mountain State comes with its struggles, which McClellan believes should be addressed. For instance, he sees a real lack of start-up infrastructure, from venture and angel funding to finding other like-minded innovators and engineers with whom to collaborate. The potential resources here are great, though, and he believes West Virginia should look to its universities and young people for innovation. “I am involved with biomedical and software innovation at West Virginia University (WVU), and I have noticed that there are numerous obstructions to getting inventions past the university level and into use. If we could streamline and support that process, WVU could be very successful.” He uses The University of Utah as an example. “They had more than 20 spinoff companies last year and more than $200 million in venture capital funding enter Salt Lake City.” At the end of the day, McClellan admits his biggest challenge is not having enough time to do everything he wants. There’s no lack of motivation, only a lack of room on the clock. His philosophy is to keep pushing forward and working through his next project. “I don’t look at these things as success. It’s my job; that’s what I intended to do,” he says. “My kids are my best inventions, and I didn’t even have to patent them. Raising kids and doing the best I can at that—that’s really success.  Photography by Tracy Toler, Dr. David Fogarty, Dr. Tom McClellan and Interplast WV www.wvexecutive.com winter 2014 51