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SAN ANTONIO - A record crowd of nearly 450 members and supporters of San Antonio's biomedical sector paid tribute September 20 to Larry Miller, MD, Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Vidacare Corporation, recipient of BioMed SA's 2012 Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences.
The award, named after Palmaz Stent inventor Julio Palmaz, MD of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, honors individuals who have made significant contributions to advance the healthcare and bioscience fields.
"Our honoree embodies what the Palmaz Award is all about - the talent of innovation, the drive to apply it, and a commitment to healing and community service that makes Dr. Miller both worthy and amazing," said Palmaz Committee Chair Steven Davis.
A longtime emergency medicine physician, Dr. Miller invented the EZ-IO, a battery-powered drill that can access the bone marrow of a trauma victim in under 10 seconds to begin delivering vital fluids and medication. He founded Vidacare to commercialize the technology.
"It's one thing to invent something. It's another to have it actually be utilized in the field hands-on," said Dr. Davis, citing a paramedic's assessment of the life-saving potential of the device, used by more than 90% of US advanced life support ambulances and more than half of US emergency departments.
"Almost every day in 30 years as an emergency medicine doctor, I struggled with starting IVs," Miller said. This led him to search for a way to access the intraosseous (inside the bone) space, where the body's largest non-collapsible vein is housed. While children's bones are soft enough to access the bone marrow, adult bones are much harder and more difficult to penetrate.
"I loved working in the emergency room, where every day I tried to save a life. But, I thought to myself, 'Here's a chance to save thousands of lives, not just one at a time,' so I made a decision to put all my effort into Vidacare," he said.
Noting that only one of 100 good ideas makes it to market, Dr. Miller recounted the many highs and lows the company experienced during the commercialization process. "It's never as easy as you think it will be. It may take a year, or three or four years, but you just can't give up." The important thing, he said, is to do everything for the right reason. "If you do what's in the best interest of the patient, you'll do what is in the best interest of your company. It will come back to reward you over and over again."
The Real Reward
Beyond commercial success, Dr. Miller said his real reward comes from the thousands of doctors, nurses, and paramedics - both civilian and military - who say that intraosseous access has changed the way they practice medicine. "It's taken away the fear of starting IVs and allowed them to practice to the best of their ability."
Miller paid tribute to Dr. Palmaz for "inspiring us" by inventing and commercializing the stent, from which Mother Teresa and countless others - including Miller himself - have benefited. He also thanked BioMed SA for bringing San Antonio's healthcare and bioscience sector together into a "critical mass" to support innovation and raise the city's profile as a biomedical center.
He ended his remarks by showing a video of his rapidly arranged mercy mission to Haiti in 2010, during which he delivered a planeload of donated IO supplies and trained medical professionals on the ground as they battled a deadly cholera outbreak.
Extraordinary Vitality and Collaboration
BioMed SA Chair Ken Trevett, who emceed the dinner, described the extraordinary vitality and importance of biomedicine in San Antonio, citing the contributions of leaders such as Julio Palmaz and Larry Miller, among others, and the willingness of the local sector to collaborate.
"With the vibrancy of this community and its growing international reputation, what do we need to keep the wind at our backs and our compass true?" Trevett asked. "The answer is simple: investment. We must grow the presence of venture capital here. We must continue the generous flow of philanthropy to our research organizations. And we must invest in the good work of this organization, BioMed SA."
Presenting Sponsor representative Wayne Alexander, Chairman of the San Antonio Medical Foundation, cited the foundation's role as a founding member of BioMed SA and the continuing alignment between the two organizations' missions.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood and Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute President Tom Kowalski of Austin were among the distinguished guests in attendance. The audience also included members of BioMed SA's 7th grade robotics team, The Randomists, who compete in the FIRST Lego League, as well as high school participants in the Health Science Center's Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy.