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July 6th, 2017

How the Biodesign Fistula Plug was made

Our Biodesign® Fistula Plug is an outcome of a surgeon’s ingenuity. One of Cook Medical’s representatives, Chris, helped that surgeon turn that idea into a product that benefits fistula patients across the globe. Chris just celebrated 17 years with the company, yet his partnership with Dr. David Armstrong remains one of his proudest accomplishments.

Global Product Manager Chris Nelson

Chris, a Global Product Manager for Cook Surgery

“I remember vividly sitting in his office. He was just completely open,” says Chris. “When you talk to surgeons who are innovators, you know it almost immediately. They’re listening to you, but you can see behind their eyes that their cogs are turning.”

When Chris first joined Cook Medical, he was supporting a somewhat new biomaterial called small intestinal submucosa (SIS). He had three goals: to listen to surgeons, to understand their clinical practices, and to help innovate. “Ultimately, as you listen to the surgeons’ needs, the goal is then to educate yourself to get a strong understanding. Then, you can deliver transformational devices,” says Chris.

He and Dr. Armstrong discussed SIS technology at length. Chris had never before been exposed to fistulas. He needed to educate himself. “Without being educated, a partnership would be impossible.” Eventually, Chris spent time with him in the operating room. Through observing and learning from Dr. Armstrong, Chris became very knowledgeable on the fistula disease state. “Fistula was near and dear to his heart and it became that for me.”

This knowledge gave Chris the ability to educate his coworkers at Cook, but the benefits didn’t stop there. “It gave me a true understanding of the clinical problem. I became very knowledgeable on that clinical problem in order to best serve the patients that these surgeons are trying so hard to fix.”

One day Chris was in the operating room with Dr. Armstrong while he was using SIS in the form of a flat sheet. Dr. Armstrong asked Chris if he could make the SIS look like a golf tee. “I said I don’t know, but I can find out,” says Chris. He involved a group of engineers.

One of those engineers flew from Indiana to Dr. Armstrong’s office in Georgia a short while later. “Like a good engineer, he delivered a plug that looked just like a golf tee,” says Chris. Eventually that prototype became the Biodesign Anal Fistula Plug and the Biodesign Fistula Plug Set.

Chris says being this devoted to clinical understanding isn’t unusual at Cook. In fact, it’s part of the culture. “If developing and delivering a solution to help a patient isn’t at the very core of what you do at your job, then you’re probably at the wrong company. All of us here, everyone, is focused on what’s best for the patient.”

Get the details on the Biodesign Fistula Plug