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A cause for collaboration: Companies show their support for an academic discussion

It’s not all that common for a multi-institution group of physicians, scientists, and medical device manufacturers to get together and talk about how to best solve complex medical problems. But thanks to a University of Minnesota symposium series, these conversations are flourishing.

The annual Bakken Surgical Device Symposium—named for University alumnus Earl Bakken, who invented the pacemaker and cofounded Medtronic, Inc.—began in 2007. The symposia build on the University’s rich legacy of cardiovascular breakthroughs, cover present treatments and technologies, and provide insight into the future of cardiac care through innovation.

Naturally, the first symposium was focused on pacemakers. The most recent Bakken symposium, held December 8 and 9, 2008, covered heart valve disease and therapies.

“The topics are [chosen] for a reason—they have an immediate clinical need,” says associate professor of surgery Richard Bianco, who directed the 2008 event.

The 2009 Bakken symposium, slated for December 7 and 8, will highlight the current and evolving technologies used in minimally invasive surgery involving the heart, lungs, great vessels (main vessels off of the heart), and esophagus.

“In the last five years, we have seen a virtual revolution in the ability to diagnose and treat diseases of the chest with the advanced technologies currently available,” says Michael Maddaus, M.D., codirector of the University’s Minimally Invasive Surgery Center, who is directing this year’s event with Kenneth Liao, M.D., Ph.D., head of the center’s robotic and minimally invasive cardiac surgery program.

“The symposium will highlight the current state-of-the-art technologies with a glimpse into the potential future developments in this rapidly evolving field,” Liao adds.

Medical device and technology companies have supported this symposium throughout the years by funding everything from keynote speaker honoraria to program grants.

Many of these sponsors—which last year included Medtronic; St. Jude Medical Foundation; ATS Medical, Inc.; and Sorin Biomedical, Inc.—also sent their executives and salespeople to the symposium as attendees.

“It enhances technology and treatments, and everybody benefits from that,” Bianco says.

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