Originally Published MDDI August 2004
At the beginning of Dick Wallin's career, he was faced with a tough decision. He had applied to Baxter Travenol Laboratories and McDonnell Aircraft Corp. He took what he imagined to be the more glamorous job at McDonnell—but after only six months, switched over to Baxter.
Wallin started at Baxter in 1967 as a staff veterinarian and pharmacologist, developing anticonvulsants and inhalational anesthetics. His lab was involved in both drug and device work.
“My Baxter experience was a great time of learning from some of the best,” Wallin says. Eventually, after becoming director of research administration and then associate director of pharmacology and microbiology, he was able to prioritize and direct Baxter's research efforts.
Wallin was lured away from Baxter in 1977 by Ted Gorski, who had started North American Science Associates Inc. (NAMSA). “I saw in his little company the opportunity to apply what I had learned to the benefit of many companies, especially the small ones responsible for so much innovation,” Wallin remembers. Starting at NAMSA as scientific director, Wallin climbed the ranks to become president of the company in 1980. “I am proud of having grown NAMSA many fold over the years I have been with them,” Wallin says. “I'm also proud of having worked on many subcommittees to develop standards for medical device testing based on the type of device and conditions of its use. Those standards have been largely incorporated into FDA guidelines first, then ISO standards.” He now serves as chairman of the board of the company.
During Wallin's time in the industry, he's witnessed many changes. “The application of quality systems in the laboratory is a very different situation today than when I was in school,” he says. He also appreciates the level of understanding in the industry about the potential for materials in devices to cause harm as well as do good. For example, he says, “there are standards and methods existing today to guide companies, but there were virtually none 25 years ago.” However, he adds, “perhaps most of all, I have enjoyed the people in this industry—always the people.”
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