MD&DI: 25 Years of Helping Industry Grow and Prosper

Originally Published MDDI August 2004

Sherrie Conroy

August 1, 2004

4 Min Read
MD&DI: 25 Years of Helping Industry Grow and Prosper

Originally Published MDDI August 2004

In the Beginning 

When Van Shears saw the need for a publication to serve the newly regulated device industry, not even a snowstorm would stop her from making it happen.

Sherrie Conroy

The industry was hungry forunbiased applied technologyinformation.—Van Shears

A snowstorm hit Rockville, MD, on February 12, 1979. But a snowstorm was not enough to keep MD&DI's founding editor and publisher from her appointed rounds. On that cold winter day, Van Shears took her vision for a medical device industry publication to key industry and FDA officials.

The schedule was an FDA Who's Who—Eloise Eavenson and Alfred Bracey, Division of In Vitro Diagnostics; Timothy Sottek, Office of Small Manufacturer Assistance; David Link, director of the Bureau of Medical Devices; and Larry Pilot, associate director for Compliance. The day also included visits with Bud Loftus and MD&DI's soon-to-be Washington correspondent Jim Dickinson.

As the editor of Pharmaceutical Technology magazine, Shears had been following the newly regulated medical device industry with a close eye in 1977 and 1978. The new regulations were just being promulgated, and she sensed a need for a publication that would give the industry a voice—and one that would serve as a vehicle for communication between FDA and industry.

She had taken her prospectus to a colleague, but he dismissed the idea, brushing it aside with “the industry is too broad.” But Shears knew otherwise. “They were hungry for unbiased applied technology information,” she said.

And so, with partner Clay Camburn, Shears founded Canon Communications, and the industry's publication was launched. That February trip to Rockville was the first in a series of visits that were instrumental in cultivating an early relationship with both industry and FDA. The biggest challenge at the time was “convincing both industry and government that the magazine would be bipartisan. We were able to do this with 
consistently high-quality editorial material,” Shears said.

From experience, she knew the importance of presenting accurate, timely information to a regulated industry. “We were extremely careful to stress that our editorial would be subject to a double-blind review by industry professionals,” Shears explained. Before the first issue, she put together an editorial advisory board of industry experts and called on them for articles, reviews, and advice.

MD&DI was also critical to helping FDA. By contributing articles on the agency and its regulations, FDA had a tool to communicate its message to manufacturers. The first issue included a commentary from FDA commissioner Donald Kennedy.

“The point was to keep industry and government talking,” she said. “You can't imagine what a difficult time the implementation of the medical device amendments was for both industry and government,” added Shears.

The industry was confronted with a variety of problems, which helped define the magazine's purpose. “We wanted to provide information that would help them do their jobs—and do them better,” said Shears. “We knew the magazine would be a success from the get-go.”

She knew, too, that suppliers would be excited about reaching an industry that had seen “a more than twofold increase from 1970 to 1976” and was continuing to see double-digit growth numbers. “We were aware that the amendments were going to dictate quality of materials used and how devices were going to be manufactured,” Shears said. She remembers telling suppliers that the major device companies would be setting protocols and that once those protocols were set and suppliers were able to meet them satisfactorily, they would have a locked-in market.

She credits the magazine's success to a focused mission and the principles on which it was based. MD&DI's mission—to help medical device manufacturers develop, design, and manufacture medical products that comply with U.S. and worldwide regulations and market demands—is the same today as it was 25 years ago.

The first issue of Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry mailed in June 1979 to about 17,000 subscribers. Reflecting on those early days, Shears said, “It couldn't have been better.” The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Copyright ©2004 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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