An MD&DI December 1997 Column
Allen Oelschlaeger finds excitement working for small companies.
Edward E. Waldron
Allen Oelschlaeger decided years ago that he is, by nature, a small-company person. He enjoys the challenges and dynamics of smaller businesses. That's one of the reasons he recently decided to join MicroPulse, a young company in Kalamazoo, MI, as one of three vice presidents.
"In a smaller company," Oelschlaeger says, "you do just about everything. There is not a lot of support structure in place, and it tends to be much less bureaucratic than a larger company. That makes for faster decisions and, I think, more innovation.
"Big companies are generally stable; they have a history, a track record. Everyone knows what the company is all aboutwhere it's been and where it's going. There is structure. Some people need that comfort level. Others, like me, crave a little more adventure."
A NEW OPPORTUNITY
Oelschlaeger's current adventure will see him focus on completing clinical trials for MicroPulse's new product, raising additional funds for the company, and initiating product sales. MicroPulse, which opened its doors in September 1994, is developing an innovative surface for hospital beds, and possibly other areas, that will help prevent and treat pressure sores. Each year, as many as one million people in the United States develop pressure sores, and more than a billion health-care dollars are spent on support surfaces in an attempt to prevent and treat this condition. Although several products already on the market seek to prevent or treat skin breakdown for people who are confined to one position for extended periods, Oelschlaeger believes the MicroPulse product offers unique assistance.
"Our clinical results are very encouraging," Oelschlaeger says. "So far we have seen zero incidence of pressure ulcers on the MicroPulse surface. However, the real benefit of this new technology will be that we can offer it at a price that will allow it to be used for pressure-ulcer prevention rather than just treatment. I see a great deal of potential for this product in health-care facilities and in other settings where people have limited mobility."
Oelschlaeger's enthusiasm for his new position is typical of his career. He has worked in the medical device industry since 1983, when he joined Physio Control Corp. in Redmond, WA. His initial training was in pharmacy, and when he earned his MBA, he concentrated his studies in marketing and hospital administration. During a summer internship with Eli Lilly (Indianapolis), however, he made an important discovery.
"I realized that I enjoy the industry side of health care more than the provider side," Oelschlaeger recalls. "From that point on I concentrated on working for medical device companies. I picked Physio Control because, at the time, they were the premier sales and marketing medical device company.
"You might recall," he adds, "that in the early 1980s companies were still making green boxes with black knobs and selling them through technical sales teams. Physio Control was one of the first companies to use a customer-centered approach. They brought a strong industrial design focus to their products and offered direct sales and service to their customers."
Over the last 15 years, Oelschlaeger has moved from marketing to management, holding increasingly responsible positions at several medical device companies. He was a business-unit director and director of marketing at Marquette Electronics (Milwaukee). He then served as vice president of cardiology for MedAcoustics, a Raleigh, NC, start-up, and earlier this year he joined Meridian Medical Technologies, Inc. (Columbia, MD), as a general manager.
"At Meridian Medical Technologies I was responsible for their cardiopulmonary systems division, which has a small operation in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I had responsibility for the Northern Ireland operation, but it was still located within a larger company structure.
"When I got the call from a good friend to join MicroPulse," Oelschlaeger continues, "I jumped at the chance to work in a small, entrepreneurial company again."
Oelschlaeger has a straightforward philosophy about finding a place in the business world: "It's important to step back and think about what it is you like to do and what you're good at," he says. "Once you decide, then you choose which environment works for you. You have to learn for yourself where you fit in best."
Edward E. Waldron is a freelance contributor to MD&DI. He is based in Tampa, FL.