Medtech Loses a Legendary Leader

Leon Hirsch founded and led United States Surgical Corporation, which developed the first automated minimally invasive surgical stapler.

Amanda Pedersen

December 13, 2023

3 Min Read
Leon C. Hirsch, founder of U.S. Surgical and inventor of the modern day surgical stapler, died Sunday at the age of 96.
Leon C. Hirsch, founder of U.S. Surgical and inventor of the modern day surgical stapler, died Sunday at the age of 96.

The medical device industry lost a legendary figure on Sunday. Leon Hirsch, founder of United States Surgical Corporation (USSC), died at the age of 96.

Hirsch was known for his dedication and impact on the industry, and is credited with the invention of the modern day surgical stapler. Under his leadership, USSC (founded in 1963) revolutionized surgery and became the largest manufacturer of surgical staplers and laparoscopic instruments. In 1998, Tyco International (later known as Covidien) bought USSC for $3.3 billion in stock. Medtronic then bought Covidien in a historic deal valued at 42.9 billion.

In his last living LinkedIn post, four months ago, Hirsch reflected on the transformative evolution in surgery that he both contributed to and witnessed.

"Over six decades, I have witnessed innovation, faced challenges, and celebrated triumphs in surgery," Hirsch wrote. "These have been the most enriching chapters of my life, and I am deeply grateful to everyone who walked this path with me."

He and his wife, Fanny Flecha-Hirsch, recently revisited his "old stomping grounds" in New Haven, CT.

"I was astounded by the progress and advancements in minimally invasive surgery, all thanks to the passionate and dedicated team at Covidien (Medtronic)," he wrote. "Experiencing the Hugo RAS firsthand was initially daunting. However, its user-friendly interface made even a nonagenarian like me feel at ease within minutes. I can only imagine the wonders a talented surgeon can perform with such a tool!"

The Mullings Group shared a video from five years ago that encapsulates the impact and reach Hirsch had on the industry.

"It is said that there are great leaders, but the greatest leaders create other great leaders. Leon's Coaching Tree in the medtech industry is legendary. The number of incredibly successful CEO's and leaders that came out of USSC is mind bending," Joe Mullings, CEO of The Mullings Group, wrote in the LinkedIn post. "I remember early in my recruiting career sitting with Leon at the USSC facility in Norwalk, CT and feeling the passion and intensity he had for the business, his team members, and the patients. ... Leon, you will be missed my friend."

In a comment on Mullings' post, Mark Howansky, VP of device development and commercialization at Viridian Therapeutics, wrote, "I was lucky to have started my career at US Surgical and benefit from the amazing resources there during my tenure. And I still benefit today from the amazing network of USSC alumni that you noted."

IRCAD also took to LinkedIn to honor Hirsch. "Leon C. Hirsch was the first person to place his trust in Prof. Jacques Marescaux, and his financial support made the creation of the Institute possible. IRCAD could never have opened its doors without his assistance. His vision, his influential role in the medical world, and his passion for innovation and education have been invaluable to IRCAD," according to the post. "Our first auditorium is named the 'Leon Hirsch Auditorium,' ensuring that his legacy will endure within the Institute."

Tom Mitchell noted in another LinkedIn post that Hirsch was "a pioneer who demonstrated to me and countless others what it means to have a vision and fully capitalize on it to benefit of multitudes of other people.""Even today, I (and many others) still promote and practice his Ten Techniques of Surgical Selling. The only discipline necessary to be a professional salesperson and successful entrepreneur," Mitchell wrote.

In 2003, Hirsch introduced Vivatone, a first-in-class, open-fit, receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid system. For Hirsch it was a personal experience that led to what he would consider, his third medical revolution, according to his obituary, which rightfully added that nearly every hearing aid manufacturer today offers a hearing aid that incorporates the open-fit concept and technology.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

Sign up for the QMED & MD+DI Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like