Is medicine an art or a science? Chris Scorzelli, M.D., would undoubtedly answer "both." Although he says that, "since age 15, my sole goal was to be a pediatrician -- to see kids on a daily basis and make them feel better," his work-life to date has included stints in cancer research, social work, home renovation and a one-man gallery exhibit where he sold 16 paintings in a month.
Through it all, he said, "I was still determined to go to medical school." By the time he became an M.D., his wife had a career in the Twin Cities, and they had two daughters. Just as he was facing an out-of-state residency, he got an invitation to the annual Design of Medical Devices conference, which offered free admission to students. At the conference, he learned about the Innovation Fellows program at the University of Minnesota's Medical Devices Center. "The clouds parted," he said. "It was everything I'd ever enjoyed, liked and wanted to do."
For the past two years, he's been employed at Kablooe Design, where he works on medical devices as well as consumer products. "We like to cross-pollinate," says Kablooe president Tom KraMer. "It's one of our strengths. People think you have to pigeon-hole yourselves. We want you to use the left and right brain."
Companies call on Kablooe to help solve a range of design challenges: One of Scorzelli's designs prevents patients from holding an epinephrine autoinjector backward, injecting themselves in the thumb. "That's a bad thing to happen to users," KraMer said. Another, more complex problem involved a new, less invasive treatment for enlarged prostate. Creating a device that balanced well and allowed the physician to apply just the right amount of pressure was akin to sculpture for Scorzelli. Developing a training cartridge to simulate the three layers of tissue the device would go through, the Kablooe team connected with Hollywood prop makers.
The goal, Scorzelli said, is "fail early, fail often, fail cheaply". On a given morning, his workroom at Kablooe is filled with lengths of plastic plumbing pipe and connectors, because it's the cheapest material for thinking through what may become a multi-million-dollar device. "I learned thriftiness through my earlier life experiences," he said.
Why did your career take so many detours?
Some people look at my résumé and say, "You've done so many things, that may be a problem for you." But everyplace I've ever worked will give you a good reference. I get bored easily -- once I've mastered something, unless there's room for growth, I move on. Life events allowed for wondrous things to happen. If I'd gone straight through medical school, I'd be practicing in a clinic somewhere.
Did medical school encourage your creativity?
Medical school is a process of being beaten down. I can't say I didn't hear that before I started. I would say that if there's anything else you think you could do, you should do it.
Could you do what you're doing without being an M.D.?
The medical training is huge. I know the science. I just don't let it inhibit the initial creative burst. Then I come back to "Do no harm" and the laws of physics.
Have you found the work you'll stay in?
Yes. I've come full circle. I have a job that meets my interests, allows new creative things. I love going to work -- I have to consciously prevent myself from becoming a workaholic.