July 25, 2012 smz-blog

The power of a ground-breaking idea


– Jim Michelson, SMZ Chairman

“In 1952, Wayne State University physician Forest Dodrill approached General Motors with an idea. The doctor was convinced that GM’s research engineers could construct a machine to take over the heart’s functions, opening the door for more effective surgeries. He was right. Dodrill performed the world’s first successful open heart surgery with the assistance of a mechanical heart pump that looked remarkably like a 12-cylinder engine. Today, it’s estimated that nearly 3,000 open heart operations are performed every day, improving—even saving— the lives of millions of patients worldwide.”
—2011 Wayne State University Annual Report

In 1977, I purchased Dr. Dodrill’s former home. Now it’s not unusual for people to move and leave things behind: a wheelbarrow with a flat tire, a broken lamp, an unfinished project. So when I discovered some left-behind metal machinery in the basement, I supposed they were unusable furnace parts. Or from the engine of a long-gone car. Or … who knows.

But thinking back, it makes me wonder if just maybe those mystery metal works were a precursor or prototype of a machine that’s improved and saved millions of lives. The pieces of one man’s determined conviction to make medicine better. Guess I’ll never really know. But I do know it sure made a fine doorstop.

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