Would any of the top medical devices of all time be possible without plastics?


Recently, PlasticsToday's sister publication QMED, asked its readers to vote on the top medical device of all time. It was interesting to see the results: eyeglasses came in at #1; the hypodermic syringe was voted #2; and the X-ray machine at #3.

I was reminded about the time I met and interviewed three of the most notable people in the medical device industry and were largely responsible for Salt Lake City's notoriety as a medical device hub. Those three men were Dale H. Ballard, James L. Sorenson, and Victor I. Cartwright. Interviewing these three men in the early 1990s was an honor and it taught me a lot about the role of plastics in medical devices.

Ballard and Cartwright met each other while working as pharmaceutical reps for Parke Davis, and became close friends. Sorenson was also a pharmaceutical rep for Upjohn. I recall in my interview with Sorenson that he laughingly called himself, Cartwright, who was a pharmacist, and Ballard, "snake-oil salesmen."

In 1957, the three men co-founded Deseret Pharmaceutical Company, a disposable medical device manufacturer. A few years later in 1960 Sorenson sold his interest in the company, and left the medical field for a few years. However, he had a passion for the medical device industry. Noticing the problems physicians had in medicine delivery, he invented numerous medical devices including the modern-day intravenous catheter, a thin-walled stainless steel needle through which a tiny plastic catheter could be threaded into a vein.
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