The search for a life-changing innovation


It might be the ultimate medical innovation – an artificial heart – and generations of physicians have pursued it, a story told in “Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart.”

Author Mimi Swartz feared this history was being forgotten. “The larger-than-life personalities – Dr. Michael DeBakey and Dr. Denton Cooley – were such dominant figures for more than 50 years; I couldn’t stand for that history to be lost,” she said. “Also, so many innovations happened in Houston, including the implantation of the first artificial heart and the development of the Left Ventricular Assist Device – I couldn’t stand for that information to be lost too.”

Writing this book taught her a lot about innovation in medicine, the trade-offs involved in medical progress, even who benefits most.

“One of the most important things to think about is how many of these high-tech devices we need, and who will get them – who will be able to afford them,” she said.

“Medical innovation over the last 50 years is a global, billion dollar business, fraught with pitfalls: legal, governmental, ethical, financial, and, finally, personal,” Ms. Swartz said. “A great invention that could save millions of lives can end up on the junk heap because a hedge fund lost interest, while another great invention moves forward, but was stolen from the lab of another researcher. The persistence required to bring a medical device to market is daunting. One inventor told me, ‘If I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have even started.’ ”


Swartz M. Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart. New York: Penguin Random House, 2018.

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