Earlier this year, Dr. Michelson was invited to speak at the annual Latino Medical Students Association conference, held entirely online. Moderated by patent attorney David Dykeman, the event provided a forum for medical students to learn more about innovation as it relates to medicine, and hear about the life experiences of the retired orthopedic surgeon and prolific inventor who has been awarded over 950 patents worldwide for his revolutionary medical devices.

At the start of the 75-minutes long discussion, Dr. Michelson recounted how he worked multiple jobs to put himself through college at Temple University. The school had an inexpensive fee structure that didn’t burden students with high costs, but still, even fifty years ago, paying for expensive textbooks was often challenging. The experience set him on the path of tackling the textbook affordability issue with his Michelson 20MM Foundation. The organization has been instrumental in developing, promoting and supporting no-cost, open-licensed textbooks which have saved students over a billion dollars. 

So how did Dr. Michelson become a medical device inventor? At the time, the field of spinal surgery wasn’t especially popular, allowing a young Dr. Michelson to easily secure a fellowship. During an instructive surgery on a woman’s spine held in a surgical theater with dozens of medical students in attendance, a harrowing turn of events occurred that the lead surgeon could not remedy. With this tragedy in mind, Dr. Michelson began designing surgical instruments to enable more successful spinal surgeries. His friends and peer surgeons were impressed with the medical devices and began asking for a few of their own. The high demand compelled Dr. Michelson to patent his inventions and market them so that surgeons all over the world could use the devices to help improve surgical outcomes–and the rest is history.

According to Dr. Michelson, to be a purposeful, serial inventor (rather than an accidental inventor), one must employ intelligence, hard work, perseverance, imagination, and courage. It helps to target areas ripe for disruption or innovation. When Dr. Michelson entered the field of orthopedic surgery he immediately noticed that the medical device technology being used was rather antiquated and could benefit from some creative modifications and outside-the-box thinking. “If the technology was good, I might have never become an inventor.” There were also a litany of challenges endemic to his field that complacent physicians had no will to solve, and so it was up to him to engineer solutions. He believes that anyone with the drive to solve problems can become an inventor. 

Toward the end of the chat, Dr. Michelson was asked what advice he would give to his younger, medical student self. He responded, quite practically, to take a memory course – there’s a lot to memorize in med school so a memory course will make those first two years infinitely easier.  

If you’re an entrepreneur interested in learning about how to develop and protect your innovations, download a free copy of our IP guide for innovators in the making: The Intangible Advantage.

ICYMI – Check out the full clip of Dr. Michelson speaking at the conference:


The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.