What led you to choose science and/or engineering as a career, particularly in the medical device industry?
Accardi: As a kid, my parents encouraged my curiosity, and I have always been fascinated to understand how things work. When I was five, I disassembled an alarm clock — and I almost got it to work again! My father understood how to make doing projects around the house fun, and we did many projects together. Once, I helped him build a doghouse, and that was when I first learned about the Pythagorean Theorem. Over the years, my love for math and science grew, which is why I participated in Explorer Scouts in high school — a branch of the Boy Scouts — for engineering. Throughout my teenage years, I also had several great summer jobs at our local steel mill that taught me both the value of a solid education, and about the variety of opportunities available for me to pursue in the engineering industry.
I was five years into my engineering career before I entered the medical diagnostics and devices field with GE Healthcare, and I have never considered working in any other space. I am driven by a passion for bringing solutions to the market that improve patient outcomes and improve patient’s lives. For me, there is no better place to drive meaningful innovation than in the medical device space.
What has been your most rewarding moment/accomplishment as an engineer/scientist in the medical industry?
Accardi: I am strongly driven by opportunities to do what others have thought impossible and have had the chance to do just that several times in my career. Over the course of my career in medical device and diagnostics research and development, I have had the opportunity to work on truly transformational devices in several fields, including interventional radiology, neurosurgery, gynecological surgery, breast cancer detection, and surgical robotics. When I worked at GE, I led the software team that introduced the company’s first entry into general radiology ultrasound. I also spearheaded the GE team that demonstrated the clinical performance of digital 2D mammography. At Philips, my team introduced the world’s first 3D transducer for imaging the entire heart in real time, and at J&J, my team introduced critical improvements in the treatment of hydrocephalus and chronic pain. At Hologic, I led the research and development team responsible for bringing to market the world’s first 3D mammography solution, the Genius™ 3D Mammography™ exam, which is the only mammogram clinically proven to detect 20 to 65 percent more invasive breast cancers compared to 2D alone.
What advice would you give to other women looking to work in biomedical engineering and science?
Accardi: Build and use your network to identify places in the biomedical space to make a difference and build your career. I was late to the concept of leveraging my personal network and have seen great value in having people across companies and industries I can reach out to with questions. It’s never too early to start your LinkedIn profile!
Go after interesting internships aggressively. It’s hard to know where you might want to start your career, and internships can really help you see what different roles and companies are like without a long-term commitment. Experiment with different company sizes to see where you feel more comfortable. Look for real projects to work on and an environment where mentors will provide you constructive feedback and support.
Finally, throughout your career, challenge yourself to be a better contributor every day. Understand what is expected of you in any role and figure out how to exceed expectations. Earn the right to be recognized for what you have accomplished and confidently advocate for yourself without apology.
More Interviews in our "Leading Women in Engineering & Science" Series:
- Tracy Campbell Accardi, Vice President, Surgical Robotics Research & Development, Medtronic
- Anne F. Booth, Owner/President, Booth Scientific Sterilization and Quality System Professionals
- Ulkuhan Guler, Assistant Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- Robyn Meurant, Executive Director, Regulatory Services, IVDs and Medical Devices, NSF International
- Ekaterina Tkatchouk, Principal Engineer, Edwards Lifesciences
- Maryam Zahabi, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Texas A&M University
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- Winnie Yu, PhD, Senior Director of Medical Innovation; Flex - Health Solutions
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