Kelly Emerton, PhD, Senior Director of Product Development for Cleveland Clinic Innovations, lives her life with the motto “Head. Heart. Hustle.” She has helped launch products and companies with this mantra in mind throughout her career.
Kelly joined Cleveland Clinic in 2014 after spending years in industry with Medtronic. When the opportunity to interview at Cleveland Clinic arose, she was impressed with all the capabilities the organization offered. A Midwest native, she was eager to return to the Great Lakes and gain a deeper understanding of the healthcare industry.
With a Master’s Degree and PhD in biomedical engineering and professional background in Medtronic’s spine & biologics and thoracic endovascular business groups, Kelly brought in years of product development experience. Since joining CCI, she has been responsible for helping create new models of product development within the Cleveland Clinic environment. She was a driving force behind the 510(k) approval of Dr. Whitlow’s coronary guidewires (WhitloWires) and helping to stand up 3 spin-off companies; Tatara Vascular, LLC, Bialbero Medical, LLC and Enhale Medical, Inc.
Among her other projects, Kelly began working with Dr. Hani Najm, Chief, Pediatric and Congenital Surgery, from his first weeks at Cleveland Clinic. They connected at a Heart & Vascular Institute staff meeting before he accepted the position and showed her an idea he had been carrying with him for quite some time. “His idea was literally written on the back of a napkin,” said Kelly. “His office reached out to me in his first week at the Clinic so we could start working on the project.” This idea eventually led to the development of a stented pulmonary autograft prosthesis for pediatric patients with a congenital mitral defect.
Many resources available through Cleveland Clinic Innovations have allowed for this project to advance. In May of 2018, Dr. Najm was awarded the Hickey Innovation Impact Award from the Hickey Family Foundation. The $25,000 prize allowed the team to conduct preclinical testing to get the prototype where it is today. This testing was conducted with Medical Device Solutions and the AFIC Lab. “The ability to be de-risk and develop agilely is such a benefit,” says Kelly of the differences between industry and Cleveland Clinic. The team is applying for Humanitarian Device Exemption with the FDA in the summer of 2019 to help move this project forward.
Along with a passion for bringing new medical devices to market for patients, Kelly is also a certified fashion stylist who worked NY Fashion Week for years, with a fashion degree earned on nights and weekends while completing her PhD. Additionally, she is a fierce advocate for girls who want to get into STEM. Her advice? Persevere and find someone who can push you to your potential.
“Head. Heart. Hustle,” She said. “I have things I want to do and I’m going to use my head to find the best way to do them, put my whole heart into it, and hustle until it’s done.”