Monday, July 25, 2011

Jean-Claude Saghbini, SDM '03: Systems Thinking for Tracking Medical Devices

By Eric Smalley

Jean-Claude Saghbini
Photo courtesy of WaveMark, Inc.
Designing a system to track medical devices from manufacturing to patient requires leveraging the latest RFID, cloud, and mobile technologies. Building that system requires mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and software development. And growing a medical device tracking business requires coordinating this diverse engineering mission with a sales and marketing effort aimed at multiple constituents: medical device manufacturers, hospital administrators, and healthcare providers.

Sounds like a job for someone with an education in systems thinking: WaveMark, Inc. CTO and VP of Engineering Jean-Claude Saghbini, SDM '03.

Saghbini was the seventh person to join WaveMark after it was founded in 2003. He built and now manages the hardware development, software development, and manufacturing organizations. WaveMark's smart cabinets and shelves are in hospitals in the United States and Europe, and the company is expanding into Asia. WaveMark's system handles over 20 million transactions a day.

The SDM program's systems-thinking focus has been critical to how WaveMark's system has been evolving and growing from a technical point of view, Saghbini said. "It also gave me the business understanding to allow me to better connect with the business aspect of the company and make sure that we're not doing engineering in a vacuum."

Saghbini grew up in Lebanon during the country's civil war and came to the United States to go to school in 1990. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, then earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering at MIT where he continued to develop his interest in software. He gained experience in developing massively parallel processing applications and in using numerical simulation to solve fluid mechanics problems.

After earning his master's degree, Saghbini worked at Polaroid, where he combined mechanical engineering, software development, and systems integration to build medical and digital imaging products. He then moved on to EMC, where he organized and managed a software development organization. Saghbini was also involved in launching Fantasy Seats, a company that operates a futures market for sporting events.
While at EMC, Saghbini looked into earning a business degree. "The SDM program was a perfect match because it combined engineering and management, and because I was able to attend while continuing to work at EMC," he said.

The most beneficial part of Saghbini's SDM experience was having classmates who were either working in or just out of industry, he said. "It wasn't just about the classes, it was also about the classmates who brought deep experience into the classroom."

An advantage of being in the SDM program while working is that you're able to immediately implement what you're learning, said Saghbini. "You don't have to wait years to graduate, then start seeing the problems, then start solving them," he said. "You're in class and it just hits you — 'I've been struggling with this forever.' And you go back and a couple of weeks later you start making changes based on what you're learning at SDM."

Jean-Claude Saghbini is scheduled to give two presentations for the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series about WaveMark on September 19 and 26, 2011 — one on tracking medical devices in the healthcare supply chain, and one on developing the systems to support this. Details will be posted at sdm.mit.edu.

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