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Dr. William Murphy Jr.: A lifetime of innovation starts with insatiable curiosity

A lifetime of life-saving medical innovation began with Dr. William Murphy Jr.’s fascination with his toy train and how it worked.

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The 90-year-old founder of Cordis Corp. and several other companies and now the chairman of Bioheart, a stem cell regenerative therapy company, spoke to a group of young professionals at the Intercontinental Hotel Miami on Friday, as part of the Creative Mornings series. “No one in this world has probably not been touched by something he created or invented,” said Malik Benjamin, the organizer of Creative Mornings Miami, a new organization that brings in South Florida’s inspiring leaders to share their stories with the local creative community and shines a light on Miami through the global Creative Mornings platform.

Murphy’s topic was “Childhood.” Born into a prominent medical family — his father was a Nobel Prize winner and his mother was Massachusett’s first female dentist — Murphy said he was always encouraged to use his creativity. As a child, he was soon making his cart into a plane and his bike into a motorized scooter. Using some of the engineering principles he was learning, he invented the first residential snow blower as a young teen. A few years later, he and a young doctor invented the overhead projector, which he sold to hospitals while he was in college.

“I have spent my life having fun learning about anything anybody would show me or teach me. There is so much brilliance in this world in the minds of man,” Murphy told the crowd.

He transitioned his love of building things into the world of medicine because the human body is a living, breathing fete of engineering.

What followed were inventions that advanced dialysis, finding a way to produce the complex technology effectively and economically that became the standard in the industry, and the implantable pacemaker. “We changed the business of pacing the heart into helping to control the heart with circuits that recognize what the heart needs and accommodates to it,” said Murphy, who owns 17 patents.

“The reason I started Cordis is I wanted to build the things that medicine needed,” added Murphy, who was president, CEO and chairman at various times during his 28-year career there until retiring in 1985.

His advice to the morning crowd: Do something you love, learn everything you can, and take personal responsibility for what you do: “My orientation was always conceive of a need and then satisfy it. If I didn’t know I would look it up or ask someone... A lot of people are willing to share their smarts. ... The information is all around us.”

At 90, Murphy is far from finished innovating. “At the moment I’m up to my eyeballs in the stem cell world because that’s a whole new world of regenerative therapy that’s going to be critical to our future. ... It is a whole new world which I didn’t have a clue about at first. I didn’t believe it worked,” said Murphy. But he’s a believer now. Through studies done at Bioheart, “we have proof that it works.”

Two months ago, at the inaugural Creative Mornings event, Mike Tomás, CEO of Bioheart, spoke and relayed how, when he was considering a career transition into healthcare technology, he reached out to Murphy whom he did not know and asked for a meeting to hear his insights and advice. The mentor-relationship and friendship grew and they also became business partners. Tomás’ advice: Everybody has a Dr. Murphy in their life, a coach, a mentor — thank that person.

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 Young professionals queue up as Jens Klapatsch of Eagle Datagistics in St. Petersburg talks to Dr. Murphy after his talk at the Intercontinental Hotel Miami on Friday morning.

Robert Hacker shares his insights about Dr. Murphy's talk on his Sophisticated Finance blog here.

See previous post about Mike Tomás' appearance at Creative Mornings.


Posted Jan. 10, 2014