Women Behind Innovation: Tracy Campbell Accardi

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Tracy Campbell Accardi joined Hologic as Vice President of Research and Development for the Breast Health and Skeletal Health Division in September 2014. Hologic is the leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of diagnostic and medical imaging systems in women’s health that improve patient outcomes and drive clinical utility. Hologic was the first to bring breast tomosynthesis to market globally, with the clinically demonstrated ability to detect 20 to 65 percent more invasive cancers compared to standard 2D imaging alone.*

Prior to Hologic, Tracy was the Chief Technology Officer for OmniGuide Surgical, a late-stage commercial startup in the advanced surgical energy device space. Before joining OmniGuide, Accardi served as Vice President of Global Research and Development for the Vascular Therapies division at Covidien, where she oversaw more than 200 engineers in the United States and Japan, and led the development of acute and chronic dialysis catheters, vascular compression devices, pharmaco-mechanical thrombolysis treatment catheters and vein ablation catheters. Accardi has worked with several other major medical device companies including Johnson & Johnson, Philips Healthcare (a subsidiary of Royal Philips Electronics) and GE Healthcare. She held executive-level leadership positions at all three companies, leading international teams of engineers and scientists to develop products and therapies in the neurovascular and cardiovascular spaces.

Accardi holds dual bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. She also earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

The Edison Awards recently spoke with Campbell-Accardi about her interest in science, what misconceptions she feels people have about the fields and some of her career highlights. Here’s what she had to say:(edited for brevity and clarity

When did your interest in engineering begin? 

Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated by how things work. I remember that when I was five, I disassembled an alarm clock – and I almost got it to work again! My father understood how to make doing handy work around the home fun, so we did many projects together, and this further fueled my curiosity. Once, I helped him build a doghouse, and that was when I first learned about the Pythagorean Theorem. Over the years, my love for 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 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.

What was it like to be a woman studying in your field? 

At the time I studied there, Carnegie-Mellon University didn’t have many women in the mechanical engineering department– there were maybe five of us in the class of 100 students – and there were certainly no female professors. I didn’t meet a woman who actually worked in the engineering field until I was a senior in college, and I was inspired by her quiet confidence and extreme competence. Everyone in the department looked up to her. With so few women in my field of study, having her as a mentor even after I left that summer played a major role in my growth as a young professional. That’s why I feel passionately about the critical importance of women being able to see role models that look like them in the STEM field, who can show them that there are many fascinating and rewarding aspects and opportunities in the industry worth considering for a profession.

 

What do you like about your field and what you do?

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 treatment and skeletal health care.

I really have a passion for this particular area of STEM because it allows me to help make a difference in patients’ lives. I am especially proud of the breakthrough developments my team at Hologic is bringing to market in the women’s health care space to drive earlier detection and treatment of both breast cancer and skeletal health disease. It’s rewarding to me that I get to go to work every day and work with the teams developing devices and solutions that can help improve the experiences that women just like me go through as patients, while also being able to help different doctors do their jobs more easily and with greater confidence.

I have often said to my friends that I hope they never need the treatments our solutions provide diagnoses for, but that when they do get screened and if they should ever need a diagnostic procedure, using our technology will lead to the best possible outcomes for them. That’s how much I truly believe in the work that we are doing.

Share with us some of your career highlights.

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 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 lead 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, and the only mammogram FDA-approved as superior to standard 2D mammography for routine breast cancer screening of women with dense breasts.

How is your company bringing innovation to the forefront? 

Every solution that we work on developing at Hologic is centered on the needs and experiences of patients and health care providers – they are always our first priority.

For example, in August we launched the Brevera® breast biopsy system with CorLumina® imaging technology, a first-of-its kind breast biopsy system. Before the Brevera system, radiologists performing stereotactic breast biopsy procedures to diagnose breast cancer were often required to leave the patient under compression while they moved to another room to image and verify tissue samples, which led to lengthy procedure times, facility screening schedule interruptions, and anxious, uncomfortable patients. With the Brevera system, radiologists are able to obtain and image tissue samples in the procedure room in just a few seconds without leaving the room. For clinicians, a fast procedure helps streamline workflow, and for patients, it means less time under compression, helping to improve the overall patient experience.

There are a number of ways we incorporate patient and health care provider perspectives into our work. We build on the feedback we gather from patient focus groups, clinical prototyping and in-depth market research to provide the critical insights needed to guarantee optimal patient experience and clinical outcomes. For example, we use rapid prototyping to shape our ideas into tangible models that our potential patients can look at, feel, and interact with so that we can collect feedback from real users. We are constantly looking for ways to leverage new technologies, like cloud networking and deep learning, to improve the patient experience and radiologist workflow, and to make it easier for our customers to provide the best care possible. We also frequently tap into our customers, specifically, and the patients they serve to solicit feedback and form ideas.

For an exclusive look at the Edison Awards “Women Behind Innovation” series, sign up for our free email newsletter.

*Results from Friedewald, SM, et al. “Breast cancer screening using tomosynthesis in combination with digital mammography.” JAMA 311.24 (2014): 2499-2507; a multi-site (13), non-randomized, historical control study of 454,000 screening mammograms investigating the initial impact the introduction of the Hologic Selenia® Dimensions ® on screening outcomes. Individual results may vary. The study found an average 41% (95% CI: 20-65%) increase and that 1.2 (95% CI: 0.8-1.6) additional invasive breast cancers per 1000 screening exams were found in women receiving combined 2D FFDM and 3D™ mammograms acquired with the Hologic 3D Mammography™ system versus women

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