When I was first offered the position at Eucomed as a Communications trainee, I must admit I hardly knew what medical technology really was. After a little bit more than two weeks work, I realise that medtech is actually all around us.
Take for example, the Olympics…
As an avid sports fan, I’d been following runner Oscar Pistorius’s story for a long time. I knew he was a world-class athlete and a double-amputee who ran on two very sophisticated prosthetic legs. What I didn’t realise is that these legs were shining examples of the technology “my” industry is producing to improve people’s lives – to keep them upright and moving, and in Oscar’s case, to keep them moving fast.
Oscar made history this year, becoming the first double-amputee to ever compete in the Olympics. The excitement in front of our televisions, and the shouts and cheers that greeted the athlete during his introduction at the 400m semi-finals, showed the extent of the audience’s admiration and the deep impression he has made at these games. For those unfamiliar with Pistorius’s story, news of his achievements became inescapable as the internet was flooded with stories of the “Blade Runner” taking London.
Pistorius’s story has made clear to me and the masses what medical technology is and what it is about. And what it’s about is making the impossible just that much more achievable. Unbeknownst to himself, he put medical technology under the spotlight of the world, and the world was struck with amazement. And with that, he’s done for medtech what Higgs did for the Boson – propel it from obscurity onto the world stage.
The South African’s path to the London Olympics was far from easy and certainly not without controversy. The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) included a ban on the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such device” in its competition rules in 2007. Following a series of scientific tests at the Cologne Sports University, Pistorius was denied the right to participate in any competition organised by the IAAF. The athlete who would not admit defeat appealed and was subsequently granted the right to compete. Although he didn’t make it to the 2008 Games in Beijing, he was part of the South African team in 2012, and competed in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay races.
Pistorius is already thinking ahead: “I’ll definitely be in Rio (for the 2016 Games). I’ve had more inspiration in the last two weeks, and I’m sure I’m going to get more in the upcoming Paralympics!”
Today the debate on whether or not the prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage remains open. Many fear that with the increase in quality of medical devices, athletes who use them may have a competitive advantage. But the fact that this debate continues is a victory in itself, as it raises awareness of what one can achieve in the face of adversity. Pistorius has proven that no obstacle is insurmountable with the right perseverance and the right technology
Communications Trainee, Eucomed