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The Researcher: Dr. Jeff Jensen

Dr. Jeffrey Jensen has always thought like a scientist. In fact, during his undergraduate and early graduate years, he was studying exercise physiology. It was later on that he got interested in podiatry and decided to make that his career.

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But during and after podiatry school, he continued to have an intense interest in research and as of this date, he has been the principle investigator in more than 30 multicenter clinical trials for wound related drugs and medical devices and has generated more than 5 million dollars in research grants from the NIH, the Department of Defense, and various state organizations. He holds patents for 11 products related to diabetic foot wounds, fractures, and infections. In recognition of his many accomplishments, he was recently inducted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow. It’s my pleasure to share a conversation I recently had with Jeff about his career as both a clinician and a researcher in podiatric medicine and chronic wound care.

Dr. Jensen’s Prescription for Success:

Number 1: “Your family comes first. If you can’t address your family’s needs, nothing else really matters.”

Number 2: “Strive to be significant in your specialty. Nobody can become significant in their field without passion. It will allow you to treat your patients to the very best of your ability. And realize this isn’t that romantic, feel-good theory of do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you find passion in what you’re doing, you’ll be more committed. You’ll work harder. You’ll do more research, write more grants that products give more lectures. The list goes on and on. So there’s a big difference between being successful and being significant. Strive to be significant.”

Number 3: “Work outside of your comfort zone. Not all the time, but when you need to. This could be described as your work situation. There will be changes in medicine during your career. There will be opportunities you’ll need to make the most of and there will be challenges and obstacles you never anticipated. Be open to change and new things. Surround yourself with smart people with diverse talent and people you want to work with.”

Number 4: “Find your non-work outlet. Again, find your passion. It might be reading or playing chess, volunteering, fishing, or golf. For me, it’s been different things throughout my career from rock climbing to running to shooting sporting clays competitively. You don’t want to become your job. This is the time when your battery recharges so that you can do your best work. All of this advice could be construed as paradoxical and I realize this, so I wanted to finish with my favorite quote credited to James Michener. Here’s the quote, “

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.

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Notable quotes from Dr. Jensen’s Interview:

I had the tremendous opportunity of working with students from all the different schools and then we had the opportunity to bring them in as residents and see them grow from a first year resident in the door where they could hardly suture to leaving as a third year resident doing significant reconstructive surgeries and limb salvage was very gratifying to see them go through that growth.
I took the technologies that we were developing in the NIH grants for diabetic foot ulcers and we merged the technology that we developed for the Department of Defense for wounded and injured soldiers and we married them and with a tremendous engineering team that my little company, MedEfficiency, we were able to develop what became the TCC-EZ and that was launched in 2007 and today it is by far and away the most utilized total contact casting system in our country and it’s used all over the world.
It’s been very gratifying not only to help heal patients myself in the clinic, but to help other doctors heal their patients also.
I was just part of a great team. You know, we had tremendous people working on the project and yeah, maybe it was my idea and the whole vision, but I’ll tell you what, you learn quickly when you’re doing product development, nobody does anything on their own. You know, how that goes.
It takes so long to become proficient at any of our specialties that sometimes you’ll lose sight of the fact that there’s going to be lots of other areas where one can go and opportunities that might arise.
If you went back to the inception of a wound through the infection, amputation and prosthetic, it was a $75,000 bill. And that was a shock to me because it opened my eyes to the fact that my abilities to treat a patient and put a team to meet the patient’s needs together could dramatically decrease the cost of care for these patients, which was just a bonus on top of increasing patient’s quality of life by treating them appropriately.
You’ve got to acknowledge the problem before you come up with an opportunity.

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