My mentor, Earl Bakken, founder of Medtronic and inventor of the pacemaker, celebrated his 90th birthday on January 10. My family and I were blessed to be among the guests to honor him on this special day. It was amazing to see people from around the globe make the journey to the Big Island of Hawaii, but it was no surprise as Earl has affected the lives of many with his kindness, generosity and wisdom.
Some 20 years ago, his inspiring words and vision for the ideal healthcare experience changed my path in medicine as a physician. I still recall our first conversation when I was in residency training. Earl told me that only 20 percent of healing is linked to medical technology, and he encouraged me to focus on the other 80 percent that addresses a person’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs. I have held firmly to this advice along with three other valuable lessons Earl instilled in me throughout our ongoing journey to humanize healthcare.
Believe in your dreams.
If you want to make a difference in the lives of others and you have vision to make that happen, than you are sure to realize your dreams. Earl, an engineer, has said that dreams and visions have a way of predicting and preceding reality.
Lean into the wind.
If you believe in something, step up and lead with purpose and passion even if it is not the most popular path among your peers. There have been many critics along the way; but I have held on to my dream to humanize the delivery of medical care and technology. Mavericks like Earl and others have provided the courage and tenacity to keep going against all odds. His vision for “Blended Medicine” is now the standard of care.
Ease the suffering of humanity.
Despite many naysayers who thought he was crazy at times, Earl has remained steadfast in his desire to use his knowledge and skills to help humankind. At the end of his birthday celebration, he asked his guests to do something for humanity and to ease the suffering of others.
It is amazing that after 90 years Earl’s mission to make a difference in the lives of others has not wavered. He is a true inspiration to me and to so many others who are blessed to know him. My father, who has received three Medtronic pacemakers over his life, calls Earl a “life enricher.” On his birthday and every day, Earl Bakken is a light in this world and gift to the human spirit. Dreaming on… with Aloha.