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Conversations: Katie McKinley discusses medical 3D Printing


Tell us about yourself, your background and current work.

“My academic background is thoroughly rooted in Sales and Marketing. After completing a Masters in ‘International Business Management’ between the UK and Canada, I joined a digital pathology start-up as an assistant in the sales team, where I got my first taste of ‘start-up’ life. Over the next 9 years, I progressed, ultimately leading the new business sales effort and managing global medical imaging partner relationships. I also sat on the Senior Leadership Team where I was one of three women on a nine-strong team.

In summer 2016, I had a chance meeting with Axial3D’s Founder and CEO Daniel Crawford. I knew immediately the company was something I wanted to be a part of. I manage the commercialization functions within the company, from sales and marketing, to partnerships and business development. We are quickly building up a team of fantastic people to support our rapid growth.”

When did you first learn about and become interested in 3D printing?

“Before Axial3D, my level of knowledge about 3D printing was strictly limited to news articles, but it all felt very distant and futuristic. After meeting Daniel and discussing Axial3D’s applications for medical 3D printing, I embarked on my own research journey, trying to understand everything I could – not just about 3D printing technology, but specifically, the healthcare applications and the other companies operating in this space. The technology has ground-breaking potential and seeing how it has impacted manufacturing and other industries, I’m excited to be involved as it moves into healthcare, driving a radical shift to personalized treatment across all medical disciplines.”

How do you see 3D printed surgical models changing healthcare?

“There is a growing body of research on the benefits of surgical planning, and in one publication from 2010 by Dr. Hak and Mr. Rose Denver Health/University of Colorado, there is a fantastic adage – ‘Every fracture does not require the same type of plan, but every operation requires some sort of plan.’

In Axial3D we have seen the use of surgical planning models remove the need for multiple procedures; cut hours from standard surgical time; and support patient consenting and staff communication. Now more than ever, where diagnosis and treatments are personalized – we believe surgical planning should be personalized, and physical planning is the gold standard.

Our mission is to make medical 3D printing as accessible as possible, making the process of getting a 3D printed model faster and easier through software and services. We envisage medical 3D models being provided to a clinician alongside every CT or MRI dataset. As it becomes routine to use surgical planning models and more hospitals adopt the technology, the impact on theatre efficiencies will drive huge cost savings for healthcare providers, healthcare standards will improve as comprehensive surgical plans are created and physically communicated, and there will be a general elevation of patient care.”

How do you think 3D printing will continue to affect the healthcare field in the future?

“It is undeniably going to transform the healthcare landscape in the next 10-20 years. Applying 3D Printing in the surgical field for planning models, and patient specific instrumentation is fantastic, and a future of 3D printed organs, 3D printed personalized drug combinations, or 3D printed tissue models for research is just phenomenal. As patient stratification becomes the norm, all areas of the healthcare pathway will be under pressure to work smarter. 3D printing seems to be the obvious solution to support the healthcare shift from blockbuster care provider, to personalized prevention, treatment and cures. For us, hearing feedback about how the use of the model has helped a surgeon to ultimately improve patient outcome is hugely motivational for the entire team.”

What has been your experience with diversity in the 3D printing/tech field?

“In my experience, the technology sector is growing and becoming more diverse with each passing year. Seeing women increasingly move into software development, R&D, quality control and other ‘traditionally male’ areas is fantastic, and in Belfast there are many groups to support women in carving out their careers in technology focused fields. Having only been in the 3D printing world for around 1 year, there seems to be a huge amount of diversity, and my perception is based on both axial3D’s company make-up and other companies we work with. Axial3D’s Senior Leadership Team has a 50/50 split, and companywide we have a 40% / 60% split of female to male. Given that our two largest departments are software engineering and 3D print operations, this a step in the right direction, and it is a key focus for the company to create a culture of inclusivity and success.”

How can technological industries better support and promote diversity?

“In my opinion there are three key areas that should be addressed to build on the already great work of promoting diversity in the technology industry. First, it is getting the message to younger, school-aged individuals that the STEM fields are for anyone who wants to develop the skills in that space. Secondly, that we see more women in leadership positions, particularly on boards and in senior management. And finally, industry has a role to play in ensuring their staff are part of a culture where success is recognized, whether someone (male or female) shouts about their success, or they quietly continue onto the next project, there needs to be a method of ensuring everyone’s success is known by peers. This can only be achieved by attentive leadership, a culture of celebrating success, and where needed, some professional coaching to help individuals develop communication techniques.”

What advice would you give to a young woman looking to pursue a degree or career in a technological field?

“There are no barriers to stop you! Today, particularly in academic settings, diversity is alive and well. Technology expertise is highly transferable from industry to industry, so you can be sure of interesting career prospects, and many tough (but exciting) decisions as you decide on your direction."

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