A quarter of a century ago, a colleague suggested to Marvin Woodall that he attend the inaugural Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference in Washington, D.C. As head of Johnson & Johnson Interventional Systems, Woodall recognized the gathering offered an asset then lacking at his fledgling business.
“I did not have working for me within Johnson & Johnson a cardiologist,” Woodall recalled. “We were trying to develop cardiological products and techniques, one of which was the stent. We really needed the knowledge.”
Interventional cardiology itself was metamorphosing, and the gathering in a small conference room of a hotel provided pioneering physicians a chance to learn about new devices, exchange ideas and discuss how to integrate innovation into their practices. Woodall estimated that in 1988 the subspecialty included only a few thousand cardiologists, max.
Woodall used the opportunity to approach Martin Leon, MD, co-director and founder of the TCT and founder and chairman emeritus of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, which oversees the meeting. The introduction proved pivotal, with Leon later leading several landmark clinical trials and Woodall joining CRF’s board in 2000 and assuming the role of CEO in 2006. He remains on the board of directors.
Woodall has attended every TCT meeting since 1988. For him, the standout conference followed the FDA’s 1994 approval of the Palmaz-Schatz balloon-expandable coronary stent, which Woodall’s team developed. “There was excitement for everyone there knowing that this breakthrough technology would be available to treat patients throughout the United States,” he said.
Interventional technologies also have experienced flameouts over the past 25 years, such as some laser-based treatments and catheter-based intravascular radiation therapies. Other technologies have surpassed expectations. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), for instance, overcame development, safety and efficacy challenges, although he said he was confident that the approach would work.
Unlike the first conference, TCT now encompasses a range of topics and attracts an international audience that is expected to reach 12,000. As veteran who has been both attendee and planner, he offered a strategy for getting the most from the event. “Study the program early,” he suggested. And given the many options and simultaneous presentations, he added, “Plot out [your] movement from room to room.”