Read Tributes from collegues and friends | Joel J. Nobel, MD, December 8, 1934 – August 13, 2014
American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE)
Our Tribute to Dr. Joel Nobel, Founder and President Emeritus of ECRI Institute
Joel J. Nobel, MD
Joel J. Nobel, MD, December 8, 1934 - August 13, 2014
I had the pleasure to work with Joel Nobel
for almost 30 years.
Our most recent conversation was about a month ago related to an invitation he
received to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) conference on the reuse of single use medical devices.
had politely declined the invitation and asked me to find another ECRI colleague to fill in for him.
During our conversation his
voice sounded weak and I could understand how he
may not have been up for a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Little did I know that it would be the last time we would speak.
has been receiving tributes from all over the world since we learned of Dr. Nobel's
An e-mail from one of our SFDA colleagues I think says it best about how influential he
was to so many.
I quote, "this news falling like a rocket over my head!
As you can imagine, the ECRI Institute
offices have been a somber place since we learned of Dr. Nobel's
Those of us who worked closely with him felt like we got hit by that rocket.
I've had a hard time picturing an ECRI Institute without Dr. Nobel.
was such a force of nature and had his
strong hands on so much of our operations.
It's sensible to ask how we can figure a way forward without him.
But among Dr. Nobel's
many gifts I think that the most important was how he
was able to impart his
knowledge and wisdom, entrepreneurial spirit, and sense of purpose to so many individuals.
That definitely applies to ECRI Institute
Visitors to ECRI Institute
are often amazed at how many staff have worked here for decades.
We're also proud of our many colleagues who have come back to the fold after working elsewhere.
We stayed or returned because we believe in the amazing mission he
started nearly 50 years ago.
And, although we are sad that Dr. Nobel has passed away, we are so confident in what he has taught us over the years that we feel well prepared to carry on.
As I am winding down my final days as ACCE President, I feel honored to have represented ECRI Institute
and, in effect, Joel Nobel
in this role.
The Clinical Engineering profession owes Dr. Nobel
a huge debt of gratitude.
literally got us off the ground and has been our guide for nearly 50 years through the services he
ran and provided at ECRI Institute
Just like the legacy that he
left with ECRI Institute
, ACCE's membership is filled with those who were influenced by and learned from Joel
I am also very confident that ACCE
has a strong future.
A big part of that comes from what many of us in ACCE
were taught by Joel
It's that we should do it for the patients, do it well, and do it with honesty and integrity.
If you would like to learn more about Joel Nobel
legacy, click here for an ECRI Institute
will be organizing a formal memorial event in Dr. Nobel's
honor sometime during the fall of 2014.
I'll be sure to keep the ACCE community informed about this and any other memorial-related activities.
Thanks for all you have done Joel
Since I entered the profession, Dr. Joel Nobel
was a person to be respected and a force to be reckoned with.
was a pioneer, locally and globally, and encouraged many of us to take the profession to greater heights and deeper depths.
I am thankful for his
attention to meticulous science, and the organization that he
created that has added great value to the US and the world.
When I met Dr. Joel Nobel
at ECRI I was fresh out of college in 1975 and he
was about 40 years old.
was clearly a "Man on a Mission" to save patients from pain and injury from defective medical devices, and to improve the efficiency and efficacy of healthcare.
In retrospect, I now know that Joel
was decades ahead of his
time, and I learned that did not deter him one little bit!
I have to laugh to myself for the trust Joel
placed in each of us as such young ages.
In only a few years, many of us found ourselves presenting keynote speeches on his behalf at national and international scientific and medical sessions, and most of us had little more than a Bachelor's Degree and Dr. Nobel's say-so to back us up.
sagely told me while calming my jitters before one of my first national debuts, "Just stick to what you know, Elliot, and don't let anyone draw you onto their turf.
You know more about that product than anyone else in the nation, so stick to your guns."
I have to admit that Dr. Nobel
was never easy to keep up with.
seemed to sleep but a couple of hours a night, and regardless of your medical, engineering, scientific, or legal specialty his
habit of endless reading and his
sharp, critical mind ensured that everyone needed to bring his
"A-game" when you talked to him.
Holidays and vacations seemed of little interest to him unless tied to a working mission or project, and the concept of retirement seemed unfathomable.
never, ever sat still, and tracking him down around the globe was a challenge until the end!
Not sure most of us would trade our own lives for his
, but that was a choice that afforded him the constant cultural and scientific renewal and impact that made him tick.
I still hearken too many of the rules and explanations in that Employee Handbook, even though I've not been an employee at ECRI Institute
for 25 years.
Pearls like "a non-profit organization is not like most other corporations" as he
tried to make it clear to everyone that ECRI's
public mission and integrity took precedent over profit or rewards.
Firm guidelines about spending funds as frugally as if they were your own personal money regardless of the situation, and incredibly restrictive conflict-of-interest and disclosure rules for each and every employee are today embedded in IRS
and FDA guidelines and their peers around the world.
I, and the non-profit organizations that I lead strive to live up to those requirements each and every day!
When I talked to Dr. Nobel
as recently as last year, he
had lost none of his
missionary bravado, focus, or acuity, and his
global treks were only limited by the wear and tear of travel.
No country was too small, and no slice of society was unworthy of his
time and attention.
Unfortunately, though blessed with a brilliant mind and visionary perspective, his
solid, stocky body turned out to be less robust than his
Though I probably had close to a foot of height advantage over him, he
was never less than a giant in my mind.
I am sure that I won't be the only one to remember him that way, either!
You will certainly read of Dr. Nobel's
accomplishments in the future, but I can tell you first hand that most of the accounts will be humble re-telling of a legacy that did -- and will continue to -- improve healthcare around the planet in remarkable and important ways.
In the early days, half or more of the medical devices his
engineers tested were at best mediocre, and many were a threat to life and/or limb.
Today, though, most such testing reveals good-to-excellent products in the US market that are differentiated on features, price, and preference.
That is quite an achievement, and it was won one year at a time relying on Dr. Nobel's
commitment to "The Discipline of Science.
and "The Integrity of Independence.
That is the current marketing byline that the ECRI Institute
founded, and it speaks volumes about the organizations ongoing mission.
Personally, few will know of Joel's wry humor and bent towards practical jokes, and few will know just how far he
would go to help a younger engineer or physician develop a successful career.
I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his
training, discipline, and visionary leadership, and can honestly help say that Dr. Nobel
helped shape my career and life.
There are probably several other hundreds of my peers around the world -- younger and older -- who will have similar recollections and feelings, and I hope they all eventually say their piece.
To me, early in my career Joel
was like a second father, and leaving him and ECRI
to expand my own career was not an easy decision for me to make in 1990, but he
knew, too, that it was time for me to move on, and his
friendship and support for me and many others proved to be unending.
Farewell my dear friend.
I do not know how many of you know who Dr. Joel Nobel
was or had the pleasure to meet and speak with him.
I had the opportunity of working with him for five years.
Dr. Nobel was the Founder and President of what was then the Emergenc