Interview: Shannon Walters, Executive Manager @ Stanford 3D and Quantitative Imaging Lab

Shannon Walters

 Shannon Walters is an innovation enabler and workflow optimization enthusiast. At Stanford 3D and Quantitative Imaging Lab, Shannon works closely with healthcare providers, researchers, and educators to enable effective health visualization. Recent innovations are of particular interest to Shannon such as 3D Printing, immersive volumetric visualization, and concise reporting of changes over time. Mr. Walters will be a speaker at the upcoming 3DHEALS2020.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Shannon: The first encounter I remember is coaching a college intern through the requirements we might have in healthcare for 3D Printing. At that point, I was unaware that other hospitals were systematically providing 3D Prints, and the process to convert DICOM images to STL was not well defined. This intern was able to help determine a pathway and we used the process about 8 months later for our first 3D Print.
Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey/company/career/research in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?
Shannon: Our medical director saw this trend coming down the pipeline and he mentioned that we need to basically catch that wave before it passes. Since then I have been evaluating the landscape and determining which elements are critical, optional, unnecessary and have been iterating toward an ever-more-efficient 3D printing process for medical models.
Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.
Shannon: Dominik Fleischmann, Medical Director at Stanford 3DQ Lab.

3D Printed Brain & Electrodes
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Shannon: The ability to help make things better for the most amount of people.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Shannon: The current obstacles are staffing and space requirements. In the past, I have conquered these by demonstrating the trajectory of 3DP volume growth and demonstrating the amount of space and staff I would need to meet future demands. This problem will continue to present itself until there are cyclic funding and justification to feel secure in larger investments.
Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Shannon: The costs will remain high if physicians continue to drive the majority of the efforts. I think the challenge is to define efficient workflows and offload these to professionals with lower salaries than physicians (technologists, biomedical engineers, etc..). This is a control and paradigm shift that might be difficult to accept, which is why I think it’s the biggest challenge. Failure to do this will keep the costs of 3DP high, and reduce the chances that insurance or patients will pay for the service.
Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?
Shannon: In regards to 3D Printing…
1. Clear flexible resin with multiple colors and other rigidities. 
2. A software that can truly send a DICOM segmentation object to a printer and colorize it based on intensities 
3. Swift completion and validation of all the official 3DP research so that Medicare, FDA, and insurance companies will all be onboard with the new technology.
Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Shannon: Focus on what you provide to other people rather than how well you perform the job description. Many others around you are also doing well, usually in a different way than you, but depending on the situation it may be more valuable. Constantly seeking how your abilities can positively impact others will promote success and become your safety net in case of failure.
Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?
Shannon: It starts with the imaging, high-quality 3D printing or any derivation thereof, requires quality input. Ensure CT and MR scans are generating quality data, reduce motion and other artifacts, plan to image with 3D Printing in mind.

Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Shannon: Steadily increasing my personal time with exercise, spending time as a Scout volunteer with my children, camping, and hiking or other outdoor activities.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you?
Shannon: To me it represents my life, I have been working in 3D/Advanced visualization since 2007 and it’s an honor to analyze patient information to provide a complete dataset to those interested in providing care. Many people likely think 3D Heals is an overstatement, but I see it completely the other way. Rather than the 3-5 minutes per CT or MR scan, providing 3D analysis give patients individualized attention and the data is scrutinized much more carefully for details that can ultimately lead to a better plan, improved, surgery, or even reversal of diagnosis at times.