Interview: Dr. Paul D'Urso, Australian Neurosurgeon and the Founder & Executive Chairman of the Anatomics

Dr Paul S D’Urso is an Australian Neurosurgeon and the Founder & Executive Chairman of the Anatomics group of companies in Melbourne, Australia. His unique experience in research, clinical practice, teaching, commercialization and medico-legal opinion has made him an internationally recognized Australian neurosurgeon, scientist, and innovator. Dr. D’Urso invented the technology of BioModelling with groundbreaking Ph.D. research and founded Anatomics, one of the world’s most innovative medical software & device companies in 1995. Dr. D’Urso was a fellow at the Cambridge University Neurosurgery unit and a clerk at Harvard Medical School. He has published and presented over 130 scientific papers, holds multiple international patents and has won over 30 prestigious research prizes. Dr. D’Urso will be our speaker for upcoming Melbourne event. 
Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Paul: My first experience of 3D printing was when I encountered Australia’s first 3D printer in 1991. It was a 3D Systems SLA 250. This was the first commercially released 3D printer. The term ‘3D printing’ didn’t exist at the time. We called it a stereolithography machine. It sat in its own special room behind a big window and was a marvel at the time. I could immediately see the potential of the technology in medicine and became committed to doing research to see if we could print body parts from CT scan data.

Sternum Design

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey/company/career/research in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?
Paul: The thought of being able to see and touch people’s internal anatomy before surgery inspired me to commence a Ph.D. to make the process possible. At that time this was only an idea but I wanted to make it a reality.
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.
Paul: My mentors were Prof Leigh Atkinson (neurosurgeon), Dr. Michael Lanigan (plastic surgeon), Prof David Effeney (vascular surgeon). They all encouraged me that my research was valuable and had a real impact on the surgery that they performed.
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Paul: Taking ideas and making them a reality so as to improve the way that surgery is performed.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Paul: There have been so many obstacles. Initially, it was the lack of computing power and software and the lack of data compatibility. Subsequently, professional jealousy and resistance by colleagues to adopt new techniques. Most recently regulatory and insurance bureaucracy.
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)?
Paul: To achieve the full potential of 3D printing regulators around the world will need to recognize that it is the ‘process’ of mass customization that requires regulation and not the end ‘device’. 3D printing allows prosthetic devices to have infinite specifications to best suit individual patients. Once the regulators create a ‘process orientated’ regulatory system government and insurers will recognize the enormous benefits that 3D printing technology can deliver. Surgeons need to understand that if they plan a procedure in advance 3D printing can allow a patient-specific solution to be manufactured. Planning will improve surgical workflow and patient outcomes and lead to greater satisfaction for all people involved.

Sternum Design

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?

  • The FDA creates a ‘process orientated’ regulatory pathway for prosthetic implants.
  • That hospitals recognize the enormous benefit that patient-specific solutions can deliver.
  • That surgeon comes to understand that planning will improve efficiency and outcomes.

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Paul: Don’t give up on realizing your dream. Become resilient despite constant setbacks. Understand that the majority of people see the glass as being half empty and want to understand how they can personally benefit. Be very patient as bureaucratic inertia is extremely difficult to overcome.
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?
Paul: Personalized healthcare benefits all people!
Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Paul: $50000 to buy Australia’s first 3D printer. Anatomics is still using it!
Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Paul: Software development that lead to nothing.
Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Paul: So many risks as a Neurosurgeon and founder of Anatomics! The biggest was commencing my Ph.D. to develop BioModelling technology in 1992 before I knew if it was even possible to 3D print from CT data.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Paul: Riding my bicycle and drinking red wine.
Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?
Paul: A fool with a tool is still a fool.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)
Paul: Inspiration from San Francisco to turn people on to BioModelling technology.