Interview with Dr. Simon Weidert

Simon WeidertSimon Weidert is an orthopedic trauma surgeon and researcher at the University of Munich, Germany since he graduated from University of Mainz in 2007. He works on computer-aided surgery with a focus on surgical simulation, augmented reality and 3D printing. His work led to the adoption of in-house 3D printing in the treatment of acetabular fractures to the extent that now all of those cases in his department are being treated with this new technology. He has co-founded two spin-offs from this field of research. One of them, Mecuris GmbH, is revolutionizing digital orthopedics by automatically creating patient-specific aids such as prostheses and orthoses that are 3D printed and delivered within a week.  Dr. Weidert will be a speaker at our Munich event.
Jenny: What inspired you to use 3D printing for your work?
Dr. Weidert: I knew that this technology exists and I’ve been working together with software developers for a long time. But the moment I knew that 3D printing could really help was when I saw our elderly patients with cervical orthoses on our wards with pressure ulcers and discomfort due to a badly fitting neck brace. I thought that we have the CT data already, so why don’t we use it to print personalized braces?

Jenny: What is the biggest motivation for your work?
Dr. Weidert: There are few technologies that are so directly enabling as 3D printing is. Literally, everyone can buy the technology and start exploring and generating a benefit. This is now is in everyone’s hands. I think of it as a kind of democratic technology: everyone has the right and ability to take part in the movement and contribute, introduce change, make something better.
My biggest motivation, of course, is the patients and when I see that they have a benefit from my work, receiving personalized surgery or wearing their patient aid for the first time.
Jenny: What is the biggest challenge in your work?
Dr. Weidert: Time. I wish my day had 30 hours. So much we could do, so much to explore.
Jenny: How do you approach working with people with different backgrounds?
Dr. Weidert: Listening is key. Learn their language, then learn what matters to them. If you know how you can help them, they will help you too.
Jenny: How do you plan to conquer this challenge?
Dr. Weidert: We are working in a multidisciplinary research environment at the LMU Munich. This enables us to get into contact with other experts easily. What’s also important for me is to become inspired by other people, attending talks and do networking. And of course trying to inspire others, too.
Jenny: What is your vision on the potential impact of your current work to the future of medicine?
Dr. Weidert: I think that there are 3 focuses on improving healthcare in which we are currently doing very well.  It is surgery planning and pre-selecting or modifying of implants prior to the procedure, rehearsal of surgery with high-fidelity simulators and digitalizing prosthetics and orthotics. I hope that it will lead to 1) replacing the patient as a training model for young surgeons by simulation technology, 2) improving fracture surgery by providing specific 3D pathology prints in almost no-time, 3) providing customized and better fitting prosthetics and orthotics to patients around the globe.

Jenny: What is the biggest change/improvement since last year this time?
Dr. Weidert: The most immediate translation from research to daily routine I’ve ever seen: Within 6 months time, treating patients with acetabular (the cup of the hip joint) fractures with 3D printing has been established as the standard treatment in our department. By providing the software as open-source to everyone, it has the potential to change this treatment around the globe.

Jenny: What are you passionate about?
Dr. Weidert: My passions are working together with excellent and inspiring people in order to improve the life of many others. Create new things. Building up things that last.
Jenny: What is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Dr. Weidert: Founding 3 companies while working full time in the clinic.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time?
Dr. Weidert: Having it.