Interview: Mr. Justin Ryan

“My vision is to ensure that every surgeon or interventionist goes into the operating room or cath lab with all of the information they need to do an optimal procedure.”


Justin Ryan, PhD is a Science Foundation Arizona fellow and a research scientist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Justin earned his BA in Digital Art in 2010 at ASU, an MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering (ASU) in 2016. Justin’s background in 3D computer imaging and animation has informed his current research initiatives in the physical and virtual modeling of biological systems. He currently runs the operations of the Cardiac 3D Print Lab at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where he produces 3D printed models for surgical planning and medical education. In the last four years, he has printed over three hundred hearts and has expanded the lab while utilizing three 3D printers.

Q: What is your vision on the intersection of 3D Printing and healthcare?

A: My vision is to ensure that every surgeon or interventionist goes into the operating room or cath lab with all of the information they need to do an optimal procedure. As of right now, there is an information gap between what is observed in diagnostic images and what is seen in the peri-operative environment. 3D modeling and 3D printing closes this information deficit and allows a clinician to treat a patient as an individual: true personalized medicine.

Q: What do you specialize in? What is your passion?

A: I specialize in the creation of anatomical models for surgical and interventional planning. My background in 3D modeling yields a process of enhanced workflow, enabling the rapid reconstruction and 3D printing of anatomical models for emergent procedures.

Q: What inspired you to do what you do?

A: The interdisciplinary research that I do was inspired by my background in art and animation as well as a very good mentor in biomedical engineering, Dr. David Frakes. Together he and I developed a unique track of 3D modeling, 3D printing, casting, and other post-processing techniques to leverage medical images. The true motivation comes from understanding that the models (virtual and physical) that we develop enhance patient care and patience experience.

Q: What is the biggest potential impact you see 3D printing having on the healthcare industry?

A: The biggest potential impact will come from insurance reimbursement of these 3D printed models. Following reimbursement, the entire healthcare system will have taken a drastic step towards embracing individualized medicine. The change in economics will incentivize the creation of vendors, equipment, software, etc. to support 3D modeling and 3D printing specifically for healthcare.

Q: What challenges do you see arising in implementing 3D printing in healthcare sector in the next 5 years?

A: The biggest challenge will be the reimbursement of 3D printing. The next challenge will be addressing and standardizing the new business model and career model created by the change in economics.

Q: What is the best business lesson you have learned?

A: Never underestimate free labor (undergraduate and graduate students).

Q: What is the biggest business risk you have taken?

A: The biggest risk I have taken is going back to school for my PhD.