Jeffrey Rovell & Associates, Inc.
Intramedullary Brush

Jeff says: In my very first product are all the principles I believe in: attention to the details, serving market needs, and a team who can approach design problems from many perspectives.

How It Started

The intramedullary brush was the very first product I ever worked on, in 1974. I had just started as the Assistant Director of R&D at Howmedica, and I was new to orthopedics -- I had no idea what kind of products I needed to be developing. Then I met Dr. Joe Miller, chief of orthopedic surgery at Montreal General and an accomplished hip and knee surgeon.

I observed many of Dr. Miller's surgeries, and saw him use a test tube brush, or rasp, and clean out the medullary canal, which has to be cleaned before an artificial hip can be implanted. One thing I noticed immediately about the test tube brush was that it had porcine bristles, which meant it was antigenic! "What if we create a plastic intramedullary brush?" I asked Dr. Miller. "That's a good idea," he said.

Finding a Process

What I needed at this point was myself, from twenty years in the future, to help me get this product started. Instead I had to find my own way. Eventually I ended up at Huck and Studer Design, located in a barn in Gladstone, New Jersey. I found Rapid Manufacturing in New Jersey near Howmedica at a company which made steering wheels -- in fact, it was run by Quentin Qualtier, former president of Lionel Trains. Over the course of the next few months we went through many design iterations, focusing on the brush's "musts and wants." The biggest hurdle was the bristles -- bristles had to be developed which would not be abraded during brushing of the canal. This was a significant opportunity to be creative. We solved it by putting a ball at the tip of the brush which prevented the bristles from being abraded on the way in, and another at the end which protected them on the way out. The front ball was called the Miller ball, and the back ball was the Rovell ball.

A Product That Lasts

Our brush turned out to be such a necessary product that for nearly 15 years dozens of companies made plastic brushes just like ours after its introduction. It was quality and the details which made ours the standard. We made ours in various sizes, and in a special package created by Huck and Studer: in the operating room, the nurse simply bent the package and the handle of the brush popped up, a delivery system greatly appreciated by surgeons. Looking for creative solutions like that became one of my passions as I worked on more products.

Over the course of the development I learned about plastics, packaging, design, development, timeframe, and marketing. Most importantly, I learned about how the product development process is not necessarily a problem -- it's really an opportunity. You can only develop a product once. Good work up front can guarantee a successful product.