My journey within Northwell Health started off 30 years ago when I was born at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. After a brief 20+ year hiatus, I returned in a very stereotypical way – I was a student who needed a side job with lots of shifts and flexible hours. After some investigation I applied to work per diem as a patient transporter at North Shore University Hospital, where I worked at night while I was completing my master’s degree. It was a perfect fit for me; I was able to converse with patients as I wheeled them around the hospital for their various tests and discharges.
As I was completing my degree, I applied and was accepted to the PhD program at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. I wasn’t sure what I specifically wanted to work on, but I knew I had a knack for technology and a new found appreciation for Orthopedics & Radiology. I worked 4 years at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research completing my degree in the Laboratory of Orthopedics Research under Dr. Daniel Grande PhD. We spent countless hours working on 3D bioprinting of cartilage, bone, and tracheal tissue. The environment I “stumbled into” was one of collaboration, innovation, and patience. It was challenging, but very rewarding. The lab provided an environment filled with students, residents, fellows, physicians, and research scientists all working to further medical knowledge and create new treatments for patients in need. Anyone in the lab was able to “grab the bull by the horns” so to speak, and take on a project they deemed interesting. You took ownership and were able to see it through to the end.
One day, in walked two chief surgeons with the idea of tissue engineering lab grown tracheas. Dr. Lee Smith MD and Dr. David Zeltsman MD were interested in our capabilities within the lab and if we were willing to work with them on a non-orthopedic project. Dr. Grande said “Todd if you want to spear head this project, go right ahead, just let me know what you need.” Over the next two years we worked to build up a protocol to 3D bioprint tracheal replacements in the lab. It was our hope of one day transplanting a replacement into a patient – to restore their breathing would become a reality.