2008 Distinguished achievement award: David Swanson

// Electrical & Computer Engineering

Tags: alumni, David Swanson, ECE E-Day, Engineers' Day

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David K. Swanson
Chief Technical Officer
ESTECH Cardiac Surgery Specialists
MSEE ’72, PhDEE ’76
San Ramon, California

David K. Swanson is an inventor on more than 250 U.S. patents, all of them issued since he turned 40. As the chief technical officer for ESTECH since 2005, Swanson is the link between surgeons and the company. His interaction with technical and medical communities allows him to see new applications for technology, which lead to patents. His role as mediator between the developers of medical devices and practitioners is a result of his dual background in engineering and physiology.

Swanson grew up outside of Belvedere, Illinois, on a farm. His family was poor, but his parents—who had only 12 years of education combined—prized education: Of the eight children in the family, five have advanced degrees. His background fixing and working with farm equipment gave Swanson an intuitive sense of how things work. He studied physics at Northern Illinois University. While working as a tutor, Swanson met a bright chemistry student, and 39 years later, he and his wife, Anne, are still married.

After graduating, Swanson and Anne moved to Madison for graduate school. Swanson obtained his PhD in electrical and computer engineering and his masters in physiology, and Anne obtained a PhD in biochemistry.

They remained in Madison. Anne did cancer research and became a professor at Edgewood College, while Swanson became a scientist with what then was the cardiac surgery team at UW Hospital. One of his important roles was to act as a bridge of knowledge for incoming surgeons—his advising aided the smooth transition of two lead surgeons on the transplant team.

Offers from industry lured Swanson to Minnesota in 1988, where he developed defibrillator technology for Cardiac Pacemakers Inc. He created an energy-efficient defibrillation method, which enabled the development of smaller, more efficient implantable defibrillators.

In 1992, Swanson moved to California to work as senior research and development director at Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC). While at BSC, Swanson filed the majority of his patents, and he still holds the record at BSC for most patents.

At BSC, Swanson worked with electrophysiologists, who are cardiology specialists focusing on diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. He consulted with physicians from many countries, traveling to Europe and Israel multiple times.

Though Swanson has lived in California for more than a decade, he still isn’t used to green grass in the winter. One benefit from the lack of snow is a long growing season—He enjoys gardening and cooking. He walks about three miles a day and is a Badger fan.