Stroke Science: From Lab to Life. “As research engineers we are inspired by the challenge of enabling physicians to give patients the best possible clinical outcome.”

Mahmood Mirza in the center of 8 colleagues in front of a CERENOVUS NTI branded background.

Meet Mahmood Mirza, Principal Research Engineer* at CERENOVUS. In this instalment for our Stroke Science: From Lab to Life series we spoke to Mahmood about his journey to becoming a principal research engineer, what motivates him in his daily work and his vision for stroke science.

Mahmood Mirza and 4 colleagues in the lab in white coats and masks.

Can you tell us about your journey into becoming a principal research engineer? 

I’m originally from Canada, which is where I started my career as a medical device engineer. I was missing the clinical picture, so made the decision to study medicine and started at the University of Limerick. At this time, I also started my own tutoring business. I thoroughly enjoyed those four years and realised that what I really loved was the combination of engineering, medicine, and business, and therefore decided to move back into industry.  

I was drawn to CERENOVUS because of the company’s mentality – there is no other company looking at science in the same way, engaging the physician community directly and having established a lab that has the respect of that peer community. 

What is it about your work that motivates you? 

I am motivated by deeply understanding the challenges that physicians face every day and marrying that with the solutions that we, as engineers, have available to us. It’s undoubtedly important to review the scientific literature, but the direct insights that we get from the physicians we partner with is what really stimulates me. My job is to provide a well-rounded context of these direct insights from physicians, the scientific literature, and the community at large to our product development teams to inform our clinician solutions. If something isn’t working or missing in the field we want to know why, so we can make it better. 

Rightly, physicians challenge us to ensure our clinical solutions directly meet their needs and offer the best possible outcomes for their patients. It is incredibly fulfilling to hear feedback from a physician that they changed their approach after we spoke and saw better results. Through this, I am in the fortunate position of being able to directly impact patients’ lives, even though I’m not a practicing physician. 

Can you tell us a little more about the knowledge sharing between researchers, engineers, and stroke physicians? 

I’ve found that there are two ways to get feedback from physicians. You can ask questions about their experiences, and typically they will answer based on their last five patients or so. Or you can take a more unique approach, explain your scientific rationale and put a device in front of them in a realistic bench model, and together we can discuss specific questions about their experience with the technology in a clinical-like environment. This sort of conversation is only possible if you’re willing to share information as well as ask for feedback, which is what we do. I prefer this approach, as the conversations you have often leads to much nuanced and valuable feedback.  

Let me give you an example. Yesterday a physician from Germany visited our lab, he’s a user of our device and so we were keen to hear about his experiences with the technology. Getting together in the lab give us an opportunity for a truly two-way dialogue: we can show him how to best use the technology, but importantly, he can give us immediate feedback which we can take to the wider team to improve the technology.  And particularly if the bench model is truly representative of real and challenging patients, the feedback becomes significantly more valuable. My job is to facilitate the R&D and marketing teams to learn from a visit like this. This helps ensure that we are truly meeting the needs of physicians and constantly evolving our technology and approach. 

This brings me to what I believe sets us, as CERENOVUS, apart. I’ve already said that I think that we’re quite unusual in our approach and I think the physicians we interact with will agree that our Neuro Thromboembolic Initiative, the commitment to advance the treatment of stroke through interdisciplinary collaboration and investment in clot and occlusion research, is unique. We’ve worked hard to be seen as partners, not solely as industry professionals. The result of this is that we’re the only company that I know of that has been invited to routinely participate and present at scientific congresses alongside physicians. It’s my hope that we’re seen as peers among our physician colleagues. 

What is your vision for the future of stroke science?  

That we can change the trajectory of stroke if we can help physicians immediately select the right device and approach for the unique clinician circumstance. We have a valuable role in equipping physicians with the best technology to manage their patients, ultimately ensuring patients get the very best care available.

*(Mahmood has since been promoted to Associate Medical Director for CERENOVUS)