Three years before Virginia Tech began asking students to think about how they could “invent the future,” Robert “Clint” Boyd was on board.
Boyd, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2003. His senior team project was designing a device to bend a rod precisely to maximize scoliosis correction in spinal surgery.
As a volunteer ski patroller on slopes from Colorado to New Zealand — something he has done for the past 10 years — Boyd became more familiar with spinal trauma. He started thinking about that project back in his senior year of college and wondered how he might apply and embellish on what he learned to develop products with more complex applications.
The commitment to finding innovative solutions for spinal problems eventually led Boyd to K2M Inc, a global leader in developing unique and technological innovations to correct complex spine pathologies.
“Since our inception, K2M has been focused on innovating leading technologies for surgeons treating the most complex spinal conditions,” said K2M President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Major.
“Clint is an integral part of a team of nearly 60 engineers at K2M who continuously strive to create the most technologically advanced and versatile products for surgeons and their patients,” Major said.
Boyd is a senior development engineer at K2M and for the past seven years has been inventing and managing development of implants and surgical instruments used in spinal corrective procedures.
One of Boyd’s most notable devices is the CAPRI Corpectomy Cage System, designed for use in the thoracic and lumbar spine to replace vertebral bodies in patients who have suffered from traumatic injury, spinal tumors, or infections in the spinal column. Once affected vertebral bodies are removed, the CAPRI cage is inserted and has the ability to expand into the space.
“What makes CAPRI so unique,” explained Boyd, “is that, in addition to expansion, the surgeon can also dial the angle at the end of the device to match adjacent anatomy to achieve a perfect fit.”
The goal of the device, he continued, is to prevent impingement on the spinal cord and maintain a load bearing column support while the body fuses bone within the operated area.
A surgeon can implant CAPRI through several different surgical approaches. Part of Boyd’s role at K2M is attending surgeries which can last anywhere from two hours to staged surgeries across multiple days.
“Observing surgeries is a great way to gain the surgeon’s perspective. This often leads to new ideas and innovative projects,” Boyd said. “An area of innovation that is really exciting right now is 3-D printing. We are using this technology to produce implant designs that were once impossible to manufacture.”
Boyd’s work at K2M also includes the design of Lamellar 3-D Titanium Technology, MESA Rail, and the SERENGETI Complex Minimally Invasive Retractor System.
Boyd said he considers himself creative and has many different interests. (He is a co-principal and operator of Adventure Fabrications, a small business that designs and builds custom skis.)
Last year Boyd had an idea that led him to the Executive MBA program in the National Capital Region.
“Even as an inventor and designer, it is important to understand the business side of a company,” Boyd said. “I believe that business engineering is where I am headed in the next phase of my professional career. I hope to take on a business development role where I can not only develop the technology but also assess its value.”
Boyd started the 18-month Executive MBA cohort in August 2016. He chose Virginia Tech’s program for its curriculum, expert faculty, location, and length.
“It’s been a great experience thus far and I also appreciate the wholehearted support I’ve had from K2M in pursuing this degree. I believe at the end of the program I will be even better able to define my future career goals and will have the knowledge and skills to steer forward with confidence,” Boyd said.