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Q&A With Dr. Ronald A. Morton, Chief Medical Officer, Urology, Boston Scientific

Feature
Article

Morton discusses his transition from working as a urologist to the C-suite.

Ronald Moore

Ronald A. Morton, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Urology
Boston Scientific

Pharmaceutical Executive: Can you explain your experience transitioning from a practicing urologist to working as a CMO and VP of medical affairs?

Dr. Ronald Morton: After spending nearly 20 years in academia as a urologic oncologist, I made the transition to a career in the medical device field in 2007. Although the reasons for the transition were multifactorial, it largely centered around my desire to conduct translational research that could help patients lead better lives. My first industry job was with a small biotech company in Memphis and through a series of acquisitions, I joined Boston Scientific in August of 2015. Serving in both capacities has given me a distinct perspective – providing me with first-hand knowledge of the issues urologists face and enabling me to identify specific solutions to help alleviate those burdens. As part of our new product development process, I am able to focus on challenging unmet medical needs with the ultimate goal of helping to improve patient outcomes.

PE: What inspired you to get into the life sciences industry?

Morton: During my career in academia, I was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded investigator and always looked for ways to translate laboratory observations into improvements that could help treat and manage patients. I was motivated to bring this experience to companies that develop medical innovations. Working in-house at a medical technology company gives me the opportunity to help other urologists meet growing patient demand by providing technologies that can lead to effective, long-term improvements for patients.

PE: Why do you believe that fostering education for the next generation of urologists is important?

Morton: We are facing a serious shortage of urologists. For every new urologist entering the field, another 10 practitioners are ready to retire.1,2 At the same time, we have an aging population and many urologic conditions, like BPH and prostate cancer, increase in incidence with age. Thus, there is a critical need for increased training of urologists. Moreover, there are tremendous time demands on all physicians. As technology advances, physicians must learn and master newly innovated devices. By providing physician education via our EduCare program, we supplement education across our entire portfolio, helping to foster safe and effective product use.

PE: What were the most important/influential moments of your professional career?

Morton: Specific moments were less influential to my professional career than some of the mentors I had along the way. First, I was very fortunate to meet Dr. Levi Watkins, a cardiac surgeon at Hopkins, who encouraged me to pursue a career in medicine. While practicing urology at Hopkins, I also had the honor of training under Dr. Patrick Walsh and the research director Dr. Don Coffey. Each were instrumental in my development as a physician, scientist and clinician. I am forever grateful for the many influential lessons that each of these tremendous mentors instilled in me.

PE: What challenges are urologists facing in today’s world? How has this changed over the years?

Morton: Very simply – lack of time. There are truly not enough hours in the day. Beyond this, urologists must strive to stay at the forefront of a myriad of emerging clinical techniques and technologies. This is no small task and one that further limits the time they have for treating patients in the clinic. At Boston Scientific, we are focused on engineering efficient technologies to mitigate these pressures.

Recognizing these challenges, we introduced the first single-use flexible ureteroscope in 2016 and have since developed a compatible stone retrieval accessory device, intended to turn what was once a two-person task of ureteroscope operation and stone basketing into a single-person procedure.3 This year we launched a next-generation version of our single-use ureteroscope, which includes a built-in pressure monitoring feature that aims to help inform clinical decisions in real time.4

PE: What changes have you seen in the industry from a DE&I perspective over the course of your career?

Morton: Disparities faced by minority urology patients are long-standing and well-documented, ranging from differences in access to screening and treatment options to survival outcomes. What’s just as troubling is the lack of non-white and female urologists to serve these patients. The most recent data from the American Urological Association shows that Black and Hispanic urologists, for example, make up only 2.2% and 4.9% of the workforce, respectively.5 Female urologists comprise 11.6% of the workforce. Looking to the future, care teams need to better reflect the diversity of their patients, so increasing the diversity of our physician workforce can help enhance quality of care and patient satisfaction.6

This is why Boston Scientific and the Urology Care Foundation created the Boston Scientific Medical Student Innovation Fellowship Award, which supports the education of medical students from underrepresented backgrounds. The first recipient was chosen this year. She is researching the impact of erectile dysfunction on Hispanic men and will be learning under Dr. Mo Khera, a very active and successful physician scientist and a fine urologic surgeon. I’m incredibly excited by this program and what the recipients will achieve and contribute to the future of urology.

Sources

  1. The State of the Urology Workforce and Practice in the United States. American Urology Association. Available at: https://www.AUAnet.org/common/pdf/ research/census/State-Urology-Workforce-Practice-US.pdf. Accessed October 2023.
  2. Urology Residents in the United States and Across the Globe 2016-2018. American Urological Association. Available at: https://www.auanet.org/documents/research/census/2018%20Resident%20Census.pdf. Accessed October 2023.
  3. Joice GA, Ludwig WW, Schwen ZR, et al. Ergonomics and procedure time of novel retrieval deployment device for single surgeon ureteroscopy. Abstract presented at EUS Annual Meeting, May 18, 2018, San Francisco, CA.
  4. Bhojani, N., Koo, K.C., Bensaadi, K., Halawani, A., Wong, V.K. and Chew, B.H. (2023), Retrospective first-in-human use of the LithoVue™ Elite ureteroscope to measure intrarenal pressure. BJU Int. https://doi.org/10.1111/bju.16173. Accessed October 2023.
  5. Practicing Urologists in the United States 2022. American Urology Association. Available at: https://www.auanet.org/documents/research/census/State%20Urology%20Workforce%20Practice%20US.pdf. Accessed October 2023.
  6. Takeshita J, Wang S, Loren AW, et al. Association of Racial/Ethnic and Gender Concordance Between Patients and Physicians With Patient Experience Ratings. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11):e2024583. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.24583. Accessed October 2023.
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