Charles D. Griffin

Engineering Answers to Valvular Heart Disease

Inducted in 2006

Two years ago at Ohio’s famed Cleveland Clinic, the 500,000th implant of CarboMedics’s prosthetic heart valve—or CPHV—was recorded. No similar product ever marked this milestone with absolutely no postoperative structural failures. That the CPHV did, is testament to the biotechnological and business expertise of company president and Cullman native, Charles D. Griffin.

The CPHV was CarboMedics’s first proprietary mechanical heart valve. As head of engineering at CarboMedics, Mr. Griffin was responsible for the valve’s development, which was fostered by advances in knowledge of hemodynamics, the mechanics affecting valve components, and the interactions of biomaterials and circulating blood. Mr. Griffin’s own discoveries in these areas underlie the CPHV’s surgeon-friendly pivot design and unique titanium stiffening ring. He was present in a Paris hospital in 1986 when the first CPHV was implanted. Since then, CarboMedics and its pioneering line have grown to offer a life-sustaining array of devices for repairing and replacing human heart valves (although Mr. Griffin’s CPHV remains the largest component in annual sales totaling hundreds of millions). Nine of the 10 leading American cardiac centers employ CarboMedics’s devices. Under Mr. Griffin’s direction—which included making CarboMedics the first company to send engineers into hospitals and surgeons’ conferences—the Texas manufacturer became the world’s second largest producer of mechanical heart valves.

Mr. Griffin graduated from Auburn University in 1975. He had been a civil engineering co-op student, and he spent two years with Southern Company before determining to study biomaterials. In 1980, he received the master’s degree in materials engineering from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. (Later, he studied executive management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Austin.) An orthopedic-implants researcher with Zimmer USA from 1980 to 1982, Mr. Griffin joined CarboMedics in 1982 as a research engineer. In 1986, with just two years’ managerial experience, he was appointed head of engineering, and then, in 1990, a vice president. After serving as vice president/general manager of operations since 1996, he was named CarboMedics’s president in 2001.

The era of successful heart valve replacement did not develop substantially until 1969, with the advent of the pyrolytic carbon valve. Entering the industry in 1982, Mr. Griffin has been a significant contributor for two-thirds of its history. The respect afforded him—by employees, medical professionals, even competitors—is in keeping with such achievement.

Mr. Griffin resides near Austin, in Leander, Texas, with Naomi Boyar, his wife of 24 years, and daughter Carolyn. Another daughter, Josie, attends college in Oregon. He is active in Austin’s Adopt-a-School program and as a guest lecturer at UT-Austin and the Central Texas Machinists School. He served for five years on the advisory board that recently established for Georgia Tech and Emory University a groundbreaking biomedical-engineering department structured on input from faculty, industry, and local business. Additionally, since 2003, he has served on the Lillehei Heart Institute Board of Visitors at the University of Minnesota. Mr. Griffin’s other professional affiliations include the Society for Biomaterials, American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, European Society for Artificial Organs, and Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. He shares two U.S. patents for heart valve prostheses and has published and presented regularly to the engineering profession.

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