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After nearly 40 years of practicing emergency medicine, Dr. Bruce Becker planned on retiring and focusing his energy on serving as Chief Medical Officer of Vitae Industries, a Providence, R.I.-based start-up that produces an automated compounding device that 3D prints personalized medications. The coronavirus pandemic, however, turned those plans upside down. Dr. Becker is heading back to the front lines but is taking his technology with him.
Fox News: You’ve been practicing emergency medicine for upward of 38 years, why return when you just retired on Feb. 1?
Dr. Bruce Becker: I'm going back into action because of the needs of COVID-19. I'll be returning to the front lines, or ‘the pit,’ as we call it. It’s something that I feel I must do. I've worked my whole career in trauma situations and worked overseas in disaster and refugee crises going way back. I was in Armenia seven times after the earthquake, I worked on the border of Cambodia and Thailand during the refugee crisis after the Vietnam War, and drove through minefields. Now, it’s coronavirus here in the U.S.
Fox News: As chief medical officer of Vitae Industries, what is the company doing now to help in the fight against COVID-19?
Dr. Becker: We are 3D printing parts for medical devices such as the connectors on ventilators. The connectors that look like the letter ‘Y’ can turn a ventilator that could serve one patient into a ventilator that could serve two or four patients. We're currently working with a consortium of other scientists and engineers in Rhode Island to facilitate the production of this piece of the ventilator device.
Fox News: What else is the 3D-printing technology capable of doing?
Dr. Becker: The automated compounding device that Vitae has produced is able to print customized medications on-site, on-demand, at the patients’ or providers’ needs, wherever that may be. That’s because the automated compounding device is actually quite small. It's about two feet by about a foot-and-a-half in diameter and it is light and portable. So interestingly, the concept of 'point-of-care' testing or 'point of care' prescribing was just really getting going before this pandemic came down. Now, in the face of COVID-19, this convenience and efficiency has now become a critical necessity.
Fox News: Can you explain why convenience and efficiency are so important in this climate?
Dr. Becker: The 3D printer helps reduce labor and prepare for rapid production of drugs in shortage. Patients who don't have COVID-19 are very concerned about coming into medical facilities to be diagnosed and treated because of the presence of COVID-19 patients. So what used to be done at the bedside is now being transferred to the curbside. That means we need to be able to take medical care outside of the hospital or the urgent care center, (where no one really wants to go right now because of their concerns due to COVID-19 infection) and bring it out into a tent, into the parking lot, into a convention center, into places where care has never been rendered before. The automatic compounding device is able to print custom medications for each and every patient right there from the very small piece of equipment that we have and a laptop for the very specific needs of any patient on-site, on-scene, even at the curbside.
Fox News: Why is it important that both you and Vitae join this battle against coronavirus?
Dr. Becker: Well, for the same reason that I've decided to come out of retirement and start seeing patients again because we are devoted to health care, healing patients, and improving the care for ill patients to get better in the face of this pandemic.
Emily DeCiccio is a reporter and video producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.