Intellectually curious with a commitment to clear-eyed, integrative thinking on all subjects.
Specializing in corporate communications and public relations, especially for medical technology and life sciences, including devices and diagnostics, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
I work hard. And smart.
I’m creative. And strategic.
Not your average Joe.
I’m Joe McGrath.
I worked for Medtronic—the world’s largest/leading medical technology company—in roles of increasing responsibility over 16 years, from 1999 to 2015. Neurological and cardiovascular are the broad therapeutic categories in which I have the most function and industry experience. As an integral member of various project and leadership teams, I supported the launches of dozens of breakthrough therapies—for example:
- deep brain stimulation for movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease
- drug-eluting stents and drug-coated balloons for coronary and peripheral vascular disease
- transcatheter heart valves and stent grafts for aortic stenosis and aortic aneurysms, respectively.
Geographically, I’m deepest on the following regions:
- North America (especially the U.S.)
- Western Europe (especially the U.K. and Ireland, owing to an in-country expat assignment near London)
- Asia Pacific (especially China, Japan and Australia)
In these roles, I successfully led and conducted corp comms and PR for:
- clinical evidence dissemination (i.e., study publications in peer-reviewed journals, data presentations at major medical meetings)
- regulatory and reimbursement milestones (FDA advisory committee meetings, clearances and approvals; CE marks and Shonins; facility audits, warning letters, product recalls; health technology assessments; CPT codes in the U.S.; DRG funding in Europe; NICE and NHS in the U.K.; ANSM and HAS in France)
- legal and financial dealings (from IP disputes and lawsuit settlements to M&A and quarterly earnings; from integrations to divestitures)
- commercial activities (product launches, indication expansion, branded and unbranded promotional campaigns for market-leading products and underserved disease states)
All in support of durable and ethical business success.
Looking back, the best advice I ever gave an executive to date involved Medtronic’s CEO—Omar Ishrak at the time: He was checking on the businesses based in Santa Rosa, Calif., during a quarterly review with senior management. Sitting at the head of a conference room table with the leadership team arrayed around him. The status of a joint venture with a government-backed Russian company came up. Omar asked for an update from the project lead and then round-robin advice for his upcoming trip to Moscow. My turn came: “It’s probably fine to visit Putin at the Kremlin and shake hands; but whatever you do, don’t pose for photos with him.” That’s how I remember it, anyway.
In April 2022, I joined Philips, the Dutch multinational, as head of communications for Image Guided Therapy Devices. Growing business. Great company. Diversifying into medical devices and other areas of healthcare. Diagnosis & Treatment. Imaging + diagnostics and therapeutics. Health technology. “Innovation + you.” I’m open to taking on new consulting clients selectively, as long as there’s no conflict of interest with my work for Philips.
Since leaving Medtronic in the summer of 2015, in the wake of the company’s $50 billion acquisition of Covidien—for which I supported stakeholder communications surrounding integration and divestiture as the lead for an international, cross-functional team—my consulting clients have included large multinationals and small start-ups:
- Abbott – Contributed to planning, execution and evaluation of public affairs effort, including internal communications and media relations, surrounding FDA advisory committee meeting and FDA approval of global healthcare company’s bioresorbable coronary stent.
- Leica Biosystems – Advised on global brand and business unit PR and communications for international cancer diagnostics company’s major initiatives, product launches, M&A and issues management.
- Tactile Medical – Supported development of PR and corporate communications strategy, including news and social media engagement, for leader in at-home treatments for lymphedema and venous insufficiency.
- Vytronus – Implemented strategic framework for planning, executing and measuring med-tech start-up’s corporate communications and PR to support clinical and business development of investigational treatment for atrial fibrillation that combines robotics and ultrasound technology.
- Genentech – Collaborated on measurement strategies for global biotech’s manager communications program.
- OSSIO – Drove media messaging and coverage for orthopedic fixation technology company with differentiated product offering featuring bio-integrative fiber that performs like bone after implantation.
Post Medtronic, I also did a 15-month tour of duty in the pharmaceutical industry—specifically for a company implicated in the country’s opioid crisis—from Sept. 11, 2017 (an auspicious start date) to Dec. 4, 2018. That short, intense experience in crisis communications requires an explanation. The I.P.O. of the year in 2013, Insys Therapeutics made and marketed Subsys fentanyl sublingual spray—the Binaca of liquefied opioids. Phenomenally effective for the treatment of breakthrough cancer pain, the product was prescribed off-label for all sorts of lesser pains—from headaches and back pain to muscle aches and ankle pain—by a highly concentrated group of physicians who were receiving kickbacks and bribes from company employees, including members of senior management. Former employees. In the past.
Eyes wide open going in, I faced what turned out to be an insurmountable situation at Insys as the company’s corporate communications officer. Due to an accumulation of reputational issues resulting from years of unethical and illegal behavior, Insys went bankrupt in 2019 under sustained pressure and significant fines imposed by the DOJ. Later that year, the company’s founder and five other former employees in leadership positions were found guilty on criminal charges and sentenced to upwards of six years in prison. Each. A first in the pharmaceutical industry. For me, another valuable professional experience. Proving reputation explains the difference between book value and market cap. Sometimes you gotta lose to learn. Never again.
Celebrity spokespeople management for integrated marketing campaigns include:
- Jerry Rice (Breathe Right nasal strips)
- Jerry Lewis (spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain: Tame the Pain)
- Sir Roger Moore (heart rhythm devices including pacemakers: Arrhythmia Alliance)
- Joe Theismann (stent grafts for aortic aneurysms: Find The AAAnswers)
Some good stories—media coverage and personal memories—from these experiences. Some galling stories too. Relationships and experiences.
High-stakes, high-impact media relations span a range of wire services, national dailies, TV and radio broadcasters, including:
- “60 Minutes”
- Associated Press
- Daily Mail
- Financial Times
- Globe and Mail
- London Times
- New York Times
- Sky News
- USA TODAY
- Wall Street Journal
- Washington Post
My hardware holdings—each one a recognition for a job well done—include:
- Winner of Medtronic’s 2004 Marketing Excellence Award as a member of the market development team that launched UK Arrhythmia Awareness Week
- Four-time winner of Medtronic’s Star of Excellence Award, which “recognizes employees’ unwavering commitment to the highest quality in products, processes, and services” – 2004, 2008, 2009, 2012
- Selected in 1998 for Shandwick’s “1 in 20” employee recognition program, which sent the agency’s “best and brightest” from offices in North America to Key West for four days of workshops and networking
Creativity in Public Relations Awards (CIPRAs)
- Winner in 1995 for the market launch of Breathe Right nasal strips
- Nominated in 1998 for Microsoft’s Virtual Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Awards
- National winner in 1999 for U S WEST’s comprehensive consumer public relations program
- Minnesota branch winner in 1999 for U S WEST consumer public relations campaign “Privacy Plus Family Dinner Contest”
- Award of Excellence in 2013 for U.S. launch of Resolute Integrity drug-eluting stent in “Marketing Consumer Products – Healthcare” category
- Named to 1999 “15 to Watch” list, annual round-up of trade publication’s picks for “rising stars” in PR based on hundreds of nominations
Started college at University of Delaware as pre-med major in 1987. After three semesters, transferred with 3.7 GPA to American University in D.C. to study journalism and pursue a degree in communication. Minored in Literature. Earned scholarship from Society of Professional Journalists. Graduated 1991.
202X. Still learning.
Before Medtronic, I managed:
- news, academic and promotional publications for CHRIE—the Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education, an international trade association of hospitality and tourism educators from Washington, D.C. for four years (1990–1993).
- academic, administrative and promotional communications for the Institut de Management Hôtelier International, an M.B.A. program in hospitality management (a joint venture between the French business school ESSEC and Cornell University’s Hotel School) near Paris for a year (1994).
- client accounts and campaigns at an international PR firm (eventually Weber Shandwick) in Minneapolis for four years (1995–1999), including Breathe Right nasal strips, Microsoft games and game devices, Land O Lakes Food Service, Coca-Cola’s “Taste of the NFL” and various products and services of a regional telecommunications company then called U S WEST.
That seems like a long time ago. Because it was. What’s next?
The metaverse. For communication. For good.