Greg Van Der Meulen’s career as an engineer began with dogs. When the 1998 Community School graduate was a senior at University of Colorado, Boulder, Sun Valley veterinarian Dr. Randy Acker came to visit his daughter, who was a roommate of Greg’s.
“We started talking, and he mentioned that he wanted to make a total elbow replacement for dogs. Not knowing anything about orthopedics—my focus in school was cardiovascular engineering—I said, ‘Sounds great. I can design that for you!’”
Dr. Acker took Greg up on his offer, and the rest is history. After graduating from Boulder with a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a BioMedical Engineering Option, he moved back to the Wood River Valley to work with Dr. Acker on the project. Working by day at Scott to pay the bills, Greg toiled nights and weekends on the implant design, surgical technique, and instrumentation.
“After slogging along like that for about a year, Randy hired me to ‘wrap it up’ and six months later, we had a patent outlining our surgical technique, the implant design and the instruments. We licensed the patent to a veterinary orthopedic company called BioMedtrix and it just so happened that they were looking for a Product Development Engineer.”
Today, Greg is the Director of R&D at BioMedtrix, the number one producer of total joint replacements for the veterinary field, including total hips, knees, elbows, the first canine total ankle in the world, bone plates, and a variety of other products.
Though the company is based in New Jersey, Greg works out of Ketchum and recently hired a fellow Cutthroat, Chris Preucil ’11. In his role, Greg determines what new products the company will produce and manages the development, working closely with a group of veterinary orthopedic surgeons from around the world. Products are also not just for dogs. Over the years, the company has addressed cases from custom hip replacements for tigers in zoos, snow leopards, and extremely fortunate cats. Humans, too, are benefitting.
“Our technology is transferable to the human side, so we’re able to develop and test many different implants and approaches in a much shorter timeframe than the companies in the human field,” Greg explained. “The percutaneous implant is a great example. With a high number of soldiers returning from tours abroad missing limbs, this technology could greatly benefit them. Fundamentally, my love of biomedical engineering can be boiled down to a desire to make things that benefit animals and people.”
Greg’s career is a blend of those of his parents—his father was an engineer and his mother was a nurse. His time at Community School has played a role in both life and career.
“While I didn’t get specific engineering instruction at Community School, my experience there taught me —despite my best efforts to ignore these lessons—how to work hard, think critically, innovate, fail, and then try again. Community School offers so much more than great academic programs; it’s an education grounded in grit and fueled by teachers who understand the value of challenging their students and providing them with the opportunity to pursue their passions. I love that my own children have been a part of the school as well.”
Greg and his wife, Ryan Waterfield, a former English teacher at Community School, live in Hailey with their two children, Townes and Zula.