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Exclusive: Q&A with Siemens health care chief Gregory Sorensen

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | December 08, 2011
Dr. Gregory Sorensen (Credit: Siemens)
This spring Dr. A. Gregory Sorensen, a distinguished neuro-radiologist with professorships at MIT, Harvard and Oxford, took on a whole new role: CEO of Siemens' health care division in North America. After a morning talk to media at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago last week, DOTmed News had a few moments to discuss with Sorensen everything from a fiscal crisis roiling Europe to 7-T MRI:

DOTmed Business News: I just came back from a trip to Spain to meet my wife's family in Madrid, and the election was going on. And the entire country was convulsed, and the entire continent is, in the whole Eurozone crisis. Siemens, as a European company, how do you see the contractions, austerity measures in Europe affecting the capital medical equipment business over there?

Sorensen: Certainly, there are challenges to our business as the government struggles with its finances. And it's probably easier for a government to say, "I'll defer buying an MRI scanner for a year rather than lay off a bunch of physicians." However, I think this is a short term issue, not a long term issue. So while we're watching those businesses carefully, in fact we still see growth opportunities there, and the population is getting older there just like it is in the United States. And I think the long-term trend is good. So it's the typical challenge of a business - how do you make sure the short [term] doesn't overwhelm you, while still focusing on the long term?

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DMBN: Has Siemens [Healthcare] experienced a hit in its European markets because of the crisis?

Sorensen: Certainly we've seen delays in some of our orders because of the challenges there. But overall, I think our business prospects are still quite good.

DMBN: Moving to a different topic, I know you're going to talk a bit about 7-T MRI during your lecture on mechanistic imaging today . I was speaking with someone from Siemens a couple of months ago who said he thought 7-T MRI was where 3-T was maybe 10 years ago, just waiting for that killer clinical indication to push it over the edge. Do you agree?

Sorensen: 7-T was a little bit like the talking dog at first. It wasn't so much what the dog said, it was just the fact that it could even talk. Ten years ago, people didn't realize - I didn't realize at first - how technically challenging doing MRI at 7-Tesla would be. It's actually just a myriad of engineering problems that have to be solved. Well, at Massachusetts General Hospital, when I was there, we installed our first one about 10 years ago, it was a Siemens device. And now a lot of those man-years of engineering have been put in. I think 7-T is poised to actually show us things we couldn't see at lower field strengths.

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