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  Milton Morris '04
  Photo © Doug Beasley

EMBA Profile: Milton Morris '04

Bionic man

EMBA grad 'carries the bag' to build science, business skills for med-tech success

By Matt Golosinski

Few marketers have gone to the heart of customer centricity the way Milton Morris has. In fact, the director of product marketing for Boston Scientific has donned surgical scrubs and actually seen the heart.

The former Northwestern University wide receiver parlayed his undergraduate science degree into an electrical engineering doctorate from the University of Michigan before earning a Kellogg School executive MBA in 2004.

But arguably Morris could have used one more academic credential — an M.D. — during an 18-month stint in the front lines selling the company's cardiovascular devices technology. Though he had been with Boston Scientific for five years, the Ohio native took "a couple steps down the organizational chart" after graduating from Kellogg so he could learn the business side of an enterprise whose technical aspects he already knew. Morris, who joined Boston Scientific in 1996 in its research and technology area, where his responsibilities included writing algorithms to allow its cardiac devices to detect arrhythmias, would go on to become the division's director. But to gain true product and customer knowledge, he became a field clinical representative.

That meant "carrying the bag," he says. The role required six months of special training and involved sundry responsibilities, from hauling Boston's gear in and out of hospitals to bringing doctors donuts.

It also brought him face to face with customers — in the operating room.

"I wore scrubs and a lead jacket," says Morris, 36. "I didn't scrub in, but I was standing right there, handing our products to the nurse. It was intense."

The experience brought him greater understanding of his firm's customers — which include physicians, patients and, less intuitively, the healthcare systems that fund the procedures that use the company's technology.

"The economics and marketing of this industry are so different than consumer goods," he says. "We sell products to hospitals, but they are being paid for by the healthcare system. Private payers assume the costs but you're not selling to them directly."  

Now, Morris brings his technical and marketing knowledge together so his team can help these external clients as well as the company's sales force. "We can translate and craft technical messages that the sales force will understand, find acceptable and then deliver on," he explains.

Bridging science and business is something Morris' parents seem to have prepared him to do: His mother worked at Cleveland Clinic for 27 years, he says, including as supervisor of its hematology lab. His father, who died when Morris was 17, was "more of a mathematician," an accountant who also served as executive director of various theaters. "They called him in to turn things around financially," says Morris, who has two older sisters who also inspired him.

After his father's death, Morris says he was determined to excel. "From that time on, it was up to me to make things happen for myself," he says. "I've been focused on achievement ever since."

This dedication brought Morris to the Kellogg School's EMBA program where he complemented his existing aptitudes with the business knowledge to help him "perform at a higher level."

"It was great to design and incorporate these technologies into devices to help patients, something I had done for a decade," says Morris, "but I felt there was a whole other component to what I was doing that I wanted to learn: the business side."

At Kellogg, Morris honed his management skills with EMBA program offerings, including those that emphasized cross-cultural negotiations and ethical leadership. He has special respect for courses taught by Professors Leigh Thompson and David Messick. Another favorite was Global Initiatives in Management that took him and his EMBA peers to China.

"That was absolutely eye opening," he says. "We gained a grand vision for where China was headed economically and culturally."

Today Morris spends less time in the operating room, but the Kellogg graduate's powerful blend of skills means he's ready to tackle any business challenge, no matter how bloody the competition.

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University