It’s not an exaggeration to say that without the innovative ideas of our partners in cath labs across the country, there would be no TZ Medical. Our work relies on the brilliant doctors, nurses, and technologists who come to us with ideas about how to make their jobs easier and their patients more comfortable. One of those contributors is Rob Souza, who works in a cath lab in San Jose, California. He’s the man behind our line of Comfort Zone products, which number a dozen and counting, and we feel his story deserves a day in the spotlight.
Rob met Trent, TZ Medical’s co-owner, by chance in 2010, when he already had some medical device ideas in his back pocket. But what led him there was a chain of events that started back in 1985 when Rob joined the U.S. Air Force.
“My wife would say that I’ve had crazy ideas ever since she met me. I’m always coming up with ideas of how to fix things,” Rob says. “When I was in the Air Force from 1985 to 1995, they had something called the Air Force Suggestion Program. One of the things was, if you came up with an idea and it saved money, they would take whatever it was — a procedure or a process or whatever — and take 10% of the annual dollar fee they’d save and cut you a check. Long story short, I probably submitted about 100 suggestions and nothing ever got approved while I was in the service. But, I actually got a check for an idea that was approved after I got out! So, then I thought, ‘Maybe my ideas aren’t so crazy after all.’”
Rob held onto that innovative spirit even after leaving the Air Force and going to work in California hospitals, but his creativity didn’t peak until after an encounter with a visiting preacher who was also in the military. That preacher asked Rob to join him in what he called an “undercover operation” in Thailand. There, the preacher had networked with a group of Catholic nuns to obtain some property, which he and the nuns planned to use to house, counsel, and rehabilitate children bought out of prostitution. The hope was to teach them how to sew, so they could make a living as seamstresses after leaving the program and escape life on the streets.
“It was risky. If we were caught, we would get thrown in jail,” Rob says.
Thinking of his wife and kids, Rob turned down the preacher’s offer. Instead, he told him that as soon as he could, he’d send him money to support the project, which was then called the Not Forsaken Children’s Ministry. A spiritual man, Rob then turned to God for help.
“I said, ‘Hey God, I’d really like to have money outside of my income to help support this.’ That’s when I started getting ideas to make products, and lo and behold, I met Trent about six months after I had started to jot down ideas,” Rob says.
Trent introduced Rob to his father, Tom, who owned TZ Medical at the time, and Tom loved his ideas. Less than a year later, we launched Rob’s first product. Now, his line of Comfort Zone products boasts 12 cath lab devices, including one of our most popular products, the Comfort Halo.
“TZ Medical has been great to work with,” Rob says.
Rob still sends a portion of his proceeds to various charities, and has put his two daughters and his wife through college with the rest. Just last month, he pitched us another handful of ideas for cath lab products. As with our other inventors, we look forward to years of productive partnership to come.
If you have an idea for a product that could change the lives of patients or physicians for the better, call us today at 800-944-0187 or email [email protected]. We’d love to hear it!