Photo: Charles Quigg '09
Paul G. Yock '73
Doctor of Science
Paul G. Yock ’73 is a scientist, teacher and inventor who has saved countless lives by developing some of the most important devices used in heart surgery.
A 1973 summa cum laude graduate of Amherst, Yock now serves as the Martha Meier Weiland Professor of Medicine and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. He co-chairs the university’s Department of Bioengineering and also is director of Stanford’s Medical Device Network, an interdisciplinary, interschool program set up to stimulate and guide the process of biomedical technology innovation. A holder of 44 patents, Yock is the inventor of the Rapid Exchange balloon angioplasty system, used to treat narrowing in coronary arteries. The system is currently the most common method of performing that procedure worldwide. He is also the inventor of the Smart Needle, a Doppler-guided hypodermic needle system.
As a philosophy and chemistry major at Amherst, Yock wrote a senior thesis titled “A Relativistic Approach to Medical Ethics.” As a professor at Stanford, he has been concerned about how students confront the potential conflicts of interest between academia and the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and has incorporated considerations of ethics into his curriculum. At the same time, he has articulated two rules for new medical technologies: “The first, and by far the most important, is to keep the patient in the center of any innovation,” he says. “The second: Keep the technology as simple as possible.”
Yock has received many awards, both for his teaching and for his inventions, including a Distinguished Service Award from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Phoenix 2005 Innovator Award from the Phoenix Hall of Fame for the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry. He has served on national and state governmental committees concerned with health care and on the editorial boards of a number of medical journals.
A popular and dynamic teacher, Yock in recent years has turned his attention from inventing to mentoring new inventors, supporting his belief that “blockbuster inventions seem to come from young minds.”