Diagnostics & Imaging Week Washington Editor

WASHINGTON — Rudderless for nearly three-and-a-half months, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed; Washington) tapped Steven Ubl to steer the association as its new president.

Ubl is no stranger to the medical device industry or AdvaMed. He served as the association's executive vice president for government relations from 1998 until last year, when he opened his own healthcare consulting firm.

With his experience both with industry and the association, Ubl will "undoubtedly hit the ground running," Art Collins, CEO of Medtronic (Minneapolis) and AdvaMed's board chairman, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week.

"What's important is his passion, his enthusiasm and his energy about medical technology," Collins said.

Ubl was one of the lead architects of AdvaMed's work to hammer out the Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act of 2003. That experience will come in handy as an October deadline approaches. Industry, Congress and the FDA will seek to negotiate, by that deadline, a trigger "fix" for the legislation to help curb sharply rising user fees.

"His knowledge of the industry and his accomplishments within a broad range of legislative decisions that have been made was clearly part of the decision-making process, but it wasn't exclusive," Collins explained. "It was a number of factors. He possesses a rare combination of policy depth and political acumen that has earned bipartisan respect on Capitol Hill and among policymakers."

Identified with the help of a professional search firm, along with recommendations from member companies and lawmakers, more than 50 candidates were reviewed by an internal search committee, Collins told D&IW.

The list eventually was honed to a handful of possibilities.

"I must add also that [the search committee] received and I have personally gotten a number of calls from very influential people involved in legislation and the administration that were universally favorable of Steve Ubl, assuming that he would be one of the final candidates," Collins said.

Ubl met with AdvaMed staff last week to get reacquainted; Monday was his official start date.

Collins said the feedback from staff has been "overwhelmingly positive."

"They know Steve, and they are so positive to have a leader now because it has been a number of months, especially someone they trust and genuinely like," he added.

Collins also said that with a new president finally named, AdvaMed may shake up the status quo a bit, though he did not say exactly how this will transpire.

"We made it very clear to Steve as we went through this process that we were not looking for an administrator to come in and conduct business as usual," he said. "AdvaMed has been extremely effective up until this point, but are we not going to do things exactly as we've done in the past. Steve will come in with fresh eyes, and we want to continually raise the bar in terms of what we expect in performance."

Some of the issues Collins identified for Ubl and AdvaMed soon to tackle, along with the user fee trigger fix, include pay-for-performance issues at CMS, inpatient and outpatient DRG payment decisions, and international medical device payment concerns.

Ubl began his Washington tenure on Capitol Hill, serving as special assistant to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). He later worked as vice president of legislation at the Federation of American Hospitals (Washington).

The Hill newspaper and Legal Times cited Ubl as one of Washington's top lobbyists for securing passage of FDA and Medicare reforms, AdvaMed said.

Mark Leahy, executive director of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association (Washington), Ubl's counterpart at the smaller device association, would not comment directly on the selection but wished him "best of luck," adding: "We look forward to working with AdvaMed on issues of joint concern."

Ubl replaces Pamela Bailey, who left the position in late March to head the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA; Washington), a group representing a sector that is marked by the absence of the regulatory burdens facing med-tech, her resignation apparently coming as a rather large surprise to the association and its members.

Bailey, head of AdvaMed since 1999, pushed a variety of initiatives while with the organization, including the initiation of device user fees.

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