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Interview With Michael David Ries, MD, Author of "The Joint Kitchen"
Dr. Michael Ries is an orthopedic surgeon and director of arthroplasty fellowship at Reno Orthopedic Clinic. He received a BS and MS from MIT and his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School and has been in practice for more than 25 years.
Dr. Ries has a practice limited to hip and knee arthroplasty and treatment of arthritic hip and knee conditions. He was on the full-time faculty at the University of California, San Francisco from 1997 to 2013, where he was Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Chief of Arthroplasty. During this time he also regularly participated in laboratory and clinical research. Dr. Ries has published 210 peer-reviewed journal articles and 52 book chapters on topics related to clinical outcomes and biomaterials used in hip and knee replacements.
What distinguishes D. Ries most from his peer group is that he has helped develop a number of hip and knee replacements and is an inventor on 45 US patents for hip and knee replacement devices. He is also the father of three active children, husband to a beautiful Russian wife, keen skier and household handyman.
Welcome Michael, and thank you for joining us today! Why don’t you start by telling our readers a little about your journey to becoming a published author?
I am an orthopedic surgeon and most of my career has been in academic medicine. This means I travel and speak at a lot of medical conferences. The topics presented and discussed at these meetings deal with medical issues, and new inventions in hip and knee replacements are generally not included. Over the past five or six years, I seem to have been asked by some of the younger surgeons attending these meetings how to develop ideas for improvements to hip and knee replacement devices. As I answered these questions, I noticed that some of the non-medical people in the audience seemed very interested in the discussion, and I thought that others might be interested in reading a book about it.
What is The Common Kitchen about?
This book is a story about where ideas for inventions come from. It describes how wonderfully efficient the normal hip and knee joints really are, and why we cannot make hip and knee replacements as perfect as the normal joints we are born with.
Then a doctor just cleaning the kitchen, cooking, opening a bottle of wine, unscrewing the top of a jar, riding a chair lift, fishing, skiing or watching snowflakes fall drew similar pictures on a paper that became patents for new hip and knee replacements. The story suggests that when our mind is in a peaceful state of calm, the creative and problem-solving parts of our brain can magically connect and create a new idea.
What inspired you to write The Common Kitchen?
I have helped develop a number of hip and knee replacement devices over the years. I really didn’t know why the ideas for these inventions popped into my head, but I knew exactly where I was and what I was doing when many of them happened. It turned out that where I was and what I was doing was directly related to images that became new hip and knee replacement patents. I never really thought anyone would be interested in this, but once in a while someone would ask me how I got all these ideas. When I answered with some simple examples, it seemed to make perfect sense to them. I believe that this process happens to all of us at different levels and hoped that by writing about my story it would inspire others to develop their ideas.
Such a great title – obviously inspired by your revelations in the kitchen! How did kitchen/food products spark your ideas on a daily basis and when did you realize that your kitchen was such a wealth of inspiration?
I’m not much of a cook, but many times I end up in the kitchen to make something quick and easy to eat for my children or myself, typically in the morning. It’s kind of a very peaceful and quiet time, even if what you have to do that day is in the back of your mind. It seems that’s when ideas come to you – when you’re not trying to think of one.
The whole process of taking an ordinary orange and seeing its potential as part of a new hip replacement procedure, creating and developing the idea through drawings, etc., requires a great deal of artistic expression. Tell us a little about your artistic nature. Did you even consider yourself an artist?
I really admire and respect artists. I don’t consider myself much of one, but I like taking pictures of landscapes or nature more than people. I’ve also been through a lot of medical lectures and when I see a slide full of words on it, my mind is kind of blown, but when I see a simple diagram or picture that makes sense, I get it. There are many pictures in it The Common Kitchen.
The subtitle of your book: “A Handbook for Orthopedic Inventors and Crazy Cats Facing a Knee or Hip Replacement” indicates that the information is ideal for doctors, inventors, and people in need of a knee or hip replacement. How does your book appeal to so many different audiences?
The book is about how ideas for inventions can be created, but since it specifically describes medical equipment, I think healthcare professionals in the orthopedic field would have a lot in common with the story. The Common Kitchen also shows how the normal hip and knee work and the differences between the normal joints and replaced joints. This is something that anyone considering a joint replacement, and perhaps their friends and family, will usually want to know about. There is also a description of how our minds think by connecting images, which I believe is similar to what scientists and researchers who study the brain have found. I hope the smart people can find too The Common Kitchen useful for further understanding how we create ideas.
What was your biggest challenge in writing? The Common Kitchen?
Writing The Common Kitchen wasn’t too hard – I just put pictures of what I usually make in the kitchen and the corresponding patent drawings side by side and they were pretty much the same. The biggest challenge was overcoming my fear that people wouldn’t like it. I guess most writers probably go through that, so for me the question was whether to put it out there for everyone to see.
What do you like to do when you’re not working, inventing new medical breakthroughs and writing?
I truly cherish every moment I have with my family. We do a lot together like skiing, hiking and spending time outdoors. Some of the best times for us have been going on RV trips to new destinations we’ve never been to before. My wife and kids also tolerate me going away for a week or so each year to go skiing, golfing or fishing with my friends.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about writing, inventing, or about life in general?
When I’m not sure if an idea is worth pursuing, the best advice I’ve always had is to go ahead and do it. That’s the only way you’ll find out.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers and/or inventors?
For inventors, that’s what the last two chapters are about The Common Kitchen is about. It describes a way to see if your idea works, protect it and make it a reality. Many books have been written about how to file a patent and start a company or sell your idea, but mine is more of a story about how to find your own way forward.
For writers, I may not be the best to give advice since I’m relatively new to it. However, there is much in common with publishing and inventing, and the same challenges faced by inventors also happen to writers.
What’s next, do you have another project coming up?
Not yet. I want to see how it goes – so far it looks good, but I have some thoughts about another book. To me, writing is a bit like getting an idea for a new invention – you just have to let it happen. So we’ll just have to wait and see.
Where readers can connect with you on social media to learn more about The Common Kitchen?
I am on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and an easy way to start is the author website www.michaelriesmd.com.
What kind of information is available on your website?
There is a description of the content in The Common Kitchen with a great little video showing what it’s all about. There is also some information about me, links to my patents and some new book chapters and journal articles I have written.
Have anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Writing and publishing a book wasn’t something I ever planned to do or anywhere on my bucket list, but I’m glad I did. I have had lots of lovely comments from people who have read it and I would highly recommend doing this to anyone who is thinking of telling their story to others.
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