Apr 11, 2023

People behind our pipeline: Meet Joe Brannan

From sleeping in math to superstar engineer

As a teenager, Joe Brannan was so good at math the teacher gave him permission to sleep in class. Pillow and all.

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“Math just came easy to me,” Joe laughed. “I was bored and it disrupted my classmates. So the teacher let me bring a pillow. I would sleep, wake up, take the test, ace it, and go back to sleep.”

Today, Joe is good at much more than math. He’s our most patent-decorated employee, a Distinguished Engineer in our Gastrointestinal business, and a named inventor on 728 patents worldwide, including 241 in the United States.

Joe’s youthful math skills led to a fascination with physics, then electrical and biomedical engineering. He understood microwave technology so well that he became a college instructor on the subject while still a college student.

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As an intern at a healthcare technology company, he immediately dug into research on a microwave ablation system, and eventually invented Thermosphere, a microwave technology that harnessed microwaves in a way that allowed surgeons to more accurately and predictably ablate cancer tumors.

“Our devices with Thermosphere are treating two cancer patients an hour,” Brannan said. “I don’t get to meet those patients or those families, but I know they’re out there. Our Mission to help people grounds me. It buoys me. And it keeps me chasing this thing because I know we can do much more.”

Joe is also excited about helping the next generation of Medtronic engineers. He isn’t formally teaching these days, but he does instruct our staff on use of ablation products and the technology behind them. He hasn’t met a student yet who needs a pillow. But he’s hoping.