One to Follow

The CEO who has made giving back his life’s goal

by Denise Wrestler

Be like Mike—but I’m not referring to Michael Jordan (despite what the Gatorade commercial from the 1990s says).1 I’m referring to Mike Mussallem, chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences Corp. (Edwards).2 Not only is Mike leading a well-known healthcare company to medical breakthroughs, he’s also ensuring the company has the end user in mind at all times.

Mike is driven by a passion for helping patients. He leads the effort to address unmet healthcare needs, and works to improve patient outcomes and enhance lives while delivering value to the healthcare system. As a CEO, he’s the definition of social responsibility—consistently donating to charitable causes, funneling money to where it’s needed most and defying the CEO stereotype by putting ethical business practices above everything else. He’s one of the few CEOs who cares more about the consumer than the almighty dollar.

Last year, Mike was voted the No. 15 CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review.3 But that’s not what makes him so popular. What makes Mike popular is his work ensuring Edwards’ culture of giving back to the community, his unexpectedly large conscience and his continued efforts ensuring quality is embedded throughout the life cycle of medical devices and healthcare worldwide—from the boardroom to the manufacturing warehouse to the hospital.

Save a life (indirectly)

Despite his reputation, I hadn’t heard of Mike Mussallem until a recent audit I was performing, during which my client, Jose Chavez Jr., mentioned a news article describing Mike’s commitment to quality. The article stated that in Mike’s approach to doing the right thing for patients, he organizes events where the people who make a heart valve, for example, meet the people whose lives were saved by that heart valve. The article describes these events with “tears on both sides.”4

You can’t put a price on the warm fuzzies these events generate—not to mention the reaffirmation to all Edwards employees that what they do matters. The article Chavez shared with me left a lasting impression and a need to share his story.

As an independent consultant, I encourage all my clients to reiterate to their employees the importance of what they do. Every person working in a medical device organization indirectly plays a part in saving lives. As quality professionals, it is our job to ensure every stakeholder’s importance in the final product’s outcome. Ask yourself what you can do in your organization to fulfill this often-neglected task. (Might I recommend tear-filled operator-to-customer meetups?)

Prove it

Medical device safety is No. 1, and Mike knows the importance of growing his company by building a trusted reputation with good, quality products over growing his company by building a reputation centered around company size or inexpensive products. He also knows the importance of providing evidence that proves how great the products are.5

Mike and his team prove the safety of Edwards products with decades of post-market data and multiple and continuous clinical trials. If that’s not enough, he also proves the quality of Edwards products with quality-of-life and health economic data. He goes above and beyond the typical medical device CEO, and will bore you with statistics and data points to help you understand why you should trust Edwards products and not just take his word for it.

If only politicians were like Mike.

In the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-regulated medical device industry, the well-known saying, “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen,” couldn’t be truer. As quality professionals, we strive to ensure that we make good products and that we can prove it, too. Mike goes a step further and uses documentation, data and other evidence about Edwards products to meet regulations and product quality requirements, and also as a selling tool—it’s free marketing. Engage with your sales team and high-level management, and show them your documentation and evidence—the proof they need to show the world that your organization makes quality products.

Do good

If you Google “Mike Mussallem,” you’ll discover that he has donated his time, money, initiative and leadership to ensuring the give-back policy he abides by is instilled in all Edwards employees. Mike leads by example—you can’t say the same about most CEOs.

Mike’s goal is to have all Edwards employees participate in charitable or community work. The Edwards Lifesciences Foundation has provided education, screening and treatment to more than 1 million underserved people.6 Mike defies all odds by being extraordinary at leading a profitable company as well as giving back.

There is so much more to ensuring a quality environment beyond simply ensuring your product meets customer requirements. It also includes dropping a few extra coins into the karma bank.

What Mike preaches about giving should be adopted by every organization in every industry. My pizza restaurant, for example, donates to the local school’s PTA meeting and less-fortunate members of the community. And lawyers occasionally take on cases pro bono for people who can’t afford legal representation. Even small mom-and-pop shops make donations to their communities or sponsor the local kid’s softball teams.

No organization is exempt from doing good and giving back. As quality professionals, we should strive to do the same and lead by example, and convince the leaders of our organizations and industries to do the same.

We can learn so much from the good and bad corporate leaders of the world. It seems like we hear a lot about the bad these days, so it’s refreshing to hear a story about so much good being done by a CEO who defies all “CEO-isms.”

Mike’s actions are prime examples of how to make the world a better place. We should all learn to be like Mike.


  1. Darren Rovell, “Famed ‘Be Like Mike’ Gatorade Ad Debuted 25 Years Ago,” ESPN, Aug. 9, 2016.
  2. “Our Leaders,” Edwards Lifesciences Corp., www.edwards.com/aboutus/ourleaders.
  3. “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World 2018,” Harvard Business Review, November-December 2018.
  4. Barry O’ Halloran “Mike Mussallem: Making Limerick a Centre of Heart Valve Technology,” Irish Times, April 19, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y5yzogdc.
  5. “‘We Need to Show Up With Evidence’: Edwards Lifesciences CEO,” Modern Healthcare, Jan. 24, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y2ygxk8a.
  6. Jeff Collins, “Most Influential 2018: Edwards Lifesciences CEO Mike Mussallem Leads Company Making Medical Breakthroughs,” Orange County Register, Dec. 23, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yyv5ch5z.

Denise Wrestler is an independent quality assurance/regulatory assurance consultant for CYA Medical Device Consulting in Dallas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomedical engineering from the University of California, Irvine. An ASQ member, Wrestler is an ASQ-certified quality auditor and engineer.

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers