Alan L. Kaganov

Alan KaganovGraduation Year: 1960

Degree at Duke:
Bachelor of Science

Mechanical Engineering

Career Highlights:

  • Founder, EP Technologies

Define a "successful career." That’s a term that is hard to define, isn’t it? However, one man has managed to utilize education to its fullest potential, obtaining both engineering and MBA degrees.

Using his knowledge and talent, he went on to develop patents for medical devices and was at one time the CEO of an emerging medical products company. Alan L. Kaganov, Engineering ‘60, has a career that is the dream of many people.

Alan Kaganov chose to major in engineering at Duke because of his interest in the sciences and the influence of his uncle, a successful engineer. As a student he found the work to be intense and challenging, with classes from Monday to Saturday. He remarked that the rigorous engineering schedule gave him minimal opportunity to explore the diversity of the liberal arts curriculum. However, he found time to be active on the campus scene, participating in Duke Players (a theatrical group), Engineering Society, Undergraduate Politics, and IM sports. Looking back at his undergraduate years. Dr. Kaganov praised the engineering program for “providing an excellent foundation for further studies and helping me to develop skills in solving complex problems and situations.”

After graduating from Duke with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1960, Kaganov worked for Amstar for three years, and then Johnson and Johnson as a Senior Packaging Engineer. In the meantime he also worked toward a MBA degree at New York University, which he received in 1966. It was at Johnson and Johnson where he realized his interest lay in the biomedical field, specifically in medical products and design. In order to pursue his career interest, Kaganov decided to return to school to do some graduate work. This was not an easy process, since he had been out of school for several years and wanted to switch from mechanical to biomedical engineering. He persevered and enrolled in Columbia, starting over with such courses as advanced mathematics, organic chemistry, and medical courses such as anatomy and physiology. His hard work and background experience in medical products design paid off, and Kaganov was awarded a Career Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering by the National Institutes of Health in 1969. He retained this fellowship until his graduation from Columbia with a Doctor of Science degree in 1973.

Dr. Kaganov highly recommends the pursuit of a graduate degree. As an undergraduate, Dr. Kaganov felt that he did not learn the practical application of his field, only spending an enormous amount of time plugging in numbers to solve equations. Graduate school, said Kaganov, “helped me to understand the physical situation behind the concepts, and by gaining the practical experience, I learned to appreciate the complexities and the beauty of such concepts like fluid dynamics.

After graduate school Alan Kaganov returned to industry--working for American Cyanamid’s Laderle division in researching and developing medical instruments, particularly those related to wound closure. It was here where he really started combining his business and analytical skills in leading research activities for his division. Subsequently, he was promoted to the Director of Research and Development within a few years. In 1984, Baxter International hired Dr. Kaganov as the Vice President of Product Development of the Fenwal Division, which is a leader in the field of blood collection. At Baxter, he was responsible for overseeing product development, manufacturing, and marketing. Over the next few years, he rose to General Manager of that division, then to Vice President of Technical Affairs, and later to Vice President of Technology and Business Development for the Baxter Corporation. His duties ranged from overseeing blood product and medical device development to joint ventures and acquisitions. This position, according to Kaganov, made him realize that in addition to developing products, he could also develop companies. Kaganov, by this time, had several patents for medical device inventions and processes under his name.

Alan Kaganov’s dream was realized in 1990 when he formed a medical device company in northern California called EP Technologies. His goal was “to provide the strategy~ direction and management for an emerging medical device company.” He was especially interested in treatment for cardiac disorders such as arrhythmia which arises from signal malprocessing in cardiac nodes. This disorder is usually countered with drug therapy. EP Technologies, on the other hand1 specialized in developing ablation treatment for arrhythmia. Using the concept of radio frequency ablation on cardiac rhythms and the catheter as a sensor electrode, the company developed a method of sensing irregular conduction in cardiac tissue and used radio frequency to correct the arrhythmia. According to Dr. Kaganov, the company was the first to complete FDA approval for this therapy, which has cured more than 170,000 arrhythmic patients so far.

The desire to challenge himself further in the medical technology field subsequently brought Alan Kaganov to Boston, where he currently serves as Boston Scientific’s Vice President of New Business Development and Strategic Planning. His role is to “identify, screen, analyze and effect mergers, acquisitions and other strategic relationships.” The company is interested in developing medical devices that bring about treatments with minimal invasiveness, which means technological innovations that will be cost-effective and require less surgery. His current position requires marketing and finance, as well as engineering skills. Kaganov noted that an integration of engineering and business education has enabled him to thrive in an environment of rapid technological advancements while making decisions about the company’s investments.

Currently Alan Kaganov and his wife Carol live in Boston and make frequent trips to New York and San Francisco. He also enjoys his visits to the Duke campus and is very active in the Engineering School. When asked about his opinion of the University today, he stated that he felt the students are more competitive than before. He was impressed with the strengthening of the graduate school and the amount of scientific research going on in the University. As for the Engineering School, Kaganov is happy to see the improvements in the facilities and relative percentage of female students in engineering. While engineering was a final career objective for engineering students in his time, Kaganov noted an increasing percentage of students using engineering as a springboard for other career paths.

The Engineering School is pleased to have a distinguished alumni in Dr. Alan Kaganov and welcomes his future involvement in the school.

Originally published in DukEngineer, Fall 1995. Written by Julie Su, a Junior in Chemistry.