Thinking Beyond What Is Currently Available

Tom Gildea, MD, Section Head | Bronchoscopy & Interventional Pulmonary at Cleveland Clinic, shares his inventor journey.

In our Inventor Chronicles video series, Cleveland Clinic inventors share their backgrounds, goals, challenges, and advice for new inventors. Each episode follows a different inventor’s journey with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, from initial inspiration to life-changing invention.


“I love trying to figure out problems. So I spent time working with Cleveland Clinic Innovations and I became obsessed with the idea of making a better solution.” – Tom Gildea, MD.

Dr. Gildea, Section Head of Bronchoscopy & Interventional Pulmonary at Cleveland Clinic, invented patient-specific airway stents that provide improved stent life, increased time between interventions, and reduced complications for an improved patient quality of life. Recently acquired by Theken, Vision Air Solutions’ VisionAir 3D Stents are personalized by pulmonologists using innovative cloud software, VisionAir 3D Stent Architect. The patient-specific stents have an average life of years, compared to the average stock stent life of 60 days.

“The ability to think outside what is currently available, not only to master that, but to think beyond it is absolutely essential to an organization that wants to drive the future of healthcare. Innovation in general is hard. Changing the way people think about problems is difficult. Learning how to ask the right question is often the hardest thing to figure out in these processes. Just to realize the depth and complexity of what happens behind the scenes for all these things was amazing… When it works and it works so well, it is so rewarding it’s unimaginable. ” says Dr. Gildea about driving patient care through innovation.

Cleveland Clinic Innovations brings the best ideas from the brightest minds in medicine to patients around the world by connecting inventors and their ideas with strategic industry partners to create products that transform the future of healthcare. Since our inception in 2000, Cleveland Clinic Innovations has helped inventors receive 2,400+ patents, executed more than 800 licenses and launched over 100 start-ups to turn ideas into next-generation products for patients.