Brandon Sampson almost lost his hand in a farming accident when he was 8 years old. Nine surgeries and months of physical therapy sparked his interest in orthopedic medicine and rehabilitation. He was pre-med at Luther College, until a mentor introduced him to the field of prosthetics and orthotics. “When I saw people building a functional tool that never existed before for people missing limbs, I thought, this is what I want to do.” What he didn’t fully realize, as he started his career working for an artificial limb maker, was the power of his own entrepreneurial spirit. “I didn’t care if I succeeded or failed. I just wanted to feel like it was my doing.”
After 15 years of working for another prosthetist, and many failed attempts to show his employer how to innovate and reinvent, he left to start a different kind of artificial limb company—one that focuses on function over form. Limb Labs opened near Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. In 2014. It looks more like a design lab than a medical office, with the fabrication center visible from the lobby and street.
“We wanted to design the patient experience to feel like they are part of the process,” Sampson says. Today, the privately owned Limb Lab has four offices in Minnesota and Wisconsin and plans to continue expanding. "We must be disrupting something," Sampson says, "because when we go to conferences, people want to have lunch.”
Sampson talks about innovation in the field of prosthetics, the impact of insurance changes, and balancing his patient focus with running a business.
“I just love getting up and going to work," Sampson says. "Every day there’s a chance I might be able to create something that never existed before.”
After our conversation with Sampson, we go Back to the Classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Dan McLaughlin, director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care, talks about how innovation in prosthetics is starting to benefit other fields, like agriculture.
“Crops need to be hand picked and no one wants to do that job, so they are investing in robotic pickers,” McLaughlin says. “it’s a very exciting future.”
Editor-in-Chief of TCB
Limb Lab founder and prosthetist