After graduating from Northeastern with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Steve Picheny says he wanted a job “that would make a difference in the world.”
By founding a company that specializes in selling high-tech medical devices to doctors and hospitals, he did just that. “The devices we brought to market really revolutionized health care,” says Picheny.
A Brooklyn native, Picheny chose Northeastern in 1959 because of the co-op program. He did three co-ops at Pall Corporation, a manufacturer of filtration and purification devices, and another at aircraft and aerospace company Grumman.
After two years in the U.S. Army, Picheny returned to Pall to help start a medical-devices division, selling filters that removed clots from transfused blood. But he wanted his own business—and he knew manufacturing companies like Pall were increasingly moving into high-tech health care. So he decided to start a company that would sell the high-tech medical equipment other companies made.
In 1974, Picheny opened Stepic Medical (the name came from the first three letters of his first name and the first three letters of his last name) with $20,000 borrowed from his father.
Over the years, Picheny’s tech-oriented sales force got many helpful devices, principally those related to anesthesia and intensive care, into wide use. Stepic sold Pall filters. It also sold the pulse oxymeter, which quickly and accurately determines oxygen levels in the blood, and a blow dryer–like device that keeps patients warm after surgery.
By the time Picheny sold his company in 1998, it was getting $48 million worth of equipment into the marketplace annually. And he’d achieved what he’d set out to do—make the world a better place.
“We showed people how particular devices would give them better results,” says Picheny, who currently lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. “I took products that basically had no sales and made them standards of care. It was a win-win situation—good for the company, for the patient, and for the health-care system.”
These days, Northeastern is a family affair for the Picheny clan. Picheny’s brother and older daughter are also graduates, and his younger daughter is a current student.