Company's creative solutions hold it together
Of all his memories as an orthopedic surgeon during the Vietnam War, one in particular sticks with Sam Scheinberg.
A wounded soldier had been administered an air splint in the field and loaded into a helicopter to be taken to Scheinberg for surgery. During the flight, the air pressure in the splint had increased and the splint's plastic surface had heated up, causing it to stick to his skin. When the solider arrived, Scheinberg unloaded his patient and removed the air splint – removing the soldier's skin as well.
It was then that Scheinberg first thought there must be a better way.
In 1971, Scheinberg found it.
One night, after coming home from a long surgery, Scheinberg was relaxing, chewing a piece of gum, and shaping the wrapper around his finger. He discovered the aluminum wrapper splinted his finger, not because the material was strong, but because of the shape it held.
Four years later, after a trip to the scrap metal yard and a couple layers of medical tape, he unveiled his solution and gave it a name: the SAM Splint.
Today, along with his wife Cherry, Scheinberg continues the quest for innovation. His SAM Splint has evolved from medical tape-covered piece of aluminum to a thin core of aluminum alloy covered in two layers of closed-cell foam. In addition, they have developed a soft shell splint meant to replace fiberglass or plaster splints.
"Ideas are always born out of problems to be solved," Cherry Scheinberg said. "The goal is to come up with simple, elegant solutions to problems."
SAM Medical has also moved beyond splints to include BursaMed and Blistoban – which both prevent skin breakdown – as well as the SAM OnScene Patient Assessment guide, which provides emergency responders with commonly asked questions to ask hurt or injured patients. The latest piece of artillery in the SAM Medical arsenal is the CELOX-A – a hemostatic agent that can be delivered straight to the source of bleeding in life threatening wounds.
While SAM Medical products have appeared on the world stage — taking them to Europe and trade shows in China — the Scheinberg's have kept their business local by operating mostly out of their home state of Oregon.
"Even though we have a lot of products, the way you start a fire is still the same," Cherry said. "We show and tell and go out and train."
While business is good now, both Cherry and Sam remember a time when it wasn't so easy to turn a buck with their products.
"If we had known how hard it would be we probably never would have tried." Sam said. "It took 5 years reach a profitable level."
Cherry echoed his sentiment, citing the SAM Splint as an example of a product that was simple in concept but more complicated, and expensive, than they ever thought it would be to produce, market and distribute.
Now, after more than 30 years in the medical supply business, the Scheinberg's say they are still learning new ways to keep the wheels turning.
"I'm constantly trying to seek help," Sam said. "You have to understand that as an entrepreneur your skill set is just what it is. As businesses grow, things change."
And for Sam there is one critical element to the company that seems to make everything work more smoothly: Cherry.
"The luckiest thing in my life was when I ran into her," he said of his business partner and wife of 40 years. "Except for my time in training and in the military, we have worked together every year since. I have been blessed with that for my entire career."