August 22, 2014 
Our tribute to Dr. Joel Nobel
Founder and President Emeritus of ECRI Institute

Joel J. Nobel, MD

December 8, 1934 - August 13, 2014 



Dr. Joel J. Nobel

Man on a Mission
A Mentor, and A Valued Friend and Colleague


I had the pleasure to work with Joel Nobel for almost 30 years.  Our most recent conversation was about a month ago related to an invitation he received to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) conference on the resuse of single use medical devices.  Joel had politely declined the invitation and asked me to find another ECRI colleague to fill in for him.  During our conversation his voice sounded weak and I could understand how he may not have been up for a trip to Saudi Arabia.  Little did I know that it would be the last time we would speak.  


ECRI Institute has been receiving tributes from all over the world since we learned of Dr. Nobel's death.  An e-mail from one of our SFDA colleagues I think says it best about how influential he was to so many.  I quote, "this news falling like a rocket over my head!"  As you can imagine, the ECRI Institute offices have been a somber place since we learned of Dr. Nobel's passing.  Those of us who worked closely with him felt like we got hit by that rocket.

For complete memory, please click here

Jim Keller, ACCE President, August 21, 2014


Since I entered the profession, Dr. Joel Nobel was a person to be respected and a force to be reckoned with.

He was a pioneer, locally and globally, and encouraged many of us to take the profession to greater heights and deeper depths. 

I am thankful for his friendship, his attention to meticulous science, and the organization that he created that has added great value to the US and the world.


 Tom Judd, ACCE Advocacy Committee, August 18, 2014


 When I met Dr. Joel Nobel at ECRI I was fresh out of college in 1975 and he was about 40 years old. He was clearly a "Man on a Mission" to save patients from pain and injury from defective medical devices, and to improve the efficiency and efficacy of healthcare. In retrospect, I now know that Joel was decades ahead of his time, and I learned that did not deter him one little bit! 


The good Doctor handed each of ECRI's new engineering recruits in the 70's a loose-leaf binder chock full of rigorous Employee Handbook rules and a bright red Swiss Army knife, and threw each of us into an unknown sector of medical technology investigation with a mandate to learn the scientific, engineering, and medical principles, find the flaws in each product, identify constructive remedies where possible, write up our reports, submit to daunting internal scientific and peer review, publish our results, and then present our findings in public conferences. TALL order for 21-year olds on their first jobs, but Joel's faith in us, and his firm direction and discipline, allowed an awful lot of us to succeed beyond our wildest dreams!


For complete memory: click here 


Elliot Sloane, August 20, 2014





I do not know how many of you know who Dr. Joel Nobel was or had the pleasure to meet and speak with him.  I had the opportunity of working with him for five years.  Dr. Nobel was the Founder and President of what was then the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI).
Many things we take for granted today as biomeds, were not around thirty years ago when Dr. Noble asked questions regarding engineering principles and scientific investigation of medical devices.  He did landmark work on resuscitation, crash cart design (yes 30 years ago the crash cart did not exist as we know it) and turned the industry on its head by simply testing a bunch of bag valve mask (BVM) units and finding half did not provide enough volume, oxygen and numerous other parameters to resuscitate patients.  This was the first issue of what was to become Health Devices - keeping with his objective attitude of engineering principles and scientific investigation he developed a culture to question and validate.  Many engineers, such as myself, worked for ECRI for years and took this methodology into the hospital. Dr. Nobel was always proud not only of the people working with him, but also those who had worked for him and maintained their passion for patient safety and basically "spread the word".
For complete memory, please click here 

Duane Mariotti, August 18, 2014   

It was either shortly before graduating as a clinical engineer from Purdue in 1974 or very shortly thereafter, I came to appreciate the work of Joel Nobel and his ECRI team. I started the first clinical engineering program in a two hospital system in Cincinnati (totaling 650 beds) and ECRI's Health Devices became my "bible." I remember asking my incredulous boss for the "hundreds of dollars" to subscribe ... but my enthusiasm for the relatively new service must have won him over. If subscribing to ECRI's Health Devices and getting phone access to their talent had been the extent of my involvement with Joel's organization, I am sure that would have been sufficient for me to be praising the incubating role Joel and ECRI played in the early days of our industry.


But two years later I found myself in Plymouth Meeting working at ECRI. I only worked there (in what we referred to as "the lab") for 3 years but thanks to Joel and the talent he could attract, I believe they were the most formative of any time in my career.

For complete memory, please click here 

Stephen Grimes, August 20, 2014   




Joel Nobel was certainly one-of-a-kind.  What I particularly remember was how he took a genuine interest in every one of his employees - both personally and professionally.  He wanted everyone to enjoy what they were doing and to grow in their position.  This was an extension of what he felt about the mission of what was then the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI). 


Joel and ECRI were committed to improving the safety and performance of medical devices, by evaluating their design and performance, and by explaining how to best use and maintain them.  What is now ECRI Institute has been very, very successful because of Joel's leadership, and will be a testimony to Joel's vision for decades to come.


Robert Stiefel, August 19, 2014


"Been there, done that!" was essentially what he said about all the challenges and solutions that I presented at the World Health Organization's meeting in Madrid in the early eighties.  I was reporting the first few years of experience in managing medical equipment for a university hospital in Brazil and obviously did not appreciate to hear those comments from that older gentleman who later I learned was Dr. Joel Nobel.  So I made a point of visiting him and ECRI the next time I was in the US. 


Joel was extremely kind to me during the visit and even offered me to stay at his "bunker" house but I noticed that he had a WWII tank parked in his garden in case I did not behave appropriately.  From that point on, we started a long and fruitful relationship that lasted many years, not only in the US but also in several international projects.  During all these years, I never ceased to be amazed to see how clear and far he presages into the future, well beyond the basics of technology management.


Binseng Wang, August 20, 2014




I was saddened to hear of the passing of Joel Nobel.  He was a unique individual person.  And what a visionary.  To have the vision, passion and compassion to start the Emergency Care Research Institute (later ECRI) a not for profit organization dedicated to the safety of the 'patient' using tools like, Health Devices (journal), all I can say is 'wow'.


He brought together talented individuals to help him with his vision.  I was not talented like that, I was just a newly graduated CE when I joined Dr. Nobel in 1976 in the field services group, ECRI Services.


Joel, thank you for your vision, leadership and toughness.  You will be missed as a person and as an innovator.


Don Robida, August 20, 2014





Betsy and I were driving from Ocean Grove, NJ to our house in Setauket when Betsy mentioned that she thought pachysandras would make a good ground cover around our house.


I told her about the time Joel put all of us to work planting pachysandras around the newly constructed facility in Plymouth Meeting. Probably one of the most productive uses of the talented engineers and scientists Joel had amassed. Joel was quick to do what was right and expedient while crashing through the musty walls of convention.


  I mused to Betsy about what life would have been like had I stayed at ECRI and how I would do competing against Joel in the "wheelchair races."  We fellow workers in the 70's joked about an imagined Joel vision of a retirement community of loyal employees who, to pass their time, would participate in wheelchair races and other fun activities.


For complete memory, please
click here 

Joe Dyro, August 19, 2014 





In the mid 1970's at the beginning of my clinical engineering career, virtually everything I learned about how to evaluate, test, inspect, and maintain medical devices in the hospital environment came from ECRI and Health Devices under Joel's leadership.  The engineering and scientific rigor they brought to their testing procedures along with the scrupulously unbiased nature of their reporting of results set the bar and became the model that continues to serve me still.  The entire HTM and clinical engineering community owes Joel and his pioneering work with ECRI  a tremendous debt of gratitude for the lasting contributions and gifts of insight he gave to us all.



Larry Fennigkoh, August 21, 2014






  we will keep updating with more entries to this tribute........