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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Bigger Purpose

By Joel Kilpatrick
Jan. 15, 2012

For 20 years Rick Myers has been a successful entrepreneur in the field of medical devices, founding industry-leading companies and rising to national leadership in his field. But a few years ago he made a significant career change, stepping away from his CEO role to work in the trenches as a prosthetist, the one who fits patients with their new prosthetic limb. Today, Myers serves amputees one-on-one with caring and professional service at his clinic in Irvine, Calif.

“If you sit down and talk with these patients, it doesn’t take two minutes to understand the powerful attraction of this from a ministry standpoint,” Myers says. “It parallels being a pastor, caring for people on the most basic level. I used to struggle with sharing my faith in a business context. Not now. Patients have looked me in the face and said, ‘Why did God do this to me?’ They don’t even know I’m a Christian. We have two hours together as I’m working on their arm or leg, aligning them for the prosthetic limb. I often tell them, ‘There’s a much bigger purpose we have in this world. Lots of times God uses something like this to wake us up. Do you know Christ?’ People are not offended at all. It’s the most natural conversation you could ever have.”

Myers’ business record has been golden: He has been involved in starting, buying, selling and turning around a number of medical device companies since 1987. He founded Freedom Innovations in 2002, developing it into a leading provider of carbon-fiber prosthetic feet and microprocessor-controlled knees. He was vice president of global operations for Ossur, an international leader in orthotics and prosthetics, and held executive positions at Baxter Healthcare (working with cardiovascular implants), and Steri-Oss (working with dental implants). His expertise spans operations, marketing, product development, business development and acquisitions.

None of it would have been possible without his Vanguard University (Assemblies of God) education, he says.

“Vanguard provided an environment that was safe and effective, with small classes and professors who were very involved with students,” he says. “It was an incredible experience.”

Myers came to California from Georgia in 1981 as a new Christian. He and wife Megan had no plan but to follow God’s leading and evangelize the world.

“If you had anybody screaming at you at the Newport Pier in the early ’80s, it was probably me,” he says of his early proselytizing efforts.

Wanting to study for a “ministry-focused” career in medicine, he followed the example of his pastor, Edmund Pratt, and enrolled at Vanguard.

“The faculty were incredibly instrumental in my life,” he says. “Don Lorrance was one of my academic advisors. Larry McHargue was another. I had a whole bunch of desire and absolutely no discipline. Those guys formed me in terms of being a systematic thinker, in doing my work as unto the Lord and in just working hard. They taught me that things don’t come easily. I’ve always said that two of the most profound influences in my life in terms of business and academics are Don and Larry.”

Another key relationship was with Liesel and Cecil Miller, then students. Cecil is now professor of physiology and cell and molecular biology at Vanguard.

“They were good friends and a godly, spiritual influence on us as young parents,” says Myers. “We both had kids pretty young. We needed people who had been Christians for a while who could help us. The whole community in married student housing at Vanguard was powerful.”

Myers won the American Chemical Society student of the year award for Orange County, Calif., during his senior year. After graduating he joined the first dental implant company in the U.S. as their third employee.

“I didn’t really know anything about it, but my training in chemistry and systematic thinking at Vanguard helped me,” he says.

Within a few years the company was sold to Bausch & Lomb for $23 million. Myers then worked for Baxter Healthcare, and helped turn around a small medical device company before joining FlexFoot, a prosthetics company, as part of the executive team that prepared the company to go public. His role was to clean up operations and improve the research and development pipeline. There he discovered the ministry value of prosthetics.

“Amputees have this overcoming spirit. They see meaning and value in things that other people don’t see,” he says. “That spirit is contagious. After a few weeks in prosthetics I decided I had found a home for the rest of my career.”

After selling FlexFoot to Ossur, he founded his own company, Freedom Innovations, to make electronic knees controlled by a microprocessor, and high performance carbon fiber feet that are recognizable for their “J” shape. Freedom Innovations is now one of largest prosthetics manufacturers in the industry.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” Myers says. “I like to work at small companies that are focused on technology.”

In 2005, Myers had a life-changing experience. After undergoing surgery for a ruptured tendon in his arm, he woke up with his left hand crippled. The surgeon said it would only be temporary, but it sent Myers into a time of deep introspection.

“Our company was successful, but I was traveling all the time and missing out on a lot of the important stuff — family, faith and friends,” he says. “With this injury I got a brief glimpse of what it is like to have a limb difference like an amputee. My world slowed way down. I started saying things like, ‘I can’t believe I’m never going to play piano or guitar again.’ Then I realized it had been years since I had done those things with any regularity. What was I doing with my life? Because of the paralysis I could no longer throw a baseball or stroke my wife’s hair. I had been a Christian my whole life and was very active in church, but I realized I had drifted far away from the man I believed God wanted me to be. I had slowly put aside most of what was really important to me for business. I had forgotten what God had really called me to do.”

Myers made a bargain with God: “Give me my hand back, and I’ll serve You. I won’t forget what You showed me with this experience.”

Three and a half months after the surgery, he recovered full use of his arm. Within a year God opened a door for him to sell his interest in the company. Myers then began seeking a more ministry-oriented path. He and several other families founded Heritage Christian School in Mission Viejo, Calif. He served on the board of directors at Providence Christian College and consulted with Christian businesses. But he missed working in prosthetics. Then a Christian friend, one of the most prominent prosthetists in the country, suggested Myers go back to school to become a prosthetist.

The idea stuck and Myers returned to prosthetic school in 2008. Because of his prominence in the industry he was already well known among his professors and fellow students.

Today, at his Southern California Prosthetics clinic, Myers fits and fabricates prosthetics for amputees. Often, he uses products he himself helped create.

“God is really blessing the work,” he says. “You can tell how effective a product is by the amount of tears when the person first wears it. It’s a powerful experience. Their whole world opens up when they get their hand or leg back.”

He also feels he has returned to his original calling.

“I am convinced I am exactly where God wants me to be, doing exactly what He wants me to do,” Myers says. “I always believed God called me to see patients, from the time I first went to Vanguard 25 years ago.”

The challenge with prosthetics is to make artificial limbs that fit the body, even as the body continues to change in shape.

“It’s a very customized process to create something that will take a person’s weight comfortably so they can walk,” Myers says. “Performance, comfort, aesthetics, safety and durability are all considered. And because our bodies change, that socket will eventually need to be reshaped or even remade. So it’s a lifelong relationship. Our philosophy is we’re going to fit you and it’s going to be comfortable whether it takes one time or a hundred times. We do our work as unto the Lord. That’s unusual in this industry.”

His 4,000-square-foot facility is intentionally cozy, with nice fitting rooms and a large gym with a treadmill, stationary bike and basketball hoops.

“I want patients to come in, visit, fellowship and relax, like it’s home,” he says. “That’s innovative in our industry, too. I want them to enjoy coming back so they’ll come even when they only need minor changes.”

Myers has served on the board of directors of the Amputee Coalition of America since 2004. He still helps to run businesses, but less so than in the past. And he continues to champion Vanguard. As a part-time high school science teacher, he brought his students to Vanguard every year to introduce them to the university. As a result more than a dozen have since attended VU.

“I tell them, ‘Here’s the place I went to school, and it’s a great place,’” he says.

Rick and Megan have four sons, and their son Benjamin was a VU student from 2002-2004. Learn more about Myers’ practice at

JOEL KILPATRICK is an author and journalist living in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

From Vanguard Magazine, Summer 2010. Excerpted with permission.

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