For significant technical contributions to lifesaving medical devices; for business-transforming leadership; and for driving an inclusive culture that supports, advances, and retains women engineers.
Elise Higgins is a senior engineering director leading systems engineering for Medtronic’s Cardiac Implantables Technology Development Center. With nearly 15 years in cardiac medical device research and development, she has contributed as an engineer, program manager, and leader.
Higgins joined Medtronic full time in 2010 as an entry-level systems engineer. Since then, she has held roles with increasing leadership responsibilities, gaining experience in product development, people leadership, and program management.
As an engineer, Higgins helped develop a novel implantable defibrillator that could detect and alert patients of atrial fibrillation with no lead in the atrium. Through robust preclinical testing and modeling, she was able to bring the product to market in 18 months without a clinical trial, one of the fastest program completions in Medtronic’s history. She then visited hospitals across the globe, where she helped train and educate physicians on the new technology. The results of the product launch were significant for Medtronic, serving 99,000 patients and increasing the company’s market share with millions in product revenue since the product’s launch.
As a program manager, Higgins led a cross-functional team to deploy Design for Six Sigma across three Medtronic businesses, redefined ideation business processes, and implemented Medtronic-wide quality metrics. And, as a leader, Higgins has had the opportunity to grow and develop technical talent, drive research and development investment strategy, and establish new engineering best practices in model-based systems engineering.
Beyond her technical achievements, Higgins is dedicated to ensuring that the medical device science and engineering workforce mirrors the diversity of the patients it serves. She has pioneered efforts within and outside of Medtronic to target gender bias, increase the resiliency and confidence of women engineers, and improve their retention and representation.
For example, an individual had been passed over for several years due to project cancellations. Seeing her potential, Higgins helped her to increase her confidence and identify the right project assignment, and ensured she gained appropriate visibility. This individual went on to earn a Medtronic Star of Excellence, one of the company’s highest honors, and become a technical fellow.
Since 2017, Higgins has led monthly workshops with her team, including sensing sessions, book clubs, knowledge-sharing sessions, among other gatherings, to discuss topics specific to women in STEM. She is most proud of Medtronic’s collaboration with the University of Minnesota, a long-lasting outreach engagement that has resulted in increased retention and graduation rates for women scientists and engineers.
Higgins holds multiple patents for novel technologies she has brought to market. She earned a B.S.E. in bioelectricity at Case Western Reserve University and an MBA at the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters. Her hobbies include yoga, biking, sewing, and gardening.