Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of articles featuring people and companies who serve on the Team Pennsylvania Foundation-administered International Business Advisory Board.
The doctor asked Jake (name changed to protect privacy), who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, to draw some concentric circles.
Trying to comply with the doctor’s request, Jake could only manage to scribble a few lines on a piece of paper. The doctor then asked Jake to write his name. Jake, who by now was showing signs of frustration, replied, “I haven’t written my name in 10 years.”
What happened next was nothing short of a modern-day miracle, and an experience that would change Tim Williams’ life forever.
As Jake underwent Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery, a procedure where the patient actually stays awake, his hands, which had been shaking violently prior to the operation, suddenly stopped moving.
Williams said he watched intently as the doctor handed Jake the pen and paper again and asked him to redraw the circles.
“I have to tell you, he did it as well as I could,” Williams recalled. “They told him to write his name and he put J.A.K.E. Tears came down his face and mine too and I said, ‘I need to be a part of this.’”
Williams was so moved by what he witnessed, he decided then to walk away from a career as a restoration contractor to become the Vice President of Greenville Neuromodulation Services (GNS), the for-profit arm of FHC, Inc.
“That was the deciding moment for me,” said Williams. “No matter what else I did in my lifetime, I wanted to be a part of this. How many times can you be part of something that helps people in this way?”
Williams has been the company’s emissary to reach foreign markets around the world. He traveled with the Gov. Corbett-led and Team PA-funded trade mission to Brazil and Chile in 2013 and many other countries to market their products and equipment. GNS is the procedural support and technical training division manufacturer of DBS tools for FHC.
“We’ve trained people all over the world on our equipment,” Williams said. “We’ve trained approximately 70 or 80 people in the last three years at the center in Greenville and we’ve trained hundreds of people at their facilities. We set up the equipment and provide the training on-site.”
As the various types of treatment for these diseases have improved, interest in these platforms has expanded as well, leading to growth for GNS. The company’s presence in downtown Greenville, Mercer County, has led to a renaissance within the small town.
“We had 30 percent growth last year, 32 percent so far this year and we’ve expanded into South Africa, South America, Romania, and two facilities in Germany,” Williams said. “Growth is here because it is the technology of today.”
Greenville Neuromodulation Center (GNC), a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the advancement of DBS and other neuromodulation therapies, according to Williams, isn’t necessarily driven by the bottom line – the company is providing free medical services to third world countries. Williams said they will lend their expertise for a Dystonia patient in Africa.
“With Dystonia, your muscles contract and you can’t walk,” Williams said. “The person can be hunched over and following the procedure and physical therapy, they can be walking within a year. It is an amazing surgery.
“GNC has committed 15 percent of our revenue to surgeries for people who can’t afford to do this, and we are already going to participate in a surgery in Africa,” Williams added.
“There is something you have to understand: these treatments have only been FDA approved for about 12 years, so we have only hit the tip of the iceberg.” FHC, GNS and GNC are rapidly expanding the technology on the forefront of large growth within the industry.
“We are looking to grow FHC to be a $50 million company by 2019 with 10 to 15 percent of that coming from international markets,” Williams said. “Participation in Team PA’s international trade missions is critical to achieving success.”