Mike Eisenstein of PATH in Seattle is a medical tinkerer out to save lives

PATH, a medical nonprofit in South Lake Union, uses innovation to make the world a healthier place.

Mike Eisenstein is having fun and helping to save lives at the same time. Eisenstein is the product-development shop manager for PATH, but really he’s a guy who has managed to carry a lot of childhood wonder, caring and creativity into adulthood.

He’s got toys (tools they call them), he gets to create new devices and to take existing ones apart and re-imagine them. Every day is full of science projects.

I visited him to ask about a PATH project, but learning about him also told me a lot about the organization.

PATH, celebrating its 40th year, has 1,600 employees and operates around the world developing solutions to health problems in poor countries. The nonprofit started in Seattle in 1977 and has its headquarters in South Lake Union, nestled among other booming creative enterprises.

PATH aims to improve health around the globe through innovation, by working with partners in business, government, health care and with other nonprofits to figure out what’s needed and how to make it happen. That can include anything from advocating for more effective policies to developing new drugs.

Mike Eisenstein demonstrates infusion pump . (Jerry Large / The Seattle Times)

Eisenstein creates medical devices. He’s not an engineer, though. His first job at PATH was in IT, but he doesn’t have a degree in computer science. His degrees are in anthropology and art history.

Often techniques and technologies that drive health care in wealthy countries are too expensive or impractical in poorer ones. Solutions also have to take into account cultural differences and levels of infrastructure. All of that interests Eisenstein and is fundamental to PATH’s approach to health.

The people who work in the labs and workshops have degrees in a variety of fields, but they don’t stick to the area in which they’ve been trained. They…

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