Billionaire spine surgeon: 7 things to know about Dr. Gary Michelson


Forbes' 35th annual list of the world's richest people in 2021 includes Gary Michelson, MD, a retired spine surgeon with a net worth of $1.7 billion.

Here are seven things to know about Dr. Michelson:

1. Dr. Michelson is a surgeon-inventor who holds more than 340 U.S. patents for orthopedic and spine surgery instruments.

2. His inventions include minimally invasive spine implants, anterior cervical plating systems, interbody spinal fusion systems and systems for implanting spinal motion preservation devices, such as artificial discs.

3. Dr. Michelson became a billionaire in 2005 after he reached a settlement with Medtronic.

4. In 2001, Medtronic filed a lawsuit against Dr. Michelson for allegedly trying to license his inventions to competing device companies. He countersued Medtronic, accusing the company of failing to develop his inventions and pay him royalties. Dr. Michelson agreed to a $1.35 billion settlement and sold Medtronic many of his inventions.

5. Dr. Michelson stopped practicing in 2001 and focused on being an inventor. He invented Michelson Technology, a portfolio of devices and procedures that reduces blood loss, pain, disability and recovery time. 

6. He founded the Michelson 20MM Foundation to support and fund entrepreneurs, technologies and initiatives to advance educational opportunities.

7. Dr. Michelson completed a spine fellowship at St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston in a joint program between Baylor University and the University of Texas.

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