Advancing Medical Technology

As CEO, Richard Turner played key role in area of women’s health care

By Lisa Murray

Richard Turner selected Old Dominion because of baseball – particularly for the opportunity to play under Coach Bud Metheny. “I also respected many of his players,” Turner recalled, “Kirkie Harrison, Wayne Parks, Bert Harrell. I had played at Maury and in the old Norfolk City League, and felt that Old Dominion offered me the best opportunity.”

Opportunity is a word that comes up often in conversation with Richard Turner, and it is evident from his resume that he has taken advantage of many of them throughout his career. A 1969 ODU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Turner went on to earn an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a Ph.D. from Berne University in New Hampshire. In the three decades since his graduation from Old Dominion, he has worked hard to turn opportunities into new medical technologies, especially in the area of women’s health care, via the creation of new businesses.

Most recently, Turner served as president and chief executive officer of BEI Medical Systems, a Teterboro, N.J.-based company he founded in 1991. Since 1999, the company has focused its efforts solely on the development of a medical device known as the Hydro ThermAblator, which promises to greatly improve the treatment of a common health problem for women, excessive uterine bleeding. A reported 2.5 million women seek treatment annually for this condition.

“What we did was develop a methodology for treating women for benign reasons instead of doing a hysterectomy,” Turner said in a Sept. 7, 2002, Richmond Times-Dispatch story. “We created some real value. This technology really has the ability to change a woman’s life.”

Since its inception, Turner oversaw the growth of BEI to a 100-employee company and shepherded the FDA approvals necessary to market the Hydro ThermAblator. He sold the company last year to Boston Scientific Corp. for an estimated $95 million. It was the latest of several companies Turner has developed and sold.

In 1982, as president and director of Kay Laboratories in San Diego, he negotiated the company’s $30 million sale to American Hospital Supply Corp. After that, Turner founded Pancretec, also in San Diego, which was sold in 1986 to Abbott Hospital Products for $50 million.

Despite Turner’s clear record of success, which began in 1971 after he joined Baxter Travenol Laboratories in Richmond as a sales and marketing manager, he is quick to mention that not everything goes your way and that measuring the heart and soul of an individual is what gets one through hard times and encourages solutions.

“One person does not make an organization. It is hard work to aggregate capital, to structure and develop a company, to bring a medical device to a clinical phase, to get FDA approvals. Throughout all this, a leader has to be sensitive to the responsibilities of employing other people and of bringing balance to one’s family,” Turner explained.

With the sale of BEI to Boston Scientific, Richard Turner has decided to step back – at least for now – from the business side of things in order to focus time and energy on his family, which has called Richmond home for almost 12 years. He and his wife, Deidre, have two sons, the older of whom will be going to college next fall.

“Deidre is my good friend and buddy. Now that she has retired after 35 years with United Airlines, I want to spend time with her, to honor what she has done for our family.”

No doubt, however, opportunities still await Turner – as soon as he is ready to seize them. Acknowledging that it is easy to become addicted to the adrenaline rush of putting together a deal, of developing a company and continually raising the bar, he muses on what might come along later.
“There is a plethora of opportunities in the medical field as we work to meet the needs of an aging population,” he noted. “There will be new devices, new technologies. The key is to recognize and select the right opportunity at the right time.”

As Turner reflects on what has already been a successful career, he returns easily to his years at Old Dominion – to people like the late Bud Metheny, who monitored his players’ academic progress and “made sure that we acted like gentlemen.” And people like Bob Wunderlin, associate professor emeritus of psychology, “who took a personal interest.”

“I was well prepared academically and socially – I had a clear understanding of my responsibilities, and I had a good time. I would like to deeply express my appreciation to the faculty, coaches and staff at Old Dominion for everything they so graciously and unselfishly provided to so many of the students there. I know they did not do it for the money, but rather for the love of imparting knowledge and supporting young people.”