Joe Kiani, SDSU Alumnus and Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Masimo Corp.
Joe Kiani, SDSU Alumnus and Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Masimo Corp.
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Though many of us recognize the phrase "pulse ox," from TV shows such as "ER" and "Grey’s Anatomy," we have only a vague idea of what it means. In fact, pulse ox refers to a medical device called a pulse oximeter, used to non-invasively measure a patient's pulse rate as well as the oxygen in his arteries, often through a small clamp on the index finger.

Almost 20 years ago, the device couldn't tolerate human motion, and consequently, a patient's movement often set off alarms indicating dangerously low readings. Today, what was viewed as an intractable problem no longer exists, thanks to the ingenuity of Joe Kiani, founder, CEO and chairman of the board of Masimo Corporation, and SDSU College of Engineering alumnus.

For as long as he can remember, Kiani wanted to be an engineer—it was his "destiny." His father and other role models were engineers and inventors. And as a child, Kiani relished solving difficult math and physics problems. Eventually, Kiani came to San Diego State, where he excelled academically, professionally and personally.

"I appreciated the quality of the engineering faculty. They were engaging, challenging and thought-provoking. That's one of the reasons I stayed at SDSU to complete my master's," Kiani said. "My professors impressed upon me that in college, like in life, you get everything out of it that you put into it."

Professor Fred Harris, a renowned scholar in advanced signal processing, was particularly influential. "What I learned from Professor harris led me to believe that I could apply adaptive filters to solve the motion problem of pulse oximeters. And I was right—I co-invented Masimo SET, a technology that enabled accurate measurement despite motion."

The innovation didn't stop there. Joe also developed a pulse co-oximeter, which went a step further. Shining 12 wavelengths of light through tissue using advanced signal processing, very tiny signals are pulled out in order to determine hemoglobin levels (the amount of protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs), and other variables such as the level of carbon dioxide in the blood.

Not only have Masimo's technological innovations saved countless lives, but they have also preserved the eyesight of premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit and reduced the cost of patient care.

"I have a special interest in helping society, and through my corporation, I can do that," Kiani said. "I've also chosen to remain involved at SDSU because I never want my education to end—there's a wealth of enlightenment to tap into. And maybe I can be of value in inspiring and challenging future generations of SDSU engineers while I'm at it."

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