Dr. Roxanne McMurray M’93, a nurse anesthetist by trade, never planned on starting a medical device company.
“I never set out to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “I am very content giving anesthesia.”
But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. After years of frustration with airway devices that didn’t adequately help anesthetized patients breathe, McMurray knew something new and innovative was needed. This led to the invention of the McMurray Enhanced Airway and the foundation of McMurray Medical, the company she now runs with her husband and two other investors.
“Where, when and how patients receive surgical care have changed dramatically in the last couple of decades stimulating a change in anesthesia techniques. Vastly more patients receive surgical procedures in freestanding surgery centers, for example. Airway management tools haven’t kept up, though, with the needs of today’s patients and providers,” McMurray said.“Airway management-related liability cases have been growing. Anesthesia professionals have had to do workarounds to keep the patient’s airways open. They didn’t have tools that are optimized for current conditions. My device fills a gap in airway management.”
The McMurray Enhanced Airway (MEA) stents open distal pharyngeal tissue to keep patients breathing under the types of anesthesia most often administered in outpatient surgical settings.
Starting in 2016, The McMurray team began designing the device and developing a number of prototypes. Eventually, they found a qualified manufacturer and officially launched the product in 2019.
The company is now on its third production run and is experiencing great success. The device is used in major healthcare systems and facilities across the country. As a small, entrepreneurial company, most of their growth has come through word-of-mouth referrals—people who’ve tried the device and recommended it to others.
The device also is used beyond anesthesia. In 2021, the McMurray Enhanced Airway received the EMS (emergency medical services) Innovation of the Year Award.
“The MEA is easy to use and versatile. Health care providers appreciate that it is a simple-yet-effective solution that meets their needs for keeping airways open in a way that other devices do not,” she said.
McMurray’s ability to create this groundbreaking medical device comes from years of experience in the field along with advanced nursing education, which includes a Master in Nurse Anesthesia degree from Saint Mary’s University, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Prior to attending Saint Mary’s, McMurray worked as a critical care nurse. Wanting to attain an advanced practice degree, she began weighing her options.
“Every nurse anesthetist I talked to loved their career,” she said. “I also enjoyed one-on-one critical patient care. Being a nurse anesthetist is a good step toward having increased autonomy with critical patients.”
What impressed McMurray about Saint Mary’s program was the focus on particular body systems during clinical practices.
“We spent concentrated four-to-eight week blocks in clinical practice with various anesthetic management groups: OB, cardiac/vascular, neuro, trauma, pediatrics, etc. Those longer concentrations facilitate a deeper understanding of each area,” she said.
She added that clinical placements during her time in the program were top-notch. “There were excellent preceptors and practitioners at our clinical sites,” she said.
Now nearly 30 years after her time at Saint Mary’s, McMurray says the education she received during her master’s program has helped her as she leads at McMurray Medical.
“Nurse anesthetists are leaders,” she said. “We’re taught to continuously improve our career, and we’re always wanting to do our best. In each clinical scenario we’re in, we’re passionate about patient care and making sure we have the best devices possible to provide that excellent care. Saint Mary’s helped me develop that concept of doing your best and going beyond what is expected of you.”