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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Alumnus innovates breakthroughs in orthopedics

A brand-new resident of the United States and unable to attend school without a green card, UC Davis alumnus and Taiwan native Charlie Chi, Ph.D., learned English by watching cartoons.

Yet, in 2005, Chi became the co-founder and CEO of OtisMed Corporation, a company dedicated to creating and distributing orthopedic technology and hardware.

Chi, who double majored in electrical engineering and computer science engineering at UC Davis, served as the company’s president and CEO from 2005 to 2009. OtisMed Corporation seeks to address unmet clinical problems in orthopedics, and Chi’s goal in developing new technology is to assist surgeons in achieving more accurate alignment and positioning and increasing patient outcome.

Every year, thousands of people have orthopedic surgeries, such as knee and hip replacements. OtisMed’s technology combines imaging, such as MRI or CT scans, software algorithms and rapid manufacturing to provide surgeons with a very precise patient-specific instrument that is made using the patient’s own anatomy.

Recently he started and founded another medical device company called RDI Medical Inc, which focuses on the same goals as OtisMed. His vision for RDI Medical is to be the leader in providing products and services that enhance or support already existing software medical devices.

“Our mission is to be the leading value provider in the orthopedic industry by reducing costs for patients, hospitals and health care providers, and increasing convenience and confidence for patients and physicians with better accuracy, outcomes and longevity of existing medical devices,” said Chi in an e-mail interview. “And, increasing compensation for hospitals and physicians with the highest quality products at the lowest costs.”

Born and raised for the first five years of his life in Taipei, Taiwan, Chi and his family immigrated to Bolivia in the mid 1970s, where they lived for two years. He moved to Washington D.C. with his family for six months before moving to Virginia.

Once his parents learned that California offered free education to immigrants, he and his family once again moved to San Jose, California.

Chi graduated from Independence High School in San Jose, and after attending UC Davis for his undergraduate years, pursued a master’s degree at Santa Clara University again majoring in electrical engineering. During that time he became interested in research and decided to return to UC Davis to obtain his Ph.D.

“Besides the great professors and friends that I had the pleasure to meet and stay in touch with after graduating from UC Davis, I have to say the best memory I have at UC Davis was participating in the body building show during Picnic Day in 1998,” Chi said. “It took a lot of discipline and hard work to compare myself to get on stage for a three-minute posing routine.”

Evan Ng, a Partner at Dorsey and Whitney LLP, met Chi five years ago through OtisMed Corporation. He said that Chi’s attitude, confidence, integrity and strong moral character will position him for further success.

“I head our emerging companies practice and I see entrepreneurs coming through our offices every day. I haven’t seen an individual who is as well-rounded as [Chi]. He combines his talents as an innovator, a leader, and a motivator and  applies them brilliantly in business. He grew a company from a concept on a napkin, got it financed with a top tier VC firm, and led the business to a successful sale to an industry giant,” said Ng in an e-mail interview.

Bill Daniels, chair of the Board of Directors for Vitalwear, Inc, met Chi six months ago when Chi became the CEO and board member. The company has faced many challenges over the last year and Daniels said that without Chi’s insight and engineering acumen the company would not have any hope of emerging from its economic setbacks.

“He has shown poise and leadership in the face of adversity. As an investor one of the nicest things I can say about someone is that I hope to work with them again, and I can say enthusiastically that I hope to work with Charlie on many projects in the future,” said Daniels in an e-mail interview.

In the future, Chi plans to continue to seek opportunities to address challenges and unmet needs in orthopedics and to do more traveling to countries like China, Vietnam and Japan.

“In today’s challenging environment, we have to be more creative to come up with new ways to address a particular problem. The education I received from UC Davis helped me think outside the box. My advice is: don’t be afraid to try something new or different just because it’s not the norm,” Chi said.

PRISCILLA WONG can be reached at features@aggie.org.

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