Honoring a lifetime of achievement and service

Sep 27, 2019

When Ray Cowling began his career in the medical device industry 47 years ago, his goal was to make a difference in people’s lives. His efforts over the decades did not go unnoticed. For his steadfast support Ray received the Order of Australia’s Medal of the Order (OAM), the country’s recognition for outstanding achievement and service, on September 17 from Queen Elizabeth II.

“Once the reality set in, I became increasingly excited as the day of the medal presentation got closer,” Ray shared.

Ray’s venture into what has turned in to a long and illustrious career almost did not happen – he originally pursued a degree in electronics. Ray discovered his love for medicine when he was finishing up the final year of his first degree. As he says, “I got my first job at Watson Victor, Ltd., a local pacemaker and distributing agent, by marrying electronics and medical knowledge together.”

The road less travelled

For the next several decades, Ray’s career path traversed the Pacific Ocean from Australia to the United States. In each country, he lent his increasing expertise and skills to a variety of cardiac rhythm efforts and developments. Along the way, his experience made him a coveted consultant in the cardiac rhythm management (CRM) and electrophysiology fields having received honorary appointments to various hospitals.  

Ray joined Guidant (acquired by Boston Scientific in 2006) in 1999. Even though he retired from full-time work in 2009, Ray still consults part-time for Boston Scientific. He credits the company’s broad outlook and core values that include high performance, winning spirit and diversity, as the reasons he’s stayed.

Throughout his tenure, Ray has seen the industry transform and improve and has participated in a staggering number of procedures over the years, first as a cardiac technologist, then a physiologist sales representative, and eventually as a territory manager. He has a proud record of overseeing the implantation of more than 32,000 pacemaker and 2,600 ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillators). He has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the education and mentoring of physicians, nurses, technologists and colleagues in the art of pacemaker implantation, follow up, troubleshooting, and above all else, patient safety. Even as he nears 73, Ray still flies regularly from his home in Melbourne to a local community cardiology hospital one hour away in Mildura, to consult on behalf of Boston Scientific.

A voice for the voiceless

Over the years, Ray’s goal of making a difference stretched beyond the opportunities in the medical field and deep into the communities of marginalized populations. In the 1980s, kids who identified as LGBTQ faced difficult circumstances, including little to no acceptance from individuals or communities. This was further compounded by a lack of resources – a situation made worse with the emergence of AIDS. It was during this tumultuous junction of history that Ray joined a group of emergency crisis counsellors. It’s work that he continues to this day. “Many young people attempted suicide. Those who attempted suicide, and failed, needed very special care. They were often shunned by healthcare systems because of fear surrounding the AIDS crisis,” Ray explained.

While Ray and the small band of volunteers did what they could, their reach was limited as LGBTQ resources didn’t always reach those in dire need outside the city of Melbourne. Eventually, an opportunity arose to secure a community radio broadcast license. It was granted and JOY FM, Australia’s first and only LGBTQ community radio station, was born airing only 8 hours per week on a 12-month license, at first. Ray, an amateur HAM radio operator, joined within the first month supplying technical and financial support. “I was not a broadcaster and didn’t want an on-air announcer role,” Ray shared. Now, 25 years on, JOY FM enjoys a 24/7 radio presence on the Australian airwaves.

A life well lived with no signs of slowing down

As much as he’s dedicated to serving patients and his community, Ray is equally committed to enjoying a full life outside of work. He and his partner of 43 years, Jeff, enjoy travelling, gardening and spending time together. Ray has found even more time to take up a new hobby.

“Ten years ago, I started cycling for fitness and fun. I love it! I’ve done many rides to raise money for Kids with Cancer Foundation and The Smith Family, which provides care for the underprivileged. To date, I’ve raised about $100K for charity,” Ray added.

Looking back at his life and career, Ray has left an indelible impression on the lives of those he has mentored, including patients, physicians and colleagues. His impact is immeasurable. In the words of one his former mentees, “I have personally been very blessed and honored to have known Ray as a recipient trainee, colleague and friend. He is a giant in the industry and a giant as a person, and I know everyone that has been involved with Ray also feels that way,” shared Paul Braico, vice president and managing director, Boston Scientific, Australia and New Zealand. 

Congratulations on this momentous honor, Ray!

In the Australian honors system, appointments to the Order of Australia confer recognition for outstanding achievement and service. Ray joins Professor Ian Meredith, Boston Scientific executive vice president and global medical officer, who was appointed to the Order of Australia, receiving a Member of the Order (AM) in 2012, when Professor Meredith was the director of MonashHeart, the largest public health service in Melbourne, Australia providing services to more than a quarter of metropolitan Melbourne’s population.