For the Record with Cole Carlson, Director of Business Development, Tamarack Habilitation Technologies

June 14  

Cole Carlson is an owner, engineer, and director of business development at Tamarack Habilitation Technologies. He joined Tamarack in 2021 to take over executive operations from his parents who founded the company when he was a small child. Today, Cole also oversees strategic partnerships, research initiatives, and growth opportunities for Tamarack. He holds undergraduate degrees in Physics and Peace Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College, and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado. Additionally, he is a licensed professional engineer in mechanical engineering in the state of Minnesota. Cole and his wife, Mary, live on a hobby farm in rural northeastern Minnesota where they are raising their two children. When his schedule permits, he is also an avid trail runner, mountain biker, backpacker, canoer, and skier.

What is Tamarack Habilitation Technologies, Inc.

We are a family-owned business focused on researching, developing, and manufacturing high-quality products that improve independent mobility, health, wellbeing, and quality of life.

What was your professional journey that led you to Tamarack?

I worked as an engineering consultant for several years and I was reflecting on my own career path at the same moment my parents, Marty and Peggy Carlson, were looking to step away from the day-to-day executive management of Tamarack. We all recognized the serendipitous timing of our own transitions and developed a plan for me to assume a primary leadership role. Working alongside them these past few years has been very special and incredibly educational.

Can you share some things your organization has done that you are most proud of?

From the very beginning, Tamarack has been on the front lines of advocacy for people with mobility challenges. In terms of clinical services and, later, innovation, we have always been driven to solve mobility problems for the people who benefit from the products we provide. But that advocacy has taken other forms, too, including the fight for fair reimbursement policies to sustain the equipment and care for those who need it. This spirit—and the refusal to settle for the status quo within the healthcare system—really began with my parents and very much defines how we approach our business model today.

Tamarack has remained a small, family-owned business, which lets us make decisions based primarily on our values and corporate mission. Our financial success has been a natural result of this authentic approach.

The final thing we’re most proud about here at Tamarack is our long-term focus on providing preventative, outcome-based medical devices and equipment which help to improve people’s lives while also reducing overall healthcare costs.

What motivates you as a leader?

I would say that honoring and carrying on the mission that Tamarack began with is a huge motivation. As a leader, I’m frequently thinking about ways to help those around me grow. That also means learning from everyone on our team, and then using as best as I can, that collective and historical knowledge to help us flourish—as a company and as individuals.

What advice would you give to aspiring healthcare leaders who are looking to make an impact in this industry?

Increasingly, I am convinced that collaboration and a heavy dose of persistence are the keys to effecting change within a healthcare system that we all know can be discouraging and bureaucratic. We need to be creative and seek out strategic partnerships that can provide life-changing solutions to the problems that disrupt the lives of so many. As Tamarack’s collaborations strengthen and grow, our hope is that overall public awareness will increase for the challenges we are addressing, and that the shared brainpower, determination, and voices of the partners we join with will lead to more influence and larger, more positive outcomes in healthcare. 

How do you see the healthcare industry changing in the next 5-10 years, and what is your organization doing to stay ahead of those changes?

That’s a great question. And one we’re all doing our best to anticipate. On Tamarack’s end, we are always studying the system and consistently dedicate a fair amount of our time to evaluating the current and future healthcare landscape.

We believe advances in digital manufacturing processes like 3D printing will continue to play an impactful role in providing adaptable solutions for more and more healthcare challenges.

Another change we see coming to the healthcare industry is its embrace of more sustainable, environmentally responsible materials. It’s important that our industry confronts the global problem of waste and pollution directly, and Tamarack has already traded out most of its packaging materials to ones that are biodegradable or recyclable. We have also begun R&D projects to reformulate our product lines to move away from persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals (PBTs).

How does your company prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in terms of your workforce and the services you offer?

Again, this goes back to my parents, Marty and Peggy. They began Tamarack with the conviction that everyone is deserving of equal respect, healthcare, and opportunities. From as far back as I can remember, they were instilling in me these same values, and at Tamarack we’ve never deviated from that philosophy. As an organization that has internalized equal rights for all, we are constantly reflecting on ways we can do even more in this regard.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity and challenge facing the healthcare industry?

Value-based healthcare. Full stop. We all know that promoting and enacting preventative healthcare measures has the potential to help people enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives. We also know that doing so presents a significant opportunity to reduce the expense and hardship that result when we treat reactively rather than proactively. We need to shift this industry to a value-based model where providers, caregivers, patients, and insurers alike are rewarded for preventing disease and improving outcomes, otherwise we’ll likely continue facing the same high-costs and less-than-optimal care cycles for a very long time.

What are your hobbies or things you enjoy doing when not at work?

I take great pleasure in running, biking, skiing, and gardening. I especially enjoy teaching and sharing my love of those activities with my kids.

What is your favorite thing about the Medical Alley community?

The fact that there is so much healthcare innovation represented by this community is quite incredible. Medical Alley offers a modest company like Tamarack the opportunity to participate in important conversations and find a real sense of shared purpose with some large, committed, and highly influential organizations.

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