Bonded for Life

Spring 2019
Aimee and Zack Purcell Martin at operating table

Photo by Craig Weiman

Zach ’93 and Aimee Purcell Martin ’94 met in the fall of Aimee’s first year at Colgate, and the two quickly formed a romantic pair. Zach took a pre-med path with a side interest in studio art, and Aimee showed a flair for writing and business acumen. Now, nearly 30 years later, they’ve combined their specialties into a medical device that could transform the way surgical incisions and closures are made.

After graduation, Zach attended medical school at Georgetown and did his residency at Washington University in St. Louis while Aimee earned her MBA at Harvard. They stuck together despite the challenges of distance. “We wanted to do different things, but we supported each other,” Aimee says. In 1996, they wed.

Today, Zach is the head of plastic surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore and associate professor at Georgetown University, and Aimee is CEO of MileMarker, a health care education technology company. But their passion project is the start-up company they’ve founded together, BondTrue.

For years, Zach had filled notebooks with medical invention ideas, even keeping space in the garage for building and testing prototypes. Several years ago, he had an idea that began with a question: As so many medical procedures are becoming automated, why can’t we automate surgical closure to ensure quality control? Zach understood the problem firsthand. As an accomplished surgeon, he is often called into the operating room to help with complications resulting from poor closures.

Zach’s “eureka moment” came when he realized that a device to automate closures would have to be involved from the earliest stages of the surgery, keeping track of where skin was before the cut to ensure that it’s returned to the correct position afterward. He drew a sketch of what would become BondTrue — a clear plastic device that sticks to the skin on either edge of the surgical site and after a procedure, rapidly realigns and closes the wound.

“[The idea] kept coming back to me, and the drawings just kept making more sense,” Zach says. “I started to look into the process of patenting it, and I realized that this was in a novel space.”

The time was right for Aimee — whose career had been trending toward the business side of health care — to step in and chart BondTrue’s path into the market. She won a series of grants from the state of Maryland that have provided the financial underpinnings to begin the approval process with the FDA.

The Martins are proud to be honoring Zach’s mother, a retired doctor whose maiden name is Bond, with the name of the device — which also refers to the bonding that happens when a surgical site closes correctly. And perhaps the most exciting connection that BondTrue has made is the deeper partnership between Aimee and Zach.

“Professionally, we were always doing our own things,” Aimee says. “Now our complementary skill sets are converging to build a product that has the potential to help people — that’s really exciting to us.”