Doctor's magnetic invention raises cane

A California physician makes a cane with magnets to help keep it close when it's not in use.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Sept. 22, 2008

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: Heather Terbell, MD

Specialty: Ob-gyn

Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Company: That's Thinking, a company Dr. Terbell co-founded with husband, Mark Wilson, MD, an endocrinologist. The company produces the Magna Cane, currently its only product. Magna Cane is a cane with magnets embedded in the shaft and handle so it can be suspended from metal surfaces or used to pick up metal items such as keys. It comes with a clip to hold the cane to tables or chairs. It also has a separate metal plate that can be attached to nonmetal surfaces.

Why she started the business: Dr. Terbell first thought of the idea in 1995 after she completed her undergraduate degree and was working at her grandmother's retirement home. She noticed the residents' canes falling over frequently. "You see this even when you go to restaurants. People don't know where to put them [canes] and people trip," she said.

Dr. Terbell held onto the idea for several years, later sharing it with her husband. In 2006 she met a patient who was an engineer and inventor and helped her put the plan into action. The product launched in April and is being sold in two drug stores in Santa Barbara, through distributors and on the Magna Cane Web site (link).

Annual revenue: In its first few months, the company has sold $5,000 worth of the $34.95 canes.

Why she continues to practice: "I love what I do. I love being an obstetrician."

The couple recently welcomed their second child and hope eventually that business from Magna Cane will allow one of them to work less or stop working altogether while the children are at home. "That's the dream," she said. "But right now it's really fun to see something you came up with out there and people using it in your own neighborhood."

Words of wisdom: "Go for it," Dr. Terbell said. "I thought I was trained to do one thing. But medicine has trained me to think of other things and try my hand in business."

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