Former Eagle touches hearts and lives

Herrera (Second from left) stands with other members of the BiVACOR team as they showcase the progress of their project. With Herrera’s help the project has made leaps in completion of the artificial heart.
Herrera (Second from left) stands with other members of the BiVACOR team as they showcase the progress of their project. With Herrera’s help the project has made leaps in completion of the artificial heart.

In today’s society, more than ever in the past, new inventions and breakthroughs in science are being brought to light at an astounding rate.

From the first open heart surgery to the first pacemaker, biomedical discoveries are growing in sophistication and complexity. With inventions like this, doctors are able to affect and save many lives, and the people who create them are seen as heroes.

Recently a new invention has been brought to light with potential to be the greatest medical achievement of the decade. John Herrera ‘09 is part of a small team of doctors and engineers who are in the closing stages of creating the first fully functional, self sustaining, human made alternative to a failing human heart.

Herrera’s resume is impressive, with a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the Krannert School of Management.

He was invited to join the team of researchers on the project, funded by BiVACOR, a private research company. His influence was imperative to the project,

 “The time was perfect in a number of ways. They were looking to optimize the hydraulic design, correct pressures and flows and I had just concluded courses on fluid mechanics and pump analysis. We went through hundreds of 3D designs within only a few months and finally discovered what worked.”

John Herrara '09

At the time he joined the team the project was still in incomplete stages, and with Herrera’s help it is now nearing completion.

The main hurdle in the design was that the device needed to adapt to certain situations and pump accordingly, instead of having the same pressure all time.

This is important because the human heart changes pressure all the time throughout the day, from walking the dog around the neighborhood to after school sports practice.

The importance of the project is exceptional; the ability to fully replace the failing heart of a child, or save a wounded soldier would be miraculous, and the list of people who would benefit goes on and on.

The Herrera’s are a St. Thomas family who have constantly made strides in the medical community.

His father Hector Herrera ‘79, is the Chief of Anesthesiology at Methodist West Houston Hospital, and is a member of the Medical Executive Committee.

His uncle, Carlos Herrera, has a degree from the Harvard Medical School and has specialized in Internal Medicine at Memorial Hermann hospital.

Michael recalls his experience at St. Thomas in an online interview, “Fr. Storey’s geometry courses were innovative, very visual, really caught my attention,” Herrera said. “That was the first math environment that really gripped my interest, created a curiosity. It is one of the biggest reasons I got into engineering. It was fun.”

Herrera looks to expand his future horizons in the medical field, he is currently on course to get his MBA in accordance with his Mechanical Engineering degree.

In this way he hopes to be better prepared for his next career opportunity wherever it may be.


John Culwell is a senior at St. Thomas who is currently winning his fantasy football league. He is a Scorpio and loves getting brunch with his mother on weekend mornings. Among the elite Eagle and Aquin editors at St. Thomas John is a preferred walk on starter and has verbally committed to play running back for Louisiana State University.