Dale Dorando ’66 will always remember a personal “thank you” letter he received from the parents of a 4-year-old girl who would have drowned in a swimming pool had it not been for an automatic defibrillator with an external pacemaker. A senior electrical engineer for Volcano Corporation, Dorando helped design the device, and paramedics used it to save the girl’s life.
“Engineers concentrate so hard on the performance of the product that we often forget we are saving lives,” Dorando said of his work. Dorando, 64, has played a key role in developing many life-saving devices, including intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), a catheter-based system that allows physicians to acquire images of diseased vessels from inside the artery.
“By slowly withdrawing the catheter in the artery of concern while taking multiple images, we can show where a heart attack patient requires intervention, either a stent or balloon. We can colorize the image so the doctors can identify the portion of the artery that contains plaque, fibrous, fibro-fatty, dense calcium, and necrotic core material on the wall of the artery,” he said.
The system can also be used for research by drug companies to determine the effectiveness of drugs on plaque, Dorando noted. Currently, Dorando is designing a catheter pullback device that can be used to measure the change in blood pressure across a lesion inside a coronary artery to determine if treatment is necessary.
“Often an angiogram doesn’t show the whole story,” Dorando said. “This instrument has become a standard measurement in cath labs around the world. It has saved millions of health insurance dollars in unnecessary treatments,” he said.
Additionally, the instrument can be used to measure blood velocity in the artery using Doppler to detect high frequency reflection and measure the speed of the blood molecules.
Born and raised in Oakland, Dorando was among the first graduates of Oakland’s St. Paschal Baylon School.
At O’Dowd, Dorando was active in swimming and debate. He also enjoyed drafting class, where he created model homes that were entered in the San Francisco Home and Garden Show.
After graduating from O’Dowd, Dorando served in the Navy (from 1966 to 1972), attending submarine school in Connecticut and then Electronic Countermeasures School (also known as Electronic Warfare Support Measures) in San Diego, learning to operate and repair equipment used for intelligence gathering during the Cold War.
He served on two submarines, a diesel boat, USS Gudgeon SS567, and a Fast Attack nuclear boat, USS Haddock SSN621, which were stationed in San Diego and Hawaii. Most of his missions were highly classified.
“On the Gudgeon, one of our missions was transporting Korean marines to the shores of Vietnam at night. The diesel boats performed missions that were a little more daring since nuclear power wasn’t present and any ‘incidences’ wouldn’t be as severe.” he said. “I received a special Letter of Commendation from Rear Admiral Lacey, COMSUBPAC, for my work during one mission.”
After his discharge from the Navy, Dorando worked for several start-up companies developing night vision cameras, fiber optic measurement systems, retinal scanning equipment and pacemakers and defibrillators. Later, he was part of an engineering team at C & K Systems (subsequently purchased by Honeywell) that designed spread spectrum radios used in security systems. He also designed wireless products like burglar alarms, panic switches, bank hold-up devices, and smoke detectors.
“The wireless smoke detector was later adapted for use on jets and is in use on many cargo jets today. The same radios were also used for remotely measuring fuel levels at gas stations, and in today’s Smart power meters in your home,” he said.
When the Chinese government requested that C & K install a radio security system in the Forbidden City, Dorando led the project design. “I was working in Shenzhen when the CEO called me and asked that I fly to Beijing to start a design on a custom wireless security and alarm system for the Forbidden City,” Dorando said. “Wireless was much preferred over drilling holes in the palace walls, some being six-feet thick.”
At Dorando’s request, the head of security and the radio commissioner in Beijing set up a special frequency for the Forbidden City. “I designed a radio that would cover all the palaces and buildings with a couple small antennas on the outside walls,” he said. “While we tested antenna range on the outside walls, I noticed the news media were taking our pictures. Our escort commented that climbing the Forbidden City walls was formerly a capital offense. We may have been the first foreigners allowed on the wall.”
Dorando subsequently designed one of the first high-speed, Wi-Fi radio cards for laptops and a patented antenna. Meanwhile, Dorando says medical equipment product development is highly complex, and involves creating prototypes to test in the lab, multiple safety tests, lots of refinements and sometimes complete redesign.
“One of the more difficult tests is radio emissions testing. In our anechoic chamber we look for radio harmonics that could interfere with other products. Fixing those problems may call for considerable redesign and is very time consuming,” he said.
And then there is the FDA approval process. “Some FDA submissions take six months or more,” Dorando said. “There is no short path in the medical world.” Dorando and his wife, Joyce Maillet Dorando ’66, have two sons, Greg, 38, and Jeremy, 34. The couple lives in El Dorado Hills.
In his free time, Dorando enjoys oil painting, Fender guitars, Ham radio (his call sign is AG6JD), gardening, camping and fishing.