You are the 2009 winner of the Pierre Galletti Award, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering's highest honor. The AIMBE cites your "seminal contribution to tissue engineering." What is tissue engineering and what is your contribution to the field?
Tissue engineering involves the regeneration, repair, reconstruction of living tissues using biomaterials, cells, or biological factors alone or in combination. I've been fortunate to work in the area of musculoskeletal regeneration and have created new synthetic bone tissues and new synthetic ligament tissues. The award is in part for that work.
What demonstrates your international leadership in biomedical engineering?
I've been named an International Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering in recognition of my stature in the field. I have been fortunate to have been an invited lecturer and teacher in the fields of tissue engineering and biomaterials science. In addition, I am involved in the development of the African Institute of Science and Technology Initiative, which seeks to build new world class schools of science and engineering to sub-saharan Africa.
What made you get involved in this line of medicine?
I've always had an interest in engineering and studied chemical engineering at Princeton. When I went to Harvard Medical School, I learned how to meld my interest in engineering with my career in medicine.
What future advances will we see from tissue and biomedical engineering?
I think that we will see a number of new engineered tissues that will come to the market in the next few years. This will help large numbers of people by providing alternatives to what's traditionally used.
Scientific American Magazine recently honored you for work in the regeneration of knee tissue. Does this mean knee tissue can be regrown? Does this reduce the need for surgery? If it reduces the need for surgery, weekend athletes should build you a statute.
Thanks. Our work showed that we can regenerate ACL tissue (the most common and most debilitating ligament injury of the knee is the ACL tear). While a surgical procedure will still be needed, if the technology is successful it will revolutionize the way we treat this problem.
What's behind the accolade of being named among "100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era" by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers? What in particular did they cite you for?
I was very flattered to be selected as one of the 100 chemical engineers of the modern (post WWII) era. I was cited for my work in the development of tissue-engineered bone.
Not really apropos of the rest of the interview, but what is your number one time-management secret?
Set overall objectives, set realistic milestones, and engage in planning to assure success.