We recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of a very important program at HSS – the Cornell-HSS Program in Biomechanical Engineering. This week, I invited Dr. Timothy Wright, Director of Biomechanics, to write a guest blog about the program and his experience at a special event celebrating the anniversary.
Recently, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Cornell-HSS Program in Biomechanical Engineering. The program was founded back in 1978 by Dr. Al Burstein, then Director of the Biomechanics Department at HSS, and Dr. Don Bartel, a Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell. Dr. Bartel was the face of the program in the early days. He traveled frequently between Ithaca and New York (remember there were no PCs or cell phones back then, so no way to text messages, emails or video streaming) as he and his students worked with Dr. Burstein, Dr. John Insall and others to continuously improve the performance and longevity of knee and hip replacements. In fact, the program helped give birth to most of the modern knee replacements in use today.
Today the program has grown to six Cornell professors and more than two dozen graduate students, all working on collaborative projects with HSS staff through weekly videoconferences, lots of emails and occasional trips to New York City, including summer immersion terms for students to spend extended time at HSS. Projects in the program are now exploring tissue engineering, infection, arthritis and how bone adapts to mechanical forces. And through the years, several students from the program have come to work in the Biomechanics Department at HSS after graduating from Cornell, while some of the younger HSS engineers have moved on to Ithaca to pursue graduate degrees in biomedical engineering at Cornell.
Alumni from the program returned from as far away as California to help us celebrate the accomplishments of this unique partnership between two great institutions. Our anniversary festivities included lots of reminiscing about fun times and stories about the pre-internet days of communication, but, as importantly, showed firsthand the enduring friendships among folks who have come through the program. Alumni emphasized the profound impact that mentoring and training from HSS staff have made on their lives and their careers as they have become thought leaders in biomedical research and innovation, pursuing their careers in universities, device companies and government laboratories.
As is true of so many other facets of HSS, our biomechanical engineering program with Cornell is both unique and outstanding. Cornell faculty and students benefit from working on important orthopedic problems with our world-renowned clinicians and researchers, and HSS staff gain access to the best and brightest engineers at Cornell. The program sustains our leadership in education, research and innovation and helps fuel the “knowledge factory” that’s such an important part of our strategic roadmap. So, of course, we ended our celebration of the past 40 years with a planning session about how we can make the program even better for the next 40 years.