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History, Impact, and Environment of Biomedical Engineering at OU

Established in 1998, the Biomedical Engineering Center has a new name: The Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology, builds upon and unites past and current biomedical engineering initiatives across the College and University.

OU has a rich research history in biomedical engineering based on the collaborative activities of professors on the Norman and Health Sciences Center campuses

In the 1950s, George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus Cheddy Sliepcevich helped develop membrane dialysis for kidney patients. Years later Sam Sofer carried out early research toward an artificial liver. Going beyond traditional reactor design, Sofer used a bed of immobilized microsomes with enzymes to effect hepatic oxidations. During the same time period, OU's Jay Radovich investigated problems associated with membrane-based methods to separate plasma proteins. He later extended the validity of mass transfer correlations into the realm of high molecular weight biomolecules, work fundamental to the design or simulation of many biomedical processes. George Lynn Cross Research Professor Tom Love, an ASME Fellow and National Cancer Institute Special Fellow, pioneered the use of thermography for mammograms.

During the 1980s, students in Edgar O'Rear's laboratory demonstrated and explained the plasma-mediated alteration of erythrocyte deformability by certain perfluorochemical blood substitutes. Another performed theoretical calculations and experimental verification of flow in a toroidal rotary seal of a continuous blood cell separator to explain observed losses of platelets and leukocytes in the device. Patented and licensed technology resulted from OU electrical and computer engineering professor John Cheung's work in conjunction with the then chief of otorhinolaryngology combining video technology and imaging software to analyze facial paralysis. At the university's OU Health Sciences Center (HSC), bioengineer Ed Berbari was instrumental in building the reputation of the electrocardiology program, a reputation sufficient to attract David Geselowith for a sabbatical. In addition, Professor Ulli Nollert's research program contributes to the very active topic of leukocyte adhesion molecules and processes. Almost all of this work was done in collaborative fashion with biological scientists at HSC and the Norman campus, many of them very distinguished researchers in their respective fields.

OU's College of Engineering has prepared a number of its students for impressive careers in biomedical engineering. Bob Nerem of Georgia Tech, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, stands out as a widely recognized national leader in biomedical engineering. OU engineering alumnus Dick Wainerdi directs activities at the expansive Texas Medical Center as president, chief executive officer and chief operating officer. Another OU engineering graduate, Arthur Veis of the Northwestern University School of Dentistry, has had a distinguished career in biomaterials, serves on several editorial boards and currently heads the Division of Oral Biology. Other faculty members with biomedical engineering research programs are Bernard Van Wie at Washington State and Richard Luecke at University of Missouri-Columbia. Popular pre-med options in traditional disciplines have had the greatest impact in numbers of bioengineering alumni. One of these outstanding students include, Sam Little, who went on to graduate number one in his class at Washington University Medical School.

Formal affiliation with the university's medical school has meant a strong environment for biomedical engineering at OU. The HSC campus at Oklahoma City is a comprehensive health center located centrally in the U.S. and the state. U.S. News and World Report has ranked the HSC 16th in comprehensive medical schools in the nation. The opportunities are enormous for biomedical engineering collaborations with the Veterans Administration Medical Center; Children's, University and Presbyterian Hospitals on campus serving in the Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Health Colleges.

The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, one of the highest privately endowed research institutions in the U.S., is located on the HSC campus. The privately endowed Dean McGee Eye Institute also houses the Ophthalmology Department, where implanted devices were devised to monitor post-surgical eyelid function. Specialty centers at the HSC include the Oklahoma Center for Neurosciences, where ongoing research in implantable neural prostheses is conducted; the Center for Telemedicine specializes in software development; Center for Geriatric Medicine in rehabilitation engineering; and the Arrhythmia Institute, which is world renowned for developing the radio frequency ablation techniques for eliminating cardiac arrhythmias.

In 1998, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation competed successfully for a Whitaker Special Opportunity Grant to establish the University of Oklahoma Biomedical Engineering Center. OUBC fosters the interdisciplinary cooperation necessary for a strong program in biomedical engineering.

Withe rapid growth at the start of the new millennium Biomedical Engineering expanded into labs on the research campus in 2005.