On Monday, the National Science Board announced that Roderic Pettigrew will be presented with the Vannevar Bush Award, which is considered one of the nation’s highest science awards. It honors lifelong science and technology leaders who have made exceptional contributions to the welfare of the nation through public service in science and technology and in shaping public policy.
“Roderic Pettigrew’s passion and creativity have spurred innovation in biomedicine,” said Victor McCrary, Vice Chair of the National Science Board and Chair of the 2020 NSB Honorary Awards Subcommittee. “His reimagining of healthcare solutions is helping converge science fields, narrowing gaps between disciplines in a way that really impacts society. Pettigrew is helping us to see what might be, what could be, and what is possible.”
Pettigrew’s contributions are wide-ranging and include:
- His service as the founding director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health.
- His advanced treatment for spinal injuries that enabled some chronically paralyzed men to regain voluntary muscle movement and sensory function.
- His use of radiation in cancer treatments.
- His work to use MRI to image the beating heart and quantify blood flow.
- His establishment of a partnership with the Indian government to develop cuff-less blood pressure measurement, along with other low cost diagnostic and therapeutic technologies.
Pettigrew’s work also involved bringing out the best in others. While at NIH created the Quantum Grants Program to encourage researchers to undertake “medical moon shots” to solve major challenges through technological innovation.
Pettigrew continues to help others archive greatness at Texas A&M, where he helped found EnMed in Houston. The program blends engineering and medicine in a 4-year curriculum to develop problem-solving “physicianeers;” graduates who earn a medical degree and a master’s degree in education. Plus, they must invent a solution to a healthcare problem that is ready for a patent.
“It is an incredible honor to receive the Vannevar Bush Award, which is so steeped in science history,” Pettigrew said. “My only regret is that my parents are not alive to share this honor. They were my first role models.”
We as a nation should thank and honor the work Pettigrew has done for the medical field, and the Vannevar Bush Award is a good place to start.