McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Savio L-Y. Woo, PhD, DSc, DEng, a world-leading bioengineer whose pioneering biomechanics research has profoundly impacted sports medicine and the management of ligament and tendon injuries leading to improved patient recovery, was honored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) with the 2012 IEEE Medal for Innovations in Healthcare Technology. IEEE is the world's largest technical professional association.
The medal, sponsored by the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, recognizes Dr. Woo for pivotal contributions to biomechanics and its application to orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. The award was presented at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in Boston, Massachusetts.
Dr. Woo is a pioneer in biomechanics known around the world for his over 40 years of translational research concerning the healing and repair of tissues. Biomechanics involves applying the engineering principles of mechanics to study body movement and the effects of forces acting on the musculoskeletal system. From research at the cellular and tissue level to developing computer and robotic models of joints, Dr. Woo, together with his 600 students, post-doctoral research fellows, and junior colleagues, has provided key insight to understanding the function of bone and connective tissue. His contributions have spurred advancements in the surgical treatment and rehabilitation of ligament and tendon injuries, ultimately leading sports medicine and orthopedic surgery into the 21st Century.
Dr. Woo helped develop the "controlled motion is good" concept, showing the benefits of joint movement and early weight-bearing activities during rehabilitation compared to immobilization following surgery. His approach to robotic testing of knee and shoulder movement helped define the beneficial effects of motion on healing. He applied computer modeling and robotic technology to study joint mechanics and the effects of injury on joint function. Dr. Woo used robots to produce motions that occur during everyday activities and to determine the forces that the motions generate in the ligaments of the joints. Dr. Woo's work has resulted in much faster recovery time for patients with soft-tissue injuries. His methods also assist with surgical planning and can predict the success of surgical techniques.
Dr. Woo has also focused on using novel functional tissue engineering to heal and regenerate ligaments and tendons at the cellular, tissue, and organ levels using bioscaffolds. Bioscaffolds are small intestinal submucosa from genetically altered pigs that can be used to heal the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. Dr. Woo is also leading the efforts of applying degradable metallic materials to regenerate ligaments and tendons severely damaged during sports injuries.
Dr. Woo began his career at the University of California, San Diego, as a professor of surgery and bioengineering in 1970 and moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1990. In Pittsburgh, he founded the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC) within the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering. The MSRC is a multidisciplinary education center where countless orthopedic surgeons, biologists, and bioengineering students have studied and worked.
Dr. Woo is a member of the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and the Republic of China's Academia Sinica. His honors include the H.R. Lissner Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1991), the Muybridge Medal from the International Society of Biomechanics (1995), and the Olympic Prize for Sports Science from the International Olympic Committee (1998). Dr. Woo received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from California State University, Chico, and his master's degree in mechanical engineering and doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Woo is currently a Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center within the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Bioengineering and Swanson School of Engineering, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.