Living Legends: Dr. Cato Laurencin
Pioneering Regenerative Engineering
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. is an American engineer, physician, scientist, innovator and a University Professor of the University of Connecticut. He has been awarded a laundry list of awards (see them all on his wikipedia) and is regarded as the founder of the field of Regenerative Engineering. In addition to being widely lauded, Dr. Laurencin is the first individual in history to receive both the highest awards from the National Academy of Engineering (the Simon Ramo Founder's Award) and the National Academy of Medicine (the Walsh McDermott Medal). His achievements and his contributions to medicine and engineering make him #theFirst.
As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Cato Laurencin specializes in shoulder and knee injury, but his work in regenerative engineering has the potential for application far beyond these two joints. The field of regenerative engineering combines aspects of advanced materials sciences, stem cell science, physics, developmental biology, and clinical translation to allow the regeneration of complex tissues and organ systems. The first example of this is his invention, the Laurencin-Cooper Ligament (LC Ligament) which helps the ACL - the tissue that connects the thighbone to the shinbone, at the knee - to regenerate healthy tissue with the aid of synthetic material, instead of implanting healthy tissue from another part of the body. "In many ways, we utilize the patient’s own body as a bioreactor, if you will, to be able to make the tissue," Laurencin said in an interview with The CT Mirror. His research suggests that this technology could one day make it possible to regenerate limbs from amputations, which would make an enormous impact in the lives of those with amputations due to bone cancer, diabetes, dangerous infections, trauma accidents, or even children born with missing or impaired limbs. Imagine being able to regrow your own limb instead of learning to adapt to a robotic prosthetic? For his innovation, Dr. Laurencin was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, America's highest honor for technological advancement, by President Barack Obama in ceremonies at the White House.
Beyond being a genius of engineering, Dr. Laurencin is also dedicated to mentoring and creating pathways for underrepresented students. He was "fortunate to have had a large number of great mentors in [his] life," and states "Mentorship is critical to success in life, it was in mine." (AAAS.org) Again, we see great minds being dedicated to the art of mentorship (like Dr. Kafui Dzirasa) because of the profound impact mentors have had on them. Additionally, Dr. Laurencin is an expert in public health, especially as it pertains to ethnic minority health and health disparities, and he co-founded the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, dedicated to addressing racial health disparities. Overall, Dr. Cato Laurencin is a force and has created a legacy that will continue to change lives that will continue to inspire students who follow in his footsteps.
Watch Dr. Cato Laurencin's Tedx Talk about the conception of the LC Ligament
3 Black Docs will be going live this Sunday, February 28th at 4pm! Don't miss this conversation about Black History Month and the contributions of Black physicians to medicine!