10th Annual Alvin H. Crawford Mentoring Award

In late February, I was truly honored and delighted to receive the Alvin Crawford Mentoring Award presented by the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society (JRGOS). The Mentoring Award recognizes excellence in promoting diversity and mentoring in orthopaedic surgery. Over the years, I have been fortunate to receive recognition for my mentorship including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mentoring Award presented by President Obama at the White House in 2010 and the 2011 Biomedical Engineering Society’s Diversity Award.

I would like to personally thank my current and former students, postdoctoral fellows, and residents. Their curiosity and enthusiasm keep me vibrant.

Prominent African-Americans “Poised to Make a Big Difference in the United States and the World”

In honor of Black History Month, MSNBC compiled a list of black leaders in the arts, science, technology, politics, and other areas. I was honored to be included in this group of men and women, particularly since the article included words from Dr. Cedric Bright, an outstanding leader and President of the National Medical Association.

I have always taken pride in my desire to promote excellence in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and medicine. My sincerest hope is that, throughout my career, I will continue to inspire all those who wish to follow my philosophy of “big vision, big life.”

Honored with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award

Dr. Martin Luther King gives his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
Dr. Martin Luther King gives his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

I was proud to be one of five who received the 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, which recognizes achievement and service that reflects the great civil rights leader’s ideals. The awards dinner and breakfast, held on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week, was uplifting. Each year, candidates for the leadership awards are nominated by their colleagues. Simply to have been nominated was an honor, but to have been nominated by Robert Langer, an internationally renowned engineer and my mentor, was doubly so. I am grateful to Dr. Langer, the MLK Jr. Planning Committee, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for this award.

The 11th U.S.-Japan Symposium on Drug Delivery Systems Conference

I recently had the privilege of being an invited speaker at the 11th U.S.-Japan Symposium on Drug Delivery Systems Conference in Maui. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Japanese Society of Drug Delivery Systems, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Kyoto University and offered a unique opportunity for interaction among attendees from academia and industry between Japan and the United States My talk was entitled “Regenerative engineering: Drug delivery of effector molecules” and highlighted the work at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering including research by Dr. Lakshmi Nair and Dr. Kevin Wai Hong Lo.

I so appreciated the hospitality provided by the organizers. I want to thank Professor Robert Langer, my mentor, for co-organizing such a fine meeting.

Honored to Serve as the Chair, Board of Directors for the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association (COBB) Health Institute

The Cobb Institute, founded by the National Medical Association (NMA) is focused on the elimination of disparities in health and healthcare that disproportionately affect African Americans. Disparities in health among, racial and ethnic groups in the US are significant and, by many measures, continue to increase.

The institute is named for William Montague Cobb, who dedicated his life to turning prejudice into pluralism. The first black physical anthropologist to earn a Ph.D. and the only one until the Korean War, Dr. Cobb’s work focused on the consequences of segregation and racism, and he used his work to confront these issues. Dr. Cobb served as president of the National Medical Association from 1964-65. In 1976, he became president of the NAACP, a post he held until 1982.

As a physician-scientist involved in research on health disparities and its affect on health status in this country, I am acutely aware of the need for community education and outreach. Bringing effective health care to the underrepresented populations of this country is my mission inf serving as the Chair of the Board for the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute.

Thanks to the leadership of the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association (COBB) Health Institute, especially Dr. Randall Morgan our Executive Direcotr, and thanks to the leadership of the National Medical Association for helping to make Dr. Cobb’s dream a reality.

Reflecting on the Past and Looking to the Future: The Constancy and Commonality of Challenges

On Monday, we will commemorate the 83rd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth. Reflecting on his legacy, I recall 2 speeches I gave in 2011. On 2 vastly different subjects, they shared the commonality of challenge. At the National Institutes of Health, I was fortunate to be asked to provide last year’s NIH National Day of Remembrance Speech in honor of Dr. King. In the 1960s, he challenged the status quo, fighting for racial justice and an end to racially based disparities. Even now, 43 years after his death, Martin Luther King continues challenging us to carry on that battle.

Last June, I spoke at the 25th anniversary celebration of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). The theme was “Meeting the Grand Challenges.” I talked about the scientific work the Institute for Regenerative Engineering is doing here at UConn, work with the potential to revolutionize the field. Mainly, though, I talked about the people doing that work. We have been very, very blessed here at the Institute. We have brought together a wonderful group of scientists of diverse backgrounds—all good people—with protean interests that work together.

I constantly think of Dr. King’s challenge: “What are you doing for others?” It is my hope that all of us keep that in mind as we face the challenges ahead in science, in medicine, and, most importantly, in our lives as members of our local and global communities.

Happy Holidays from the Director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering

Dear Colleagues,

We are nearing the end of a very successful year for students, fellows, and faculty at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. I thank everyone for their hard work and enthusiasm. Please enjoy a happy and safe holiday season. I wish you and yours all the best in 2012.

With warm regards,

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.
University Professor
Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Professor of Chemical, Materials and Biomolecular Engineering
Chief Executive Officer
Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science
Director, Institute for Regenerative Engineering
University of Connecticut

MRS Opening Invited Speech

Last week, I had the privilege of giving the opening invited speech for the Biomaterials and Tissue Regeneration Symposium at the Materials Research Society in Boston. I spoke about our Institute’s work in building matrices for bone regeneration using polymeric materials and ceramics. I focused on some of our new theories regarding the design of matrix systems that can be inductive for Bone. I want to thank my co-authors of this work and I also want to provide a special thanks to Professor Mei Wei who invited me to give the lecture at the meeting.

American Institute of Chemical Engineers

I recently attended the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE) meeting where I was elected a Fellow of the Institute. Previously I was named one of the 100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era by the AICHE for my work in the design of polymer-ceramic systems for bone repair and regeneration. An award such as that is only possible with the support of a large number of students and colleagues who have worked with me over the past years. Some of the earliest individuals included Dr. Hoda Elgendy, Dr. Maria Norman, and Dr. Mohammed Attawia my first fellows, and Dr. Carol Morris, my first graduate student. They joined my lab at M.I.T. when I was still an orthopaedic surgery resident and worked on some of the seminal studies in the field. To them, and others, I give my thanks.

Third World Academy of Sciences

photo_thirdworldmeeting-400x300I had the great fortune to meet with the leaders of the African Academy of Sciences (Dr. Mohamed Hassan, President) and the Third World Academy of Sciences Dr. C.N.R. Rao, former President) at its recent annual meeting. I discussed our new National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center application and have asked them both to join our advisory board. Our Institute has forged collaborations with institutions in India which have included the exchange of students. In addition, faculty in our Institute have been involved in the establishment of the African Institute of Science and Technology. I am very proud of our Institute’s work in the international arena in teaching and research.