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Why is an engineer in the operating room?

May. 16, 2014, 1:55 PM

Watch video of a faculty seminar from Commencement 2014.

A significant portion of techniques for the treatment of disease have arisen from chance discovery or inspired, desperate improvisation. That has led to a remarkable level of successful disease treatment. However, discovery is inefficient; for example it takes between five and ten thousand compounds, $800 million and fifteen years to produce one new drug. Surgical techniques may both fail to correct or remove the disease while simultaneously damaging nearby healthy tissue. So therapeutic techniques need to be more sensitive, more specific and more efficient. That is why more engineers are being involved in translating techniques into healthcare. We are moving from discovery to design.

Bob Galloway has been at Vanderbilt since 1985 and he joined the faculty in 1987. He is Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Neurological Surgery, and Professor of Surgery. Professor Galloway has been elected a Fellow of both the American Institute for Medicine and Biology and the IEEE. He is the author of 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and holds 11 US and international patents. In 2004 he founded the first image-guided liver surgery company, Pathfinder Therapeutics Inc. In 2010 he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. Professor Galloway’s research is on the improving the guidance of therapeutic procedures, in order to maximize the efficacy of therapy delivery to diseased tissue while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. His systems have been used for cancer therapy in the brain, liver, kidney and pancreas. In addition, he has developed systems for spinal surgery and the delivery of drugs for optic neuropathies.


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