BME PhD '73
Walt Olson has some 30 cardiological patents to his name from a nearly 30-year career at Medtronic, Inc. He began his career as a professor at the University of Illinois and the MIT/Harvard Program in Health Sciences and Technology. His team's research on computer algorithms for real-time analysis of cardiac arrhythmias was liscensed to Medtronic for wearable Holter ECG devices with early microprocessors. Olson joined Medtronic and soon began research on cardiac pacemakers, adding an artificial sensor to increase heart rate with exertion. He later earned a Patent of Distinction for an algorithm used in implantable cardioverter defibrillators to more precisely determine when arrhythmias require defibrillation. He recently "retired" as Vice President of Research for Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management and consults half-time for the company. Olson brought from U-M a model of academic questioning that has helped his division sharpen its critical thinking for new products.
BME PhD '94
Joseph Roebuck, 1994 U-M BME PhD, is the lead author of a seminal work on using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify breast cancer. The work represents a breakthrough in using MRI on breast tissue, whose fat content makes image interpretation difficult. By using high-powered magnets and signal-processing techniques, his team suppressed the confounding effects of fat and demonstrated that MR spectroscopy could identify malignancies based on tissue choline levels.
Deciding he wanted to work "not just from chalkboard to lab, but chalkboard to bedside" to more fully appreciate how his research impacted patient care, Roebuck pursued an MD in radiology with work in MR-guided biopsies and treatment.
He is now at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, advancing its radiology research agenda. His particular interest is in using PET-MRI to approach diseases from multiple angles.
BME PhD '03
While still a doctoral student at U-M BME, Predrag Sukovic joined his advisor, Neal Clinthorne, in starting a medical imaging company that now boasts a successful portable CT product line and multi-million dollar annual sales. Sukovic got the inspiration for their first product - a dental CT scanner- while having his teeth laboriously X-rayed by dentistry students. His assistantship with Clinthorne involved developing a combined CT-PET scanner, and the CT component proved readily adaptable to producing fast, comprehensive dental scans.
With the support of faculty from the dental and business schools, their company, Xoran Technologies, took off. They licensed the product, which became the industry standard in dental imaging, and used the funding to launch portable ear, nose, and throat and neural scanners. "It all happened," he says, "because of the support I got at U-M."
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