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Renowned physician looks at future of cardiology during first Russ Prize Lecture

Rylie Miller and Marissa McDaid | Sep 16, 2019
Julio Palmaz

Renowned physician looks at future of cardiology during first Russ Prize Lecture

Rylie Miller and Marissa McDaid | Sep 16, 2019

Esteemed scientist and physician Julio Palmaz, one of five recipients of the 2019 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, spoke Mon., Sept. 9, at Ohio University’s Baker University Center, kicking off the Russ College Stocker Lecture Series.

The NAE and Ohio University awarded Palmaz and four others with the 2019 Russ Prize for innovations in coronary angioplasty, enabling minimally invasive treatment of heart disease. The prize is the largest bioengineering honor in the world.

Palmaz is chief scientific adviser of Vactronix Scientific and an honorary Ashbel Smith Professor at the University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio. His innovative development of the first vascular stent to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is regarded as one of the top 10 medical device patents in the past 50 years.

Drawing in a crowd of interested students, faculty and staff, Palmaz discussed his developments and successes with medicine and their influence on the biomedical engineering community. He expressed gratitude about receiving an engineering prize because his work is focused on medicine.

“It is far more meaningful because I always wanted to be an engineer myself, but somehow life took me to medicine,” Palmaz said. “It’s incredibly flattering that it’s an engineering award,”

Palmaz guided the audience through a timeline of the rates of technological achievements throughout trans-catheter cardiovascular interventions history. He described that as times have advanced and various resources and breakthroughs have occurred, that the wonder of medical ingenuity has vastly changed his perspective on the future of technological advancements. He emphasized that we’ve not always been creating breakthrough technology – we’ve largely been adapting pre-existing technologies.

Palmaz noted that the history of cardiovascular technology development includes some misguided steps that were largely related to incorrect assumptions.

“When there is a gap of knowledge somewhere, assumptions are sometimes used. This is the heuristic approach, and it has been applied often in cardiovascular technology developments that did not bear fruit,” Palmaz said. This is why every guiding principle must be completely vetted and all alternatives considered, he added.

Moving forward, Palmaz explained his perspective on how technology may be subject to radical change in the future. He noted that while we can glean what the near future holds for biomedical engineering, the far future is less certain but truly exciting.

Palmaz predicts that in the distant future, development will lead us to chemical-based interventions thanks to the integration of nanotechnology and chemistry. He advanced the term “structural nanotechnology” to suggest that medical devices could move from being produced completely ex-vivo, outside of the body, to partially or completely in-vivo. Palmaz also brought up depictions of futuristic medical interventions as suggested in science fiction films – humans suspended in liquid baths, for example – where nano-scale chemical “building blocks” could potentially be used to build artificial organs at the control of a supercomputer.

When asked about what role mentors played in ultimately finding his passion and being both highly knowledgeable and successful in his field, Palmaz, who holds 60 patents, explained that being left alone to completely dive into his work is what created a sense of serendipity for him.

“I’ve always said: ‘I am not very smart, but I’m persistent.’ I think this served me well,” he shared. “When you have a project you believe in, just stay with it.”

Watch the live stream of Julio Palmaz’s Russ Prize Lecture at this link.


Attend one of the other four 2019 recipient lectures on campus this year:

Mon., Sept. 16, 2019: John Simpson
Lecture: 5-6 p.m. (Baker Theatre)
“The Path from Cowboy to Country Doctor”

Tues., Oct. 1, 2019: Leonard Pinchuk
Lecture: 5-6 p.m. (Baker Theatre)
“The Three-Legged Stool of Innovation, and the Tools that Helped Establish Interventional Radiology, Cardiology, and Ophthalmology”

Tues., Feb. 18, 2020: Paul Yock
Lecture: 12-1 p.m. (Baker 204/242)
“The Biodesign Process: A Needs-Based Approach to Health Technology Innovation”

Thurs., Feb. 20, 2020: Richard Schatz
Lecture: 5-6 p.m. (Stocker Center 103)
“The History of the Palmaz Schatz Stent: The Story Behind the Story”

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.