Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew, a physician-scientist and internationally recognized leader in biomedical imaging and bioengineering, will join Texas A&M University to lead Engineering Health (EnHealth), the nation’s first comprehensive educational program to fully integrate engineering into all health-related disciplines.
EnHealth will be an innovative, multicollege engineering health initiative based in Houston, Texas, designed to educate a new kind of health care professional with an engineering mindset who will invent transformational technology for health care’s greatest challenges. With Texas A&M’s interdisciplinary makeup and colleges of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and veterinary medicine, EnHealth will have a profound impact on both human and animal health. EnMed, the university’s engineering medicine track in partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital, will serve as the first program for EnHealth.
“It is a coup for the Texas A&M (University) Health Science Center to land one of the most heavily recruited leaders, a double National Academy member, in this exciting new field of engineering medicine,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “The innovations that come out of this field will not only save lives, but EnHealth and EnMed also will be an economic boon to the Texas medical community and our state economy as a whole.”
Addressing the world’s health challenges
“The way to solve the world’s most challenging health care problems and perhaps prevent many of them in the first place is to take a more integrated approach to education and treatment,” said Michael K. Young, president of Texas A&M. “With this announcement, Texas A&M is harnessing the best across two historically different disciplines–engineering and medicine—to accelerate quality and delivery of care. It’s a new day for integrated health care, and we’re so proud to have Dr. Pettigrew at the helm of this endeavor.”
Pettigrew will assume his new role of CEO of EnHealth and executive dean for EnMed in November. Along with the appointment, Pettigrew will also hold the endowed Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry. With a portfolio of international accomplishments in advancing biomedical innovation, Pettigrew served as founding director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering, and is an elected foreign fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India. Prior to his appointment at the NIH, Pettigrew was a professor of radiology at Emory University, professor of bioengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the Emory Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Pettigrew will join the university through the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI), enacted by Governor Greg Abbott in 2015 to attract distinguished researchers who will, in turn, serve as economic catalysts to the Texas economy for years to come.
A new era in medicine
Pettigrew’s recruitment marks a significant step forward for Texas A&M and The Texas A&M University System, specifically at the intersection of the health disciplines and engineering, said Dr. Carrie L. Byington, dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, senior vice president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health services at the Texas A&M System.
“We are in an era of dynamic transformation in health care with a focus on the patient. As a land-grant medical school founded by the Teague-Cranston Act in 1977, Texas A&M is committed to addressing the health needs of both military personnel and those who live in rural areas,” Byington said. “This focus demands novel collaboration between the brightest minds in medicine and engineering to develop systems and technologies that can address significant problems, including rural access to health care, remote monitoring and, especially for our military personnel, recovery from injury. With our world-class engineering program, emerging health sciences education and research, and Dr. Pettigrew’s unparalleled expertise and acclaim in bioengineering, Texas A&M can truly lead the way in addressing health care’s greatest challenges.”
Under Pettigrew’s guidance, NIBIB is internationally recognized for its global leadership in developing and accelerating the application of transformative health care technologies. A testament to his expertise, in 2012 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution commending NIBIB for its impact on improving the health of the nation through technological innovation and progressive educational initiatives.
At Texas A&M, Pettigrew will lead the continued development of EnMed, a partnership announced last summer between the state’s top-ranked Houston Methodist Hospital, the College of Engineering and the College of Medicine to educate a new type of doctor—a physician engineer—or “physicianeer.” EnMed, which will welcome its inaugural class in fall 2019, is expected to be the largest engineering-based medical degree program in the nation.
A transformational vision
“With the creation of our EnMed program and its unique focus on inventing and rapidly moving new medical technologies into practice, we realized the potential to impact all areas of health and the idea of EnHealth was born,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. “Dr. Pettigrew is the ideal leader for this initiative and has the transformational vision to develop this new type of health care ecosystem.”
With more than 10,000 students in health-related programs across the Texas A&M System, EnHealth has the potential to impact communities across the state and nation by producing a new type of clinician who will be able to design patient-oriented solutions in the care they provide, wherever they practice.
“This is a tremendously exciting initiative founded on a sound concept that has been emerging internationally for years.” Pettigrew said. “At its core is the understanding that the most effective and efficient solutions to our most daunting health care challenges will come from approaches that integrate all of the sciences and engineering, after all, these are seamlessly interwoven in nature. So, it follows that solutions to natural problems will also be born from a convergence of the science, engineering and technology disciplines.”
EnMed will initially hire 25 faculty members and utilize instructional and research space in the Texas Medical Center, including space in Houston Methodist Hospital, the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT), and a recently purchased building in the Texas Medical Center that will be renovated to serve as the education and training campus for EnMed and EnHealth students.
The initiative builds on Texas A&M’s long-standing research and education presence in Houston. The IBT was founded in 1986 in the Texas Medical Center to foster creative research related to medicine, agriculture, animal sciences and engineering, and currently offers a doctorate in medical sciences. In addition, students in the College of Medicine’s M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs are trained at Houston Methodist, a partnership that began in 2014 to bring more innovative research and medical education to the state and laid the groundwork for EnMed. Faculty from each program will play an important role in the education of EnMed students.
“The Texas Medical Center, with its great research and clinical resources as the world’s largest complex of medical institutions, is an ideal location for headquartering EnMed and catalyzing EnHealth,” Pettigrew said. “This will constitute a living crucible of scientific discovery and technological innovation to transform the practice of medicine.”
This story originally appeared in Vital Record.