The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering has awarded its highest honor to Dr. Christine E. Schmidt, Professor, J. Crayton Pruitt Family Chair & Department Chair in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering.
The Galletti Award recognizes contributions to public awareness of medical and biological engineering and the promotion of the national interest in science, engineering, and education.
Schmidt received the 2023 Pierre M. Galletti Award during the national organization’s annual event on March 27.
In receiving the award, Dr. Schmidt said, “I am both honored and humbled to receive the Pierre Galletti Award. The award is a tribute to those instrumental in my success: my many research trainees, my faculty mentees, and of course, my many mentors and supporters.”
AIMBE said Schmidt earned the award in recognition of her “national leadership in developing and translating technology to help patients while also advocating for the discipline and working tirelessly to make the field more inclusive and equitable.
Schmidt’s research is focused on developing new biomaterials and biomaterial composites (e.g., natural material scaffolds, processed tissues, electronic polymer composites) that can be used to physically guide and stimulate regenerating nerves and the healing of other tissues. Her work is the foundation for the Avance Nerve Repair graft from Axogen (over 75,000 grafts implanted in patients). Her research is also the foundation for the start-up company Alafair Biosciences in Austin, Texas, which focuses on internal wound care management. Alafair’s first clinical product, VersaWrap Tendon Protector, was launched in December 2017 and has already been used in over 6,500 patients. Schmidt has additional patents licensed to companies such as Smith and Nephew and Siluria Technologies, Inc., and many additional invention disclosures and pending patents.
Schmidt has received numerous honors, including the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame, Fellow of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Society for Biomaterials Clemson Award for Applied Research, Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Fellow American Society for the Advancement of Science.
In addition to her research and translational successes, Schmidt was Chair of AIMBE’s College of Fellows in 2015-2016, and then President of AIMBE from 2018-2020, during which time she and her leadership team implemented policies to transform the nomination and review processes for new fellows. This included an active nomination process to identify strong candidates from historically marginalized communities (HMCs) as well as a holistic nomination and review process that focused on impact rather than on traditional metrics that result in bias and undervalue “hidden” efforts. In the first year after implementing these processes, there was a 3X increase in the number of HMCs and a 10% increase in women fellow nominations. Schmidt also implemented the AIMBE Fellow Impact Awards, which focus on impact, and which are open to Fellows of all ranks and in all career paths. Finally, Schmidt was instrumental in initiating AIMBE Advocacy Days, in which AIMBE Fellows went in large groups to Capitol Hill to advocate for federal funding of biomedical research.
As Department Chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida since 2013, Schmidt has overseen the hiring of 22 faculty, with women faculty increasing from 2 to 16 (now 55%) and Black and Hispanic faculty increasing from 1 to 7 (now 24%). The department’s research quality and impact have risen dramatically in this same time, with a three to four-fold increase in research expenditures and a 10-fold increase in trainee fellowships. The undergraduate BME program first became ABET-accredited in 2019 and is now ranked #13 among public BME UG programs (U.S. News & World Report, USNWR). The department has also risen in U.S. News & World Report’s Graduate School rankings (currently ranked #17 among public BME programs), climbing almost 20 spots in public institutional rankings since 2013.
The Pierre Galletti Award was established in 1999 by the AIMBE Board of Directors to honor its Founding Member and Past President. The award is presented to an AIMBE Fellow in recognition of his/her contributions to public awareness of medical and biological engineering, and to the promotion of the national interest in science, engineering and education.
Pierre Galletti passed away on March 8, 1997, having left his mark on the emerging field of biomedical engineering. He was a pioneering researcher, making his impact in such fields as heart-lung bypass, artificial organs, and tissue engineering. As a dedicated teacher and mentor, he not only provided leadership in the establishment of the medical school at Brown University, but also helped start Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. He was the consummate biomedical engineer, a person of great vision, a man for all seasons.