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The National Academy of Engineering and Ohio University presented five recipients Tuesday night with the 2017 Russ Prize, the top bioengineering prize in the world.
James G. Fujimoto of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Adolf F. Fercher of Vienna, Austria; Christoph K. Hitzenberger of Vienna, Austria; David Huang of Portland, Oregon; and Eric A. Swanson of Gloucester, Massachusetts; were honored at the National Academy of Engineering’s annual awards gala in Washington, D.C., for developing optical coherence tomography (OCT), an imaging technology essential for preventing blindness and treating vascular and other diseases.
The $500,000 biennial Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, which recognizes a bioengineering achievement in widespread use that significantly improves the human condition, was created by Ohio University with a gift from alumnus Fritz Russ, BSEE ’42, HON ’75, and his wife, Dolores.
“OCT is the accepted instrument used by ophthalmologists to examine the fine structure of the eye to identify damage to that structure. Its development was truly an international team effort,” said Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin.
Optical coherence tomography has had a tremendous scientific, clinical, and economic impact on society. It’s one of the most widely used technologies for imaging in the human eye and is an essential tool for the treatment of blinding diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, helping diagnose millions of patients with eye disease at early treatable stages, before irreversible loss of vision occurs. OCT uses light waves to perform high-speed, micrometer-resolution, three-dimensional images of tissue microstructure. The technology has contributed to advancing the understanding of disease mechanisms and their treatments in multiple fields including ophthalmology, cardiology, and cancer.
OHIO Interim President David Descutner and NAE President C.D. Mote, Jr., bestowed the awards. Other guests included Russ College of Engineering and Technology Dean Dennis Irwin and Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and Distinguished Professor John Kopchick, both of whom serve on the Russ Prize Committee; Vice President for University Advancement Bryan Benchoff; and about two dozen members of the Russ family. Matriarch Mildred “Midge” Crum, sister of Fritz Russ, also attended.
“We should all realize that the Russ Prize awardees use the prize’s prestige to leverage additional support, institutionally or financially, to continue to make discoveries and invent new ways to improve the human condition,” Irwin said. “The stroke of genius by the Russes and my predecessor, Dean Emeritus T. Richard Robe, to team with the National Academy of Engineering, is mainly responsible for this. The NAE and the Russ College have formed one of the most productive partnerships of its kind in the world,” Irwin added.