MEDx Distinguished Lecture: "Medical Devices to Improve the Human Condition"

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Great Hall, Trent-Semans Center for Health Education
 Join us for our inaugural Duke MEDx Distinguished Lecture featuring

Robert E. Fischell, E’51, MS, ScD

President Obama & Dr. Fischell

Recipient of the National Medal for Technology and Innovation

"For invention of novel medical devices used in the treatment of many illnesses, thereby improving the health and saving the lives of millions of patients around the world."

 Thursday, October 20, 2016
Lecture at 4:30 p.m. | Reception at 5:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Trent-Semans Center for Health Education

RSVP by Friday, October 14 to

Read our Q&A with Dr. Fischell


Medications have been used for centuries to treat human disorders, but medical devices have become an important means for the treatment of human afflictions only much more recently. Dr. Robert E. Fischell’s lecture will describe four such medical devices he has invented, each with a different approach to disease treatment. The first is a tiny device, designed to be inserted into a small section of surgically removed cranial bone, with wires that terminate in electrodes that are placed at the site where epileptic seizures originate. When a seizure is about to start, this Responsive Neural Stimulator (RNS) device senses a certain electrical signal at the location in the brain where the seizure originates, and then sends an electrical voltage that turns off the seizure before it starts. The second device is a truly flexible, readily inserted coronary stent that has the capability to treat any coronary artery stenosis—even those with more than 90 percent closure or situated in an extremely curved coronary artery. The third device is a means to apply several intense magnetic pulses onto the head to erase migraine headaches. The fourth and last medical device to be presented is a combination of a magnetic coil and an electrical pulse generator that can create intense magnetic pulses into the human body to eliminate or diminish pain in specific locations.

Dr. Robert E. Fischell

Dr. Robert FischellDr. Fischell received his BSME degree from Duke University and MS and ScD (honorary) degrees from the University of Maryland. He was employed at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory for 25 years, where he actively developed more than 50 spacecraft for the US Navy and for NASA. Starting in 1969, Dr. Fischell began the formation of 15 private companies that licensed his patents on medical devices including heart pacemakers, defibrillators, coronary stents, and devices to treat epilepsy and migraine headaches. Dr. Fischell is a prolific inventor with over 200 issued US and foreign patents that have been the basis for medical devices that have been implanted in more than 10 million patients worldwide.

Dr. Fischell’s honors include Inventor of the Year for the United States in 1984, election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1996, and several medals for distinguished accomplishments in science, engineering and innovation. In 2004, Discover magazine gave Dr. Fischell its annual award for Technology for Humanity. In 2005, he received the TED award (with a $100,000 prize) for contributions to medical technology. Also in 2005, Dr. Fischell provided a philanthropic gift of $30 million to create and fund the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the University of Maryland. In 2007, he received the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Prize for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson Society for Scholars. In May 2008, he received an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters from the Johns Hopkins University in recognition of his many contributions in the field of medicine.

In the first half of 2016, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Technical Council of Maryland, election as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and a honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology. On May 17 at the White House, he received from President Obama the National Medal for Technology and Innovation, the highest recognition in the United States for his contributions toward the betterment of mankind.

 This event co-sponsored by Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.