Regenerative Medicine Biographies and Contact Information

Course Directors

Dr. Rory A. Cooper

Distinguished Professor, FISA/PVA Chair, Department of Rehabilitation and Technology, University of Pittsburgh 
Director, Human Engineering Research Laboratories
VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence fore Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering
Pittsburgh, PA

Contact Information
Human Engineering Research Laboratories
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
6425 Penn Avenue, Suite 400
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 822-3700 

Rory A. Cooper, PhD received the BS and MEng degrees in electrical engineering for California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1985 and 1986, respectively. He received the Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in bioengineering from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1989. He is FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physical Medicine & Rehab, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper is Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence in Pittsburgh. He is also the Co-Director of the NSF Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, a joint effort between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

He is the Editor of the journal Assistive Technology and the AT Research Book Series of IOS Press. Dr. Cooper serves or has served on the editorial boards of several prominent peer-reviewed journals in the fields of rehabilitation and bioengineering. He has received multiple prestigious awards to include the Olin Teague Award, Paul Magnuson Award, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, James Peters Award, Maxwell J. Schleifer Award,DaVinci Lifetime Achievement Award, Veteran’s Leadership Program Veteran of the Year, and a member of the inaugural class of the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame. Dr. Cooper has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed journal publications. He has ten patents awarded or pending. Dr. Cooper is the author of two books: Rehabilitation Engineering Applied to Mobility and Manipulation and Wheelchair Selection and Configuration, and co-editor of An Introduction to Rehabilitation Engineering, Care of the Combat Amputee, and the Warrior Transition Leader Medical Rehabilitation Handbook. Dr. Cooper is an elected Fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). Dr. Cooper has been an invited lecturer at many institutions around the world, for example the National Academies of Sciences Distinctive Voices Lecture, and was awarded Honorary Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Xi’an Jiatong University. He has also been elected to Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, and Sigma Xi honorary societies.   

Dr. Cooper is a former President of RESNA, and a member of the RESNA/ANSI and ISO Wheelchair Standards Committees, and IEEE-EMBS Medical Device Standards Committee. In 1988, he was a bronze medalist in the Paralympic Games, Seoul, Republic of Korea. He was on the steering committee for the 1996 Paralympic Scientific Congress held in Atlanta, GA, and the Sports Scientist for the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team in Beijing, China. In 2009, Dr. Cooper was featured on a Cheerios cereal box for his many achievements. He has been a member of theU.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – Medicare Advisory Committee, Steering Committee of the Academy of PM&R on Research Capacity Building. and Chair of the National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research, National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, and National Academy of Sciences Keck Foundation Initiative on Human Health Span Steering Committee. Dr. Cooper is a U.S. Army veteran with a spinal cord injury and a Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation. He currently serves as a member of the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Prosthetics & Special Disability Programs Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Defense Health Board Subcommittee on Amputation and Orthopedics, and the Board of Directors of Easter Seals. Dr. Cooper has actively collaborated with the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre on increasing access to quality services and devices for people with disabilities in India and throughout developing countries.

COL Paul F. Pasquina

Chief, Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Consultant to the Office of the Surgeon General for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence fore Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering
Pittsburgh, PA

Contact Information
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Orthopedics Department Room 2157
8901 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20889 

Colonel Paul F. Pasquina, MD is the Chief of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Director of the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research (CRSR) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and USUHS. In addition to being board certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R), he is also board certified in Electrodiagnostic Medicine and Pain Medicine. He completed a fellowship in sports medicine and remains interested in all aspects of musculoskeletal medicine, especially as it relates to individuals with disabilities. He is the specialty consultant to the Army Surgeon General for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and a Secretarial appointee on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committe for Prosthetics and Special Disabilities Programs. 

Dr. Pasquina has authored multiple book chapters, journal articles, and policy papers. He has served as the PM&R Residency Program Director and Medical Advisor to the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command for quality healthcare. He has received multiple military awardsm as well as awards for teaching and mentorship, including the U.S. Army's "A" Proficiency Designation for academin excellence, the Order of Military Medical Merit, and Honorary Fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).

Dr. Michael A. Boninger

Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Associate Dean for Medical Research and Professor, School of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service
Pittsburgh, PA

Contact Information
Human Engineering Research Laboratories
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
6425 Penn Avenue, Suite 400
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 822-3700 

Michael L. Boninger, MD is professor and chair in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the Director of UPMC Rehabilitation Institute. He also serves as medical director of Human Engineering Research Laboratories and holds secondary appointments in the Departments of Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology and Bioengineering.  Dr. Boninger is also the director of the University of Pittsburgh Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury, a National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research Center of Excellence, and Medical Director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories.

Dr. Boninger received a mechanical engineering degree and Doctorate of Medicine from the Ohio State University. Dr. Boninger has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications and numerous abstracts, proceedings, and book chapters. Dr. Boninger, who holds three patents, is on the editorial board of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Boninger has been an invited speaker on assistive technology, wheelchair biomechanics, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, and secondary prevention of disabilities around the world. In 2003, he was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), reserved for the top 2% of biomedical engineers.

Guest Faculty

Regina C. Armstrong, PhD
Director, Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine
Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Dr. Armstrong is Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM). The CNRM is a collaborative intramural research program of the uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). The CNRM focus is pre-clinical through clinical research to promote recovery from traumatic brain injury and to improve psychological health in combat casualties cared for at WRNMMC.

Dr. Armstrong's primary academic appointment is as Professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics in the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at USU. Dr. Armstrong holds secondary appointments in the Neuroscience and the Molecular and Cell Biology Graduate Programs. Dr. Armstrong received the faculty award for Outstanding Graduate Biomedical Educator from the School of Medicine in 2002. She served as Director of the USU Neuroscience Graduate Program from 2002-2008 before stepping down to begin as Director of the CNRM. Research efforts in her laboratory have been funded through peer-reviewed competitive awards from the NIH, the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and the Department of Defense. This work has focused on the regenerative potential of endogenous neural stem/progenitor cells in the rodent and human central nervous system.

Gregory A. Clark, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Bioengineering
University of Utah

Dr. Gregory A. Clark is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Neural Interfaces Track in the Department of Bioengineering, and adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Utah. he has been the recipient of a Pew Biomedical Scholar Award and Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, as well as several Dean's letters of commendation for his teaching at the University of Utah. Dr. Clark's current neuroengineering research focuses on use of the Utah Slanted Electrode Array in peripheral nerves of pre-clinical animal models, with the long-term goals of 1) reanimating paralyzed limbs after spinal cord injury, and 20 providing natural, intuitive motor control of, and sensory feedback from, an advanced neuroprosthetic arm. The peripheral nerves act like hot lines between the brain and body, and thus provide advantageous sites for neural engineering interventions. The USEA is a small, micro-machined array that typically contains 100 independent, hair-thin electrodesthat penetrate into the nerve and closely abut small populations of sensory or motor nerve fibers. These multiple electrodes allow us to "talk to" (stimulate) or "listen to" (record from) nerve fibers very selectively and precisely, and thus to communicate with the nervous system in a manner that begins to approach that of normal physiology. recent advances in the development and implememntation of this approach in pre-clinical animal models (cats and non-human primates) include improvements in the performance of chronic implants; algorithms for high-channel-count neural decodes and encodes; instantiation of fatigue-resistant stance and coordinated hand-grasps; and wireless recording and stimulation technologies.

Jennifer L. Collinger, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Jennifer L. Collinger is a Research Biomedical Engineer at the VA R&D Center of Excellence and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Collinger received her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in April 2009. Her doctoral work focused on the prevention of upper limb injuries in manual wheelchair users. Dr. Collinger's current research interests are related to neurorehabilitation and brain-computer interface technology for individuals with motor impairments.

Lana McKenzie, MBA BSN
Associate Executive Director of Medical Services and Health Policy
Paralyzed Veterans of America

Ms. Lana McKenzie received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Loma Linda University as well as the Master in Business Administration degree. Ms. McKenzie is a Certified Case Manager and Certified Public Health Nurse with over 24 years of practicing nursing. Ms. McKenzie has also spent 10 years as an SCI nurse in the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and has led multiple major projects throughout her career serving Veterans.

Currently, Ms. McKenzie is the Associate Executive Director of Medical Services for Paralyzed Veterans of America. She is responsible for the operation of the medical services department, ensuring the VA healthcare policy is in compliance with its directives and guidelines and ensuring access to care for SCI/D veterans.

Damian D. Pearse, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
University of Miami Health System

Dr. Damien D. Pearse's laboratory focuses on several key aspects of spinal cord injury repair: 1) preventing progressive tissue damage following the initial mechanical trauma through the application of pharmacological or biological neuroprotectants, 2) overcoming the physical impediment of the injury cyst through the implantation of exogenous cells or by harnessing endogenous cellular repair mechanisms, and 3) the promotion of axon regeneration by the stimulation of intracellular signaling pathways that are important in the initiation and/or maintenance of axon growth.

The overall goal of the laboratory is to identify and/or develop effective combinatory strategies that target all of these deficiencies so as to establish an effacacious treatment regimen for clinical implementation in human SCI. It is also our aim to find strategies that are amenable to the acute and/or chronic phases of SCI and that are not associated with adverse effects that would negate the benefits of such therapies clinically (development of pain, tumor formation, etc.).

J. Peter Rubin, MD
Chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Associate Professor, Medical Center
University of Pittsburgh

Dr. J. Peter Rubin is Chief of Plastic Surgery and Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Grinnell College and his MD degree from Tufts University School of Medicine. He completed a residency training program in general surgery at Boston University/Boston City Hospital. He took time away from the clinic to pursue a two year fellowship in surgical basic science and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. During this research sabbatical, he studied tissue engineering and transplantation immunology. After graduating from general surgery residency, he completed a 3 year residency in plastic surgery at Harvard Medical School. While on faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, he founded the clinical program and fellowship in body contouring after weight loss.

In addition to his active clinical program, Dr. Rubin directs a basic science research program in the biology of adipose derived stem cells and serves a co-director of the Adipose Stem Cell Center at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the principal investigator in an NIH funded line of research aimed at developing cell based methods for clinical soft tissue reconstruction after cancer therapy. He directs a related line of research aimed at soft tissue reconstruction for injured soldiers as an investigator for the Department of Defense Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as well as other Department of Defense programs. His many scientific leadership positions include past president of the International Society of Adipose Therapeutics and Science (IFATS), past Board Chair of IFATS, and past Chairman of the Plastic Surgery Research Council. Dr. Rubin is the recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The Presidential Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Uniter States government on outstanding scientists and engineers early in their research careers. It is intended to recognize some of the finest scientists who show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge during the twenty-first century.

Thomas Smith, PhD
Professor, Orthopaedics
Hypertension and Vascular Research Center
Physiology & Pharmacology
Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Wake Forest University

Dr. Thomas Smith has a bachelor's degree in zoology from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in veterinary physiology from Texas A&M Veterinary College and a PhD in Physiology from Wake Forest University. Dr. Thomas joined the faculty of the Wake Forest School of Medicine in 1982 in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. He obtained a primary appointment in Orthopaedic Surgery in 1997, with adjunct appointments in Physiology and Pharmacology, Molecular Medicine, Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Smith's research interests include in collaboration with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine include the following: The use of tissue engineered constructs for repair of significant peripheral nerve gaps following injury, tissue engineered allografts for ACL, tendon, and meniscus repairs, and Murine models of myocardial infarction to test stem cell therapies utilizing coronary artery ligations performed as survival surgeries in mice.

Edward K. Wright, Jr., PhD
Program Manager
Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine
Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Dr. Edward K. Wright is a Program Manager with Henry M. Jackson Foundation (HJF) for the Advancement of Military Medicine in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Bethesda. Dr. Wright is also an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Orthopaedics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda. Dr. Wright manages an orthopaedic research portfolio that includes initiatives from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Fracture Putty Program and the Defense Medical Research and Development Program (DMRDP). Dr. Wright serves as co-chair for the scientific review committee which reviews all IRB protocols submitted from the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at WRNMMC.

Faculty Disclosure

Faculty for this activity have been required to disclose all relationships with any proprietary entity producing health care goods or services, with the exemption of non-profit or government organizations and non-health care related companies.

No relevant financial relationships with commercial entities were disclosed by Shelly R. Brown (Course Coordinator), Jennifer L. Collinger, Damien Pearse, Gregory Clark, Lana McKenzie, Regina Armstrong, Edward K. Wright, Jr.

The follwing information was disclosed:

  • Michael L. Boninger - Patent: Held by the University of Pittsburgh; Board member: data safety monitoring board of stem cell study
  • Rory A. Cooper - AT Science patent agreements, Three Rivers Holdings, LLC patent agreements
  • J. Peter Rubin - Grant/Research support: Covidien, Lifecell; Advisor: Cohera Medical, Plastic Surgery Channel
  • Thomas Smith - Stockholder: Orthopaedic device start-up company, Orthovative

Disclaimer Statement

The information presented at this CME program represents the views and opinions of the individual presenters, and does not constitute the opinion or endorsement of, or promotion by, the UPMC Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences, UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center or Affiliates and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Reasonable efforts have been taken intending for educational subject matter to be presented in a balanced, unbiased fashion and in compliance with regulatory requirements. However, each program attendee must always use his/her own personal and professional judgment when considering further application of this information, particularly as it may relate to patient diagnostic or treatment decisions including, without limitation, FDA-approved uses and any off-label uses.

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