• Reflections by Morton Friedman

    HISTORY OF THE USNCB, 1997-2000

    I assumed the Chair of the USNCB at the Summer Bioengineering Conference  in Sun River, in June 1997, succeeding Savio Woo. Much of the latter part of the year was spent planning for the 5th Japan-US-Singapore-China (JUSSC) Conference on Biomechanics, to be held in Sendai the following  August. I wrote a successful proposal to NSF seeking travel support for  junior faculty attending the conference.  An early response by the NIH to the increasing importance of biomedical engineering to their mission was the formation of the NIH Bioengineering Consortium (BECON), which hosted a meeting on the Bethesda campus at  the end of February 1998. I gave a presentation at the meeting, along with Y.C. Fung and Savio. In addition to commenting on some trends in biomechanics research and its interaction with the biological sciences, I discussed the role of the USNCB, noting its position at the interface between biology and engineering, and proposed that it be an agent to foster interdisciplinary communication.  The USNCB met immediately after the BECON meeting to discuss its implications for our organization. We agreed to extend our activities beyond our then current portfolio, which consisted of programming at technical meetings, organizing the Pacific Rim Conferences on Biomechanics, and supporting Annals of Biomedical Engineering (ABME) through service on its Editorial Board and by submitting manuscripts for publication. Some of the possibilities we discussed were: increasing  our interaction with the lay community, playing a greater role in policy development, increasing involvement with students and curriculum planning, and expanding our interactions with related disciplines. I summarized the action items we brainstormed in those four categories and sent them to the membership for comment and additions; this led to a  final list which I distributed to the membership in June. With that  list, I suggested that we have a planning meeting to decide on specific  action items and identify lead individuals for each.  The Third World Congress of Biomechanics was held in Sapporo in August 1998. The USNCB was a co-sponsor of the Congress. We met during the Congress to discuss our new initiatives further. In addition, we decided  to extend Savio’s engagement with ABME by organizing topical issues of the journal. The Congress was followed by the 5th JUSSC, in Sendai. In my capacity as Chair of the USNCB, I led the US delegation and delivered one of the plenary talks. All presentations other than the four plenary talks were made in poster sessions, to facilitate more in depth  discussions among the attendees. Half of the US delegation were senior researchers, and the other half were junior faculty.  In October, I attended the Board of Directors meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society at their Fall meeting in Cleveland, where I re-emphasized our interest in supporting ABME and conveyed USNCB’s offer to put together several topical issues. The offer was enthusiastically received. As had become our practice, USNCB again provided programming  support for the Fall meeting.  At the USNCB meeting in Anaheim in November 1998, we identified several categories of themes for topical issues of ABME: a subfield (e.g., cellular mechanics), a tool (e.g., computational mechanics) or a problem (e.g., atherosclerosis). A main purpose of the Anaheim meeting was to  solidify our goals for the planning retreat and to discuss procedures. It was decided to hold the retreat at the Chicago/O’Hare airport on February 28-29, 1999. The specific objectives of the retreat were to:  develop a consensus set of goals for the USNCB to achieve over the next five to ten years; identify specific activities to meet these goals and  the steps needed to initiate them, including the creation of responsible subcommittees; and identify changes in the structure, membership and operations of USNCB that would facilitate the achievement of these goals.  The planning retreat was held as planned in February 1999. Four primary goals for 2005 were identified: 

     

    • Teaching tools: By 2005, numerous and varied teaching tools in biomechanics will be available for engineers and non‑engineers.
    • Status with respect to neighboring disciplines:  By 2005, the field of biomechanics will have peer status with respect  to, and significant scientific exchange with, "neighboring" life science  and clinical disciplines.
    • Interaction with industry:  By 2005, we will have enhanced significantly and broadly the  interaction between the biomechanics community we represent, and the  relevant industry.
    • Societal understanding and appreciation:  By 2005, society at large will have a much greater understanding of  biomechanics and will appreciate its contributions to the solution of  societal problems.

    The process of creating subcommittees  responsible for identifying specific steps to achieve each goal was  begun. The chairs of the four subcommittees, in order of the goals as listed above, were Bob Spilker, Geert Schmid-Schonbein, Albert King and Dave Butler.  The 1999 Summer Bioengineering Conference was held in Big Sky, in June. A great event was the birthday symposium organized for Y.C. Fung by Savio  Woo. The goals identified at the retreat were reviewed at the  accompanying USNCB meeting. After discussion of the implications of the new goals, Vice-Chair Bob Spilker volunteered to prepare a revised statement of the purpose of the USNCB. The four subcommittees were charged to develop action plans, including initial steps and resource requirements, for membership review and discussion at the next meeting of the USNCB, to be held in Nashville in November. Planning was initiated for the next Pacific Rim Conference, with Bob Spilker taking  the lead.  The USNCB met for the last time under my leadership in Washington DC, in March 2000. The four subcommittees reported on their activities. Three symposium issues for ABME were identified. I was charged to edit one on Biomechanical Approaches to Atherosclerosis, which constituted the April 2002 issue of the journal. The path going forward had been defined and I hope the USNCB of today is better for our having done so.