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Gov. DeWine sees the future of innovation on display at Ohio State

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SRI Director William Marras, PhD, (right) discusses research innovation with Gov. Mike DeWine, President Kristina M Johnson and Dean Ayanna Howard

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine got a firsthand look this week at the present and future of engineering research at The Ohio State University.

The governor and first lady Fran DeWine joined President Kristina M. Johnson for a visit to Assistive Technology of Ohio (AT Ohio) and the Spine Research Institute.

AT Ohio is a federally funded nonprofit organization housed in the College of Engineering. The program offers a device lending library for persons with disabilities, and their families, to borrow assistive technology and use it at home, work or school – allowing them to make sure the technology serves their needs before they purchase it.

“All of our programs are focused on the types of technology that help people with disabilities,” said Bill Darling, director of AT Ohio.

Darling demonstrated some of the devices that the library offers, including tools that help people communicate, navigate if their vision is impaired, and learn if they have an educational disability. Darling introduced the governor and Johnson to Brad Whitmoyer, a Lewis Center resident who uses mobility and communication devices provided by AT Ohio.

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First lady Fran DeWine and Gov Mike DeWine join President Kristina M Johnson on a tour of AT Ohio

“Assistive Technology of Ohio is a hidden jewel at Ohio State,” DeWine said. “What they do can transform people’s lives.”

DeWine and Johnson also joined Ayanna Howard, dean of the College of Engineering, to visit students, faculty and staff and observe demonstrations at the Spine Research Institute (SRI). The institute fosters the work of multidisciplinary teams of researchers from the College of Engineering, College of Medicine and Wexner Medical Center to study, treat and prevent spinal disorders.

Supporting and growing convergent research at Ohio State is a priority for Johnson. The university’s recently announced Presidential Research Excellence Fund fuels emergent and convergent research that supports national scientific, medical and engineering priorities.

SRI director William Marras noted that spinal disorders are the No. 1 reason people miss work and the No. 2 ailment for which opiates are prescribed. The health care costs to treat spinal disorders exceed $100 billion a year, he said.

Marras and members of the SRI research team demonstrated wearable technology that analyzes how people with spinal injuries walk, move and work. The technology illustrates the stress different tasks can have on the spine and the muscles around it.

SRI team members also highlighted the collaboration with the Comprehensive Cancer Center to apply engineering principles to better understand the effects that cancer and cancer treatments can have on the spine. 

The institute has a 35-year relationship with the state to provide research and expertise to the Bureau of Workers Compensation, helping employees recover from spinal injuries and return to work.

Howard said SRI highlights the importance of engineering research to improve lives.

“Ohio State engineers are pursuing solutions at many intersections, perhaps none more important than those involving health care. In collaborating with other disciplines and point-of-care experts, engineers can help solve complex problems like chronic back pain with data-driven analysis, artificial intelligence and the fundamental principles of devices and design,” she said.

Both AT Ohio and SRI are success stories that demonstrate how the state can continue to grow and remain vibrant, DeWine said.

“This is something that I think President Johnson is very focused on – not only increasing the research at Ohio State, but making sure that research flows out into the community,” he said. “There’s this vision of Ohio, that this is the go-to place for technology and the go-to place for medical technology.

“We have all the pieces here already. We just have to continue to push and focus. What we’re seeing [at Ohio State] is just one more example of that.”

by Chris Booker, Ohio State News

Category: Faculty