Michael J. Yaszemski, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon and researcher, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Selection is one of the highest honors in medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
Dr. Yaszemski is one of two Mayo Clinic physicians to be elected this year. Andrea Cheville, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation researcher and director of the Cancer Rehabilitation Program at Mayo Clinic also was selected.
“To have colleagues from distinct practice areas recognized in the same year is an incredible honor for them individually and for Mayo Clinic as a whole,” says John Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo Clinic. “Such recognition underscores the commitment of our physician-scientists in advancing research to address unmet patient needs, educating the next generation of physicians and scientists, and providing unparalleled care for patients and their families.”
Dr. Yaszemski has a spine surgery practice at Mayo Clinic and routinely cares for patients who have skeletal defects that require reconstruction. His clinical practice includes spinal surgery and oncologic surgery of the spine, sacrum and pelvis.
“Dr. Yaszemski is known as a strong clinical collaborator and he has built a differentiated surgical practice at Mayo Clinic. His team approach to complex spine surgery often includes colleagues in neurosurgery and is exemplary in the singular focus on the needs of the patient,” says Mark W. Pagnano, M.D., chair, Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic. “Dr. Yaszemski’s surgical contributions and research advances continue to make a difference, not just for patients at Mayo Clinic but for patients nationwide and patients worldwide. His surgical skills are well-recognized amongst the nation’s spine surgeons.”
Dr. Yaszemski is the director of the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Laboratory. His research is in the development of biodegradable scaffold polymers to support bone regeneration and spinal cord regeneration using tissue engineering strategies. He is a deputy director within Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine. His research focus areas include:
Dr. Yaszemski's long-term research goal is to change the way that many common debilitating, life-threatening musculoskeletal conditions are treated. The use of biodegradable polymers in bone tissue engineering will be significant to patients with spine instability or spinal cord injuries.
“Dr. Yaszemski’s achievements reflect his commitment to provide healing for patients with extremely complex conditions,” Dr. Noseworthy says. “His service and dedication to patients, and moreover our country is extraordinary.”
He is a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He earned his medical degree at Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed orthopedic surgery residency at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He performed fellowship training in spine surgery and orthopedic oncology at Harvard Medical School while on active duty as an Air Force Institute of Technology student. He completed a doctorate degree in chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Lehigh University. He is a member of the Lehigh University Board of Trustees.
Dr. Yaszemski has received numerous awards during his career. In 2013, he received the William W. Tipton, Jr. M.D. Leadership Award, the highest award given annually by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He was named the John and Posy Krehbiel Endowed Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, honoring Bernard F. Morrey, M.D., emeritus chair of the Department of Orthopedics at Mayo Clinic.
He organized and served as the first chair of the musculoskeletal tissue engineering study section at the National Institutes of Health and served as a member of the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. He begins a four-year term of service on the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in January 2017. He is deputy editor of the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research-Part A. He chaired the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Devices Advisory panel and is a member of the FDA Science Board.
Dr. Yaszemski is a member of Mayo Clinic’s M.D./Ph.D. Committee. He has mentored more than 200 Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. students, spine surgery and musculoskeletal oncology clinical fellows, medical students, undergraduate students, international visiting predoctoral students, visiting scientists and postdoctoral research fellows. He is a member of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery’s Education Committee.
Other physician-researchers who have been elected to the academy while at Mayo Clinic include: Clifford Jack, M.D. (2013), Richard Ehman, M.D. (2010), Denis Cortese, M.D. (2005), Andrew Engel, M.D. (2003), and the late Thoralf M. Sundt, M.D. (1991). The National Academy of Medicine has about 1,800 active members.