$10 Million Gift Boosts Biomedical Engineering

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A name often associated with a device that has revolutionized stroke-prevention therapy will soon also be associated with the University of Florida’s College of Engineering.

St. Petersburg inventor, surgeon and entrepreneur J. Crayton Pruitt Sr. has committed $10 million to UF for its department of biomedical engineering. As a result of the gift, university officials will name the department in honor of the Pruitt family, making it the first-ever named department at UF.

Pruitt’s gift is eligible for matching funds from the state of Florida Major Gift Trust Fund, which could result in a $20 million endowment for the newly named J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“Dr. Pruitt and his family are helping to make a major statement regarding the future of biomedical engineering in the state of Florida,” UF President Bernie Machen said.

Biomedical engineering plays a crucial role in modern medicine. Often described as the fusion of engineering with medicine, research initiatives typically focus on discovering materials and inventing techniques, technologies and devices for improving health care.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering at UF currently has nine faculty members, dozens of researchers and more than 75 graduate students. Research expenditures last year approached $2 million.

“It is because of Dr. Pruitt’s generosity and vision that we are able to ensure the future of the biomedical engineering department,” said College of Engineering Dean Pramod P. Khargonekar.

Pruitt, 74, pioneered the surgical treatment of carotid artery arteriosclerosis for the prevention of stroke. Among his many inventions is the Pruitt-Inahara Carotid Shunt, which is frequently used during a delicate surgical procedure to clean out the arteries that carry blood to the brain.

In 1995, he received a life-saving heart transplant at Shands at the University of Florida. A biventricular assist device kept him alive for 10 days while he waited for a heart.

Chris Brazda