About Dr. Yaszemski


Dr. Yaszemski is a Professor of Orthopaedics and Bioengineering at the Mayo Clinic, and the Director of the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Laboratory. He received bachelors and masters degrees in chemical engineering from Lehigh University. He received his doctorate of medicine degree from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT. His clinical practice encompasses spinal surgery and sacropelvic tumor surgery. His research interests are in the synthesis and characterization of novel degradable polymers for use in bone regeneration, spinal cord regeneration via tissue engineering strategies, and controlled local drug delivery to musculoskeletal tumors.

The use of biodegradable polymers which stimulate osteoblast transportation and function has major implications for spine stabilization. The use of these polymers may reduce or eliminate the long term use of spine instrumentation for stabilization. This would be particularly important in patients with chronic spine infections, especially those involving spine hardware used for spine instability or spinal cord injuries. Research in this area could fundamentally change the manner in which these problems are currently managed. Even more intriguing is the possibility that the use of degradable scaffold polymers may facilitate or stimulate axonal regeneration in spinal cord injuries. Biodegradable polymers may also have a major impact on the management of chronic nonunion of bone fractures. Current therapy often requires the use of bone grafts, internal or external instrumentation, long periods of hospitalization, the risk of infection, and major morbidity and mortality. The use of biodegradable polymers in these patients could significantly enhance fracture healing and reduce the need for hardware instrumentation. Infections which involve hardware are among the most serious complications of orthopedic surgery.

The long term potential impact of our research is enormous and could fundamentally change the way many common debilitating, life-threatening orthopedic conditions are treated. The results of our research could revolutionize a number of orthopedic and neurosurgical procedures that have been used for decades. Perhaps of even greater long term significance is the suggestion that the use of biodegradable scaffold polymers may stimulate axonal regeneration in patients with spinal cord injuries.

Photo of Brig. Gen. (Sel) MICHAEL J. YASZEMSKI (DR.).



Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Michael J. Yaszemski is the mobilization assistant to the Assistant Surgeon General for Health Care Operations, Washington, D.C.

The general was commissioned as a second lieutenant on August 18, 1979 in the Air Force Reserve through the Health Professions Scholarship Program. He entered active duty as a Captain upon graduation from medical school in 1983.

General Yaszemski completed residency training in Orthopaedic Surgery on active duty at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, Texas, in 1989. He completed fellowship training in spine surgery at Harvard medical school in 1991, while on active duty as an Air Force Institute of Technology student. He completed a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at M.I.T. as an AFIT student. He received board certification in Orthopaedic Surgery in 1993, and accomplished recertification in 2003. He has served as Chief, Flight Medicine, at Kelly AFB, Texas. He has also served as Chief, Spine Surgery, Director, Orthopaedic Research, and Director, Hyperbaric Medicine, at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center from 1991-1996.

He entered active duty as a Captain upon graduation from medical school in 1983. In his latest deployment he served as Deputy Commander, 332nd Medical Group at the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq from July-September 2006. Dr. Yaszemski was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General on February 7, 2008.

"I feel that it is important for us to contribute our service to our country, and in the case of one among our Mayo staff traveling to Iraq, that service is also being provided by our partners at Mayo, who are doing the same amount of work with one less person."