Dr. James Ashton-Miller will be inaugurated as the Albert Schultz Collegiate Research Professor at the University of Michigan’s Annual Faculty Awards ceremony Tuesday, October 9, 2007. This prestigious honor simultaneously recognizes the lasting contributions of Professor James Ashton-Miller and his legendary mentor, Emeritus Professor Albert Shultz, to the field of biomechanics.
Albert B. Schultz, was the Vennema Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and a Research Scientist at the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He served as the Chair of the Bioengineering Division of ASME; was one of the five Founders and a past President of the American Society of Biomechanics; became the first non-M.D. to serve as President of the International Society for the Study of Lumbar Spine; and was a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Professor Schultz was an extraordinary educator and widely-sought lecturer nationally and internationally. Over his career, Schultz advised (or co-advised) 28 doctoral students. Many of his doctoral students hold academic positions, and several have reached national prominence in the field of Biomechanics. He authored or co-authored over 115 full length technical papers and 5 book chapters. In 1990, Dr. Schultz won the H.R. Lissner Award from ASME, the highest honor for research in biomechanics, for his “contribution to understanding the biomechanics of the spine, the treatment of scoliosis and lower back pain, and the biomechanics of falls in the elderly”. In 1993, he was inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.
In 1983, Schultz and his close collaborator Dr. James Ashton-Miller were recruited to the University of Michigan from the University of Illinois. Schultz became the Founding Director of the Biomechanics Research Laboratory (BMRL) in the College of Engineering, where he mentored Ashton-Miller from 1983-1999. In the late 1980s, Dr. Schultz and Ashton-Miller were among the first biomechanicians to become interested in the mobility problems of the nation’s rapidly-growing population of elderly. Pioneering theoretical and experimental research on balance and the causes of falls in the elderly led Dr. Schultz and Ashton-Miller to initiate collaborative relationships with eight different departments in the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, the School of Dentistry, the Division of Kinesiology, the Institute of Gerontology, and the Institute of Social Research.
As the current BMRL Director, Ashton-Miller has risen to become a national and international leader in the field of biomechanics. He brings his ingenuity and engineering expertise to a range of clinical problems. He has graduated more doctoral students (17) than any other Research Professor in the College of Engineering. Roughly half of his doctoral students have gone on to accept academic positions and two of his students are Department Chairs. He has authored or co-authored 149 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals with high impact factors and 14 book chapters. His research on the prevention of injuries and disabilities has made exceptional contributions to our understanding of human spinal disorders, mobility problems of older adults, women’s health issues and orthopedic sports medicine. In a landmark experiment, he has shown that although age affects neural reaction time, that change is minor compared to delays caused by age-related slowing in muscle contractility and changes in muscle strength. Dr. Ashton-Miller and a colleague rediscovered and recognized the functional significance of the Hofmann ligaments, first described by Hofmann in 1898 and forgotten for a century. Prior to their rediscovery, the ligaments were being labeled by surgeons as “adhesions.” Ashton-Miller has also led a research team on the biomechanics of female pelvic floor function, and has invented devices to measure pelvic floor muscle strength and methods to quantify and treat stress incontinence. Working closely with colleagues in gynecology, his students have developed the world’s first three-dimensional computer model of the pelvic floor in order to study the causes of birth-related injuries.
Ashton-Miller has volunteered his time in providing sustained service to the University at the departmental, college and institutional levels, including the ME Advisory and BME Executive committees and the Medical School’s Biomedical Research Council. He currently chairs the OVPR Conflict of Interest committee. He was instrumental in providing the vision for the new Sport Injury Prevention Center to which Fred Wilpon donated $5 million. He is a Fellow of the American Medical and Biological Institute of Engineers and the Gerontological Society of America. He served as President of the American Society of Biomechanics in 2001, and is currently serving as Chair for the 2008 North American Congress on Biomechanics. He has consulted pro bono to the National Research Council and, since 1999, to the National Collegiate Athletic Association on the Blue Ribbon Baseball Research Panel that set new technical standards for metal baseball bat performance in order to reduce struck-ball injury risk.