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Edmund Y. S. Chao

Edmund Chao

M.S., Agricultural Engineering, 1964
Induction year: 2022

Throughout his time at Virginia Tech, Edmund Y. S. Chao split his course work between mechanical and civil engineering. The resulting cross-disciplinary learning and problem-solving skills he obtained from those courses led him to a career in the recently emerged discipline of biomedical engineering. 

“The strong engineering and math training strengthened my ability to solve agricultural problems, which set the foundation for me to go into human mechanics, thus helped create a new discipline bridging mechanics and medicine/surgery,” Chao said.

Throughout his career, Chao has made significant contributions in the basic understanding of musculoskeletal joint mechanics, bone fracture fixation and repair, and artificial joint replacement in the hip, knee, and shoulder.

His diverse academic background led him to secure professorships around the world, including more than a decade teaching at Johns Hopkins University, as well as stints at the National Cheng-Kung University in Taiwan and the University of Osaka in Japan. He earned the title of Docteur Honoris Causa from L’Universite de Rennes I in France in 1989.

Chao’s other professional awards include distinguished alumni awards from the Mayo Clinic Foundation and the University of Iowa. He has also been recognized by the AAOS and Orthopaedic Research and International Lumbar Spine societies. In 1998, Chao was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Chao currently serves as a visiting professor at Xi’an Red Cross Hospital and Yen’an University School of Medicine in China. 

Current town:
Laguna Woods, California

Taipei, Taiwan, China

Degrees from other institutions:
B.S., Agricultural Engineering, National Taiwan University, 1960
Ph.D., Applied Mechanics, University of Iowa, 1971

Professional roles:

  • Visiting Professor, Xi’an Red Cross Hospital, China, 2014-present
  • Visiting Professor, Yen’an University School of Medicine, 2018-present
  • Honorary Chair Professor, National Cheng-Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan, 2012-2013
  • Senior Medical Consultant, Aspen MP Company, 2008-2013
  • Visiting Professor, Department of Orthopedics, University of Osaka, Japan, 1992
  • Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Johns Hopkins University, 1993-2006
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 1993-2006
  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University 1993-2006
  • Vice Chair Research, Department of Orthopedics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, 1980-1993
  • Professor of Bioengineering, Mayo Medical School, 1980-1993
  • Director, Biomechanics Laboratory, Orthopedic Department, Mayo Clinic, 1972-1993
  • Asst. Professor, Department of Mechanics and Hydraulics, University of Iowa, 1971-1974
  • Senior Research Engineer, Research Center, Deere and Company, 1964-1968

Corporate board roles:

  • Member, Board of Trustees, AO Research Institute, Davos, Switzerland

Professional awards:

  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Mayo Clinic Foundation, 2004
  • Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy, 2003
  • Chair Professor of Distinguished Achievements, Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, 2001
  • National Academy of Engineering, 1998
  • Docteur Honoris Causa de L'Universite' de Rennes I. France, 1989
  • Kappa Delta Award, AAOS and Orthopedic Research Society, 1984
  • Volvo Award, International Lumbar Spine Society, 1883

Volunteer roles, boards, or committees:

  • US NIH Study Section Member 1984 -1988
  • US FDA Orthopaedic Devices Panel, Consultant 1982 -1984
  • US FDA Orthopaedic Devices Panel Member 1984 -1987
  • US National Center of Medical Rehabilitation Research Advisory Board member 1992 -1996
  • AO Foundation Research Institute, Board Member, Davos, Switzerland 1995 - 2003
  • NCMRR, NICHD, NIH, Visiting Researcher (part-time) 1999 - 2001
  • Committee on Engineering Education, National Academy of Engineering 1999 - 2002
  • National Health Research Institute, Taiwan, ROC, Council Advisor 1996 - 2002

Volunteer or personal awards:

  • 2003 Distinguished Visiting Professor, National Chung-Gung Universaity, Tainan, Taiwan
  • 2005 Visiting Professor, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • 2006 Honorary Professor, Hong Kong Chinese University
  • 2006 Honorary Guest Professor, Chengdu Hwa-Xi Medical University, China
  • 2006 Honorary Guest Professor, Tian-jin Medical University, China

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech?

MIT of the south and having an agricultural engineering department.

Who influenced you during your career and/or time at Virginia Tech?
Emeritus Professor Floyd Cunningham.

How did you decide what to major in at Virginia Tech?
I was dedicated to agricultural engineering.

What’s one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech?
Working with Professsor Cunningham on various agricultural machinery.

As a Virginia Tech student, did you hold a scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship? If so, what did it provide for you and what was the impact of it on your life?
No, but I worked for Professor Cunningham and he supplied me an hourly stipend.

How have you utilized your Virginia Tech degree in your career?
By mastering problem-solving skills, it was easier to model human and its physiology and function so that not only could we solve problems in medicine and surgery, but also create new knowledge to educate physicians and nurses. At the same time, we faced new problems even for engineers and mathematicians, thus achieved the cross-fertilization effect.

What was the moment in your career that you felt like you made it - that you were really proud of yourself for what you had accomplished?
When I was able to say the last words in clinically oriented meetings and not be heavily criticized by medical professionals.

What advice would you share with your younger self just starting off in your career?
Try to solve problems with efficacy, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. Pay attention to ethics both in engineering and medicine.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
A career in biomedical engineering is very much like an immigrant working in a strange land and with different people. Sometimes, you feel that the physicians think that your work is less important while engineers in traditional disciplines regard the work you do as trivial. This is the feeling of being between a rock and a hard place.

What charitable organizations do you currently support and why?
I have set up small scholarships in Taiwan, several cities in China, and plan to do the same in the United States.

Is there a current college initiative that you are passionate about and would like to see it have success?
Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics lectureship.

Please note: Inductee spotlight is as of their year of their induction.