Michael L. Boninger, M.D., professor and chair, department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and director, UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh was elected to the Institute of Medicine(IOM) during its 42nd annual meeting. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
New members are elected by current active members through a selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health. IOM's charter ensures diversity of talent among the Institute's membership by requiring at least one-quarter of the members to be selected from fields outside the health professions, such as engineering, social sciences, law, and the humanities. The newly elected members raise IOM's total active membership to 1,732 and the number of foreign associates to 112. With an additional 84 members holding emeritus status, IOM's total membership is 1,928.
Dr. Boninger’s research efforts focus on technologies to improve the lives of individuals with spinal cord injury and other disabilities. His team’s wheelchair work primarily conducted at Pittsburgh's Human Engineering Research Laboratories, where he is the medical director, has led to patents for devices used throughout the world. In addition, his team discovered a link between how a person propels a manual wheelchair and their risk of injuries, such as rotator cuff tears. This discovery led to clinical practice guidelines that have become the standard of care. Dr. Boninger led the development of these guidelines in conjunction with a team of renowned clinicians and with the support of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Dr. Boninger has made other substantial contributions in the broad area of assistive technology. Recent work conducted in part at the National Veterans Wheel Chair Games has been in the field of brain computer interfaces, where he is part of a team that is enabling people with spinal cord injury to control devices through thought. He prides himself in being a teacher and mentor, and has funding and publications related to teaching research. Dr. Boninger, who earned his engineering and medical degrees at Ohio State University before completing his residency at the University of Michigan, joined the Pittburgh faculty in 1993 as an instructor in what was then the Division of PM&R – now a department that he chairs.