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U-M International Center for Automotive Medicine enters new era

Ribbon-cutting event for new facility marks new capabilities and research emphasis

The University of Michigan International Center for Automotive medicine this week marked the beginning of new capabilities and new collaborative research combining trauma medicine, state-of-the-art computer analysis and automotive engineering.

In remarks before a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 6, James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean of the U-M Medical School and Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine, praised the “incredible community of experts” from across many disciplines who have been working together toward a single purpose – to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes.




The center’s founder and director Stewart Wang, M.D., Ph.D., has been holding monthly crash reviews for automotive engineers and medical professionals since 1998. But the event marks the location of new ICAM facilities in close proximity to additional training and research resources at the U-M Medical School and hospital campus.

“In our many years of research, here’s what we know is important,” says Wang, who is also director of the U-M Burn Center. “The vehicle is important. The restraints are important. But the occupant is the most important.

“Our mission is to better understand, treat and prevent crash injuries. And to really understand injuries requires doctors and engineers working together in equal partnership,” he adds.

Michael W. Mulholland, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Surgery and Frederick A. Coller Distinguished Professor of Surgery, notes that the coalescence of the research group into ICAM in 2010 and move into the new facilities in 2011 was more than a decade in the making.

“It took the realization that this is not solely a medical problem nor an automotive problem,” Mulholland says.

The $800,000 renovation to the Medical Science Unit 1 building includes office space for automotive engineers undertaking an innovative medical fellowship to help them better understand the human side of crashes, and webcasting abilities, which will allow participation in case reviews from around the globe.

The center is funded from a variety of sources, including educational programs, such as the fellowship program for automotive safety professionals and sponsored research programs. Sponsors have included the National Institutes of Health, Michigan Department of Transportation, the American College of Surgeons and the automotive industry.

So far the center has processed more than 11,000 CT scans (X-ray computed tomography) -- nearly one third from crash victims -- using powerful computer algorithms similar to those used to decode the human genome. They provide an unparalleled, three-dimensional encyclopedia of what crashes do to the human body. In the coming months, that number will approach 25,000 scans, Wang says.

The data reveal how different types of crashes affect people differently, Wang told the assembled crowd of medical professionals, automotive industry representatives and government officials at the ribbon-cutting event.

The information will be available to create computerized crash-test models that will be adjustable by age, stature and gender, which will allow automakers to design safety features for a wider variety of people.

ICAM also hosts, an online crash response training resource for law enforcement, emergency medical services and medical personnel on how to most effectively use the crash information being sent by vehicle Automated Crash Notification systems like OnStar.

After Wang’s presentation, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, a panelist at the event, lauded the research for bringing together two of the state’s biggest strengths, automotive and medical expertise. Dingell told Wang that one of the most important things he could do was “let people know what you’re doing.”

The panel also included Adrian Lund, Ph.D., president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute; Robert Lange, M.S., a nationally recognized crash safety expert and Group VP at the consulting firm Exponent; and James Vondale, J.D., director of the Automotive Safety Office, Environmental and Safety Engineering at Ford Motor Company.

“Our goal is to turn data into knowledge and knowledge into actionable science,” says Wang.

Learn more about the U-M International Center for Automotive Medicine visit:

Read more about U-M’s efforts to reduce crash related injuries and death at:

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