SEAS Alumnus a Leader in Biomedical Innovation

Rodolfo “Rudy” Rodriguez, SEAS MS ’69, graduated from the University of Miami in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and just a few years later he found himself doing biomedical research after being drafted into a special Armed Forces program for engineers and scientists.

When he left the service two years later, he still had doubts about the then-nascent biomedical engineering field and thought he might rather be a doctor. On a visit to GW’s medical school, he happened to run into Dr. Marvin Eisenberg, a young engineering professor who was setting up a new program in medical engineering. Rudy questioned him and got an answer that has stayed with him throughout his entire career.

“He said, ‘No, you are in the perfect field. Most of the advances in medicine are going to be in engineering. You will be able to help thousands of people at one time, not two or three at a time as a doctor does.’ He said, ‘Come to GW and we will give you. the tools,’” Rudy recalls. “And, of course, he was absolutely right. That guy changed my life. If I hadn’t run into him I would have gone into medical school.”

Rudy completed a master’s degree with a biomedical engineering emphasis at GW in 1969, and as it turns out, he has been able to help millions of people. Over the course of his career at Baxter International, Beckman Coulter, and Becton Dickinson, Rudy co-invented or managed the development of several products that have changed the way health care is practiced in the U.S.

Fenwal CS3000™ Cell Separator, for example, draws blood directly from donors, separates the platelets from whole blood, and returns the remaining blood components to the donor. Also successful was QBC™ Centrifugal Hematology System for human blood analysis, and a re-engineered version of it for cats, dogs, and horses.

Rudy retired in 2001 and formed his own company, Advanced Animal Diagnostics, which started with the QScout™ Farm Lab, a rapid diagnostics technology to detect mastitis, an infection of the milk producing gland in cows that costs the milk producer industry $2-3 billion per year. The technology is now being used in dairy farms across the U.S. to detect mastitis at a very early stage so it can be isolated and treated quickly.

Rudy is especially interested in curtailing the use of on-farm antibiotics. Since farmers normally don’t know which animals are sick, they commonly give antibiotics to all the animals as a preventive measure. However, bacteria quickly become resistant to antibiotics, and with a large percentage of antibiotics being used preventively, rather than selectively, on farm animals, this is quickly speeding up the creation of resistant bacteria, leaving both humans and animals at grave risk in the future of having few effective antibiotics available to treat even common infections. Rudy believes on-farm diagnostics will reduce the use of antibiotics in farming by allowing farmers to test animals for diseases and then give antibiotics only to sick animals. “We want to make a difference in animal health,” he concludes. It seems he is on his way to doing that.

Rudy was honored at the 2017 GW Distinguished Alumni Awards event on October 19.

This article originally appeared in Synergy magazine.

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