National Institutes of Health

Honors Pour in for Leading UConn Surgeon-Scientist

Dr. Cato Laurencin


On the heels of UConn announcing The HEAL Project, an international grand research challenge aimed at regenerating an entire human limb, Dr. Cato T. Laurencin has learned in recent months that he’d be honored this year by several prestigious organizations and even the president of the United States.

UConn revealed on Veterans Day its plan to regenerate a human knee within seven years and an entire limb in 15. HEAL – Hartford Engineering A Limb – was the brainchild of Laurencin, whose laboratory research successes include the growth of bone and knee ligaments. Laurencin is a leading surgeon-scientist in orthopaedic surgery, engineering, and materials science, and a pioneer in the field of regenerative engineering.

Laurencin’s HEAL project aims to regenerate a human knee within seven years, and an entire human limb in 15 years.

The project is supported by Laurencin’s recent $4 million Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health, as well as his grant award from the National Science Foundation for Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation. Important support also comes from The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences at UConn Health, which Laurencin founded and directs.

“The launch of the HEAL Project is a transformative moment for science and medicine,” said Laurencin in November. “This is the first international effort ever for knee and limb engineering.”

In early December, it was announced that Laurencin would receive the 2016 Founders Award, the highest honor from The Society of Biomaterials. He will be honored for his landmark and long-term contributions to the field of biomaterials science at the 2016 World Biomaterials Congress in Montreal, Canada on May 18. At that same meeting, the Society for Biomaterials will introduce the Cato T. Laurencin, MD, Ph.D. Travel Fellowship, an endowed fellowship named in Laurencin’s honor.

A few weeks later, the White House said Laurencin would receive a National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement that is bestowed by the president on America’s leading innovators. This was the third time Laurencin received White House honors.

“I am honored to be receiving the highest award in our nation for innovative technological achievement and scientific excellence from our great country,” said Laurencin. “Receiving the Medal of Technology and Innovation is a tribute to the hard work that has taken place by our great team over the past 25 years. It inspires me to keep working hard to advance science breakthroughs in regenerative engineering for future therapies for my patients.”

And in the same month, Laurencin was named a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. An election for life, Laurencin carries the title of Academician in China.

Laurencin is the eighth professor in UConn history to earn the highest faculty title, University Professor. He is also the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UConn Health, and the founder of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. Laurencin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Naomi Rothfield: A Half-Century of Progress at UConn Health

Dr. Naomi Rothfield (front, center in both photos) is pictured with a group of rheumatology fellows in 1976, at left, and among the UConn Health doctors named to Connecticut Magazine's 2012 Top Docs list,  at right.

Dr. Naomi Rothfield (front, center in both photos) is pictured with a group of rheumatology fellows in 1976, at left, and among the UConn Health doctors named to Connecticut Magazine’s 2012 Top Docs list, at right.


When Dr. Naomi Rothfield arrived at the new University of Connecticut School of Medicine in summer 1968 as a young rheumatologist, UConn Health’s Farmington campus did not yet exist. The autoimmune diseases she studied and treated, like lupus and scleroderma, were often fatal within two years of diagnosis. She had gone through medical school at New York University in a class with only six women and 125 men.

In the nearly 50 years since Rothfield was hired as a founding faculty member of the medical school, much has changed. UConn Health’s physical presence includes several state-of-the-art new buildings on the 106-acre Farmington site, as well as clinics throughout the state. Lupus and scleroderma are no longer death sentences, but treatable illnesses (Rothfield still sees a lupus patient who first came to her in 1966). And today, women make up just about half of medical school students nationwide.

Dr. Naomi Rothfield built from the ground up UConn’s Division of Rheumatic Diseases as its chief from 1973 to 1999, training dozens of leading rheumatologists worldwide.

But it wasn’t just the changes around her that made her career monumental — it was the changes Rothfield, 87, effected herself before her retirement this March.

“Dr. Rothfield is a legend in the field of medicine,” says Dr. Augustus D. Mazzocca, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and director of the Musculoskeletal Institute at UConn Health. “She is a pioneer who always put patients and education before all else, an example for all people involved in health care.”

Despite numerous honors and achievements, the ever-modest Rothfield doesn’t see it that way. But just let her CV speak for her: She built from the ground up UConn’s Division of Rheumatic Diseases as its chief from 1973 to 1999, training dozens of leading rheumatologists worldwide (she does admit that’s her proudest accomplishment). She brought in millions in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health to conduct trailblazing research in her field, deepening the understanding of rheumatic diseases through over 150 published papers and 40 book chapters. And in the 1970s, she fought for equal pay for women at the University.

Her love for teaching and interacting with her longtime patients kept her going for so many years, she says. But now it’s time to visit her four children and six grandchildren, exercise, and travel with her husband, Dr. Lawrence Rothfield.

“I stayed at UConn because I was happy here,” Rothfield says. “It’s time to retire and enjoy myself. I have a few other things I want to do.”


Dr. Rothfield reflects on her career.