The Rice University Department of Bioengineering is honoring J. David Hellums, the A.J. Hartsook Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, through the David Hellums Memorial Fund in Bioengineering.
Hellums joined Rice as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in 1960, after serving three years in the U.S. Air Force as a statistical services officer and three years as a process engineer for Mobil Oil Co. Within a couple of years into his Rice appointment, he was recruited to apply his knowledge of engineering fundamentals to seek solutions to the bleeding and clotting problems associated with cardiovascular prostheses and the first successful implantation of a left-ventricular bypass pump by Dr. Michael E. DeBakey.
By 1968, Hellums’ engineering efforts brought unprecedented dimensional insight to clinical applications in hemostasis and thrombosis. He established highly successful collaborative research projects in hematology between Rice engineers and a group of physician-scientists at Baylor College of Medicine.
His longstanding collaborators in hematological research and medicine included physicians Clarence Alfrey, Jr., Edward Lynch, Clarence (Buck) Brown III, and Joel Moake. Their work involved in-depth studies into the mechanical, chemical and molecular basis of thrombus-linked risk factors, including the disruption of blood flow, platelet dysfunction and activation, inflammation, and blood hypercoagulability.
These collaborative efforts transformed medicine and reduced the risk for heart attack and stroke.
The work credited Hellums as the first engineer to receive a Merit Research Award from the National Institutes of Health, a 10-year grant that was extended twice for a total of 20 years of funding. Research and education under Hellums’ direction and his pioneering efforts to unite expertise between investigators at Rice and physicians at the Texas Medical Center was the genesis of what bioengineering is at Rice today. He is a founder of the Bioengineering Department, and former dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering.
Hellums was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1998. He was a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a founding fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society.