Biography — Gary Karlin Michelson, M.D.

Childhood

Gary Michelson was born on January 14, 1949, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of four brothers, he was raised by his mother and grandmother, the latter of whom suffered from a debilitating spinal condition. His experiences with his grandmother would imbue within him a lifelong passion for helping those in need.

Education

Gary Michelson left home at 17 to pursue his medical career. Often working two jobs at a time, he worked tirelessly to put himself through college and then medical school. He completed his undergraduate work at Temple University and then enrolled at Hahnemann Medical College (now Drexel University) to complete his training.

While a third-year med student, Gary was asked to remove healthy organs from living dogs as part of a mandatory but medically unnecessary “dog lab.” He made it very clear that he would have no part in such cruel and inhumane exercises, and his standing at the university was jeopardized as a result.

Fortunately, before the school could expel him, he succeeded in inventing a state-of-the-art surgery that allowed him to transplant a rib bone into the deformed leg of a young girl. The surgery saved the girl from amputation, and it likely saved young Gary from expulsion. [1]

He completed his residency in orthopedic surgery shortly thereafter. He then went on to complete a fellowship in spinal surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center. This fellowship was a joint program of Texas Medical Center and Baylor University. [2]

Innovations

Dr. Gary Michelson holds a number of distinguished positions, including:

  • Diplomat of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
  • Board-Certified Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon

In these and other capacities, Dr. Michelson has helped to improve the lives of millions of people living with debilitating spinal conditions.

In large part, his work was inspired by his discontent with the widespread ineffectiveness of common spinal procedures. Having been raised by a loving grandmother who suffered every day of her life due to a lack of medical innovations, he wanted to make a difference in the field of spinal surgery.

With that in mind, he dedicated 20 years of his life to developing state-of-the-art procedures, implants, and tools that would revolutionize the work of spinal surgeons, enabling them to treat and cure patients with infinitely greater success. The devices, instruments, and methods developed by Dr. Michelson have advanced spinal procedures the world over, making them safer, less invasive, more effective, and more affordable.

His broad range of innovations have come to be known under the umbrella term of Michelson Technology and are now being used in hospitals across the world. These procedures and tools now allow orthopedic surgeons and other medical professionals to treat spinal cord ailments with less pain, reduced blood loss, and much quicker recovery times. The Michelson guidelines are so effective that many spinal treatments are now able to be administered on an outpatient basis.

These treatments have a consistently high success rate, and patients are able to return to their normal activities in record time. Michelson Technology is now the dominant means of spinal treatment throughout the world, used for both common and debilitating disorders. [3]

Dr. Gary Michelson holds over 340 U.S. patents and maintains more than 950 issued or pending patent applications across the world. His unwavering commitment to technological innovation has made him the medical industry’s most influential inventor, and his innovations have forever changed the face of spinal surgery. [4]

Philanthropy

Though no longer in private practice, Dr. Michelson remains passionate about helping those in need. His considerable success as an inventor has enabled him to invest heavily in philanthropic causes about which he is passionate. Recognized as a top-net-worth individual by Forbes, Gary Michelson continues to dedicate considerable time and funds to animal welfare, medical research, technology, and education.

Michelson Medical Research Foundation

Dr. Gary Michelson established and independently funded the Michelson Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) to address some of the world’s most formidable challenges. The foundation invests in the kind of groundbreaking, state-of-the-art medical research that’s often considered too avant-garde to receive government funding. Through these efforts, Dr. Michelson remains committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable populations, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to lead a productive, healthy life, regardless of the challenges they have faced. [8]

The MMRF supports a number of organizations that are involved with important research and advocacy. One example is the Sabin Vaccine Institute, an organization committed to expanding global vaccine access. Dr. Michelson is the largest private underwriter of the institute’s important work. His investments through the Michelson Fund for NTDs Global Awareness have helped to promote greater awareness of neglected tropical diseases and have allowed for improved programs and research. The ongoing Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative has been especially instrumental in supporting research to combat parasitic worms. These parasites afflict over a billion of the world’s poorest individuals, and Dr. Michelson’s philanthropy has led to new vaccines as well as solutions for preclinical development and clinical testing. [9,10]

His life’s work found a permanent home in 2014. That’s when he and his wife, Alya, donated 50 million dollars to the University of Southern California to finance the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. Officially opened in 2017, this one-of-a-kind research stronghold was established with the goal of promoting “research for humanity’s sake.” All of the research conducted at the facility is goal-oriented and designed to promote real-time medical and technological breakthroughs. [11, 12, 13, 14]

Other Non-Profit Foundations

Dr. Gary Michelson also oversees a number of other nonprofit organizations committed to making a difference in the world. The 20 Million Minds Foundation (20MMF) is committed to providing affordable digital textbooks and effecting meaningful change in education. The Found Animals Foundation (FAF) is dedicated to preventing unnecessary animal euthanasia. The Michelson Prize & Grants is committed to researching and developing less invasive spay and neuter solutions for cats and dogs. Finally, Adopt & Shop provides pet adoptions and services in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Gary Michelson has donated more than $200 million to these worthwhile causes so far.

Giving Pledge

As highlighted by Forbes, Gary Michelson added his name to The Giving Pledge in 2016. This initiative, spearheaded by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, is aimed at encouraging affluent individuals to donate their wealth to important causes. [17, 18, 19] Dr. Michelson signed the pledge at the annual STEM symposium of Brentwood’s ARCHER School for Girls. At the event, he delivered a heartfelt keynote speech that stressed the importance of innovation. [19]

Awards & Honors

Dr. Gary Michelson is one of a select few individuals to be inducted into both the National Academy of Inventors and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. [5, 6]

In addition, he is a recipient of both the Albert B Sabin Humanitarian Award and the B’nai B’rith International Distinguished Achievement Award. The former was in recognition of his sizable contributions toward neglected tropical diseases vaccine research, and the latter was in recognition of his tireless philanthropic and humanitarian commitments. [15, 16]

In 2017, USC recognized Dr. Michelson’s contributions with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He received this honor at the university’s 134th Commencement Ceremony, alongside cinema icons Will Ferrell and Dame Helen Mirren.

These achievements further reinforce why Dr. Michelson is recognized as one of the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

America Invents Act

Dr. Gary Michelson was instrumental in helping to establish the America Invents Act of 2011. Collaborating with other distinguished minds on behalf of independent inventors everywhere, Dr. Michelson helped to shape the initiative and inspire much-needed patent reform. Dr. Michelson was even invited by President Barack Obama to attend the signing of this landmark legislation. [7]

Competition Toward Innovation

As an ardent believer in the power of competition toward innovation, Dr. Michelson continues to promote and support entrepreneurial competitions at business schools nationwide. [21, 22]

Though Dr. Gary Michelson has been responsible for monumental advancements in the field of orthopedic spinal surgery, his philanthropic efforts represent the true cornerstone of his legacy. He is distinguished by his tirelessly leadership, generous funding, and uncanny ability to identify and solve problems in collaboration with other great minds. These efforts have made—and continue to make—all the difference.

Gary K. Michelson; USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking [2014-10-23] {#3791CR} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography) Gary K. Michelson introduces his wife Alya Michelson during the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience groundbreaking keynote on October 23rd, 2014 at the University of Southern California. {#3791CR} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography)

Gary K. Michelson; USC Honorary Degree of Humane Arts [2017-05-12] {#4628CR} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography) USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Niki Nikias, Alya Michelson and Gary K. Michelson smile at the camera during USC’s 134th commencement reception on Friday, May 12th 2017. Gary K. Michelson was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California during the earlier ceremony. {#4628} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography)
USC Provost Michael Quick, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Gary K. Michelson, USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller, USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos cut the inauguration ribbon of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience on Wednesday, November 1st 2017. (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography) USC Provost Michael Quick, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Gary K. Michelson, USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller, USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos cut the inauguration ribbon of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience on Wednesday, November 1st 2017. (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography)

USC President C.L. Max Nikias confers Gary K. Michelson’s honorary degree of Doctor in Humane Letters. [USC’s 134th Commencement Ceremony – Friday, May 12th, 2017] {#7656} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography) USC President C.L. Max Nikias confers Gary K. Michelson’s honorary degree of Doctor in Humane Letters. [USC’s 134th Commencement Ceremony – Friday, May 12th, 2017] {#7656} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography)

Gary K. Michelson, Peter J. Hotez, Daniel S. Mariaschin, Gary P. Saltzman attend the B’nai B’rith Distinguished Achievement Award Gala honoring Dr. Peter J. Hotez on March 2nd, 2017 in Houston, Texas. {#7872} (Credit: John Wilson Photography) Gary K. Michelson, Peter J. Hotez, Daniel S. Mariaschin, Gary P. Saltzman attend the B’nai B’rith Distinguished Achievement Award Gala honoring Dr. Peter J. Hotez on March 2nd, 2017 in Houston, Texas. {#7872} (Credit: John Wilson Photography)

Gary K. Michelson, Raymond C. Stevens at the USC Michelson Bridge Lab Warming. [2015-02-11] (Credit: Emily Cavalcanti)Gary K. Michelson, Raymond C. Stevens at the USC Michelson Bridge Lab Warming. [2015-02-11] (Credit: Emily Cavalcanti)

Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Gary K. Michelson, David A. Cohen, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Yannis C. Yortsos sign the V of Victory after shoveling the construction sand of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience following the USC Michelson Center Keynote on October 23rd, 2014. {#4135} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography) Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Gary K. Michelson, David A. Cohen, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Yannis C. Yortsos sign the V of Victory after shoveling the construction sand of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience following the USC Michelson Center Keynote on October 23rd, 2014. {#4135} (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography)

Scott E. Fraser, Gary K. Michelson, Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias and Yannis C. Yortsos pose for a photograph following the announcement of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience on January 13th, 2014. (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography) Scott E. Fraser, Gary K. Michelson, Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias and Yannis C. Yortsos pose for a photograph following the announcement of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience on January 13th, 2014. (Credit: Steve Cohn Photography)

Gary K. Michelson, former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa attends the 2008 Humane Society Genesis Awards at the Beverly Hilton on March 29th, 2008. (Credit: Mark Savage) Gary K. Michelson, former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa attends the 2008 Humane Society Genesis Awards at the Beverly Hilton on March 29th, 2008. (Credit: Mark Savage)

Gary K. Michelson receives the 'Honor in Health-Care Research' from Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington D.C. on September 12th, 2006. (Credit: Paralyzed Veterans of America) Gary K. Michelson receives the “Honor in Health-Care Research” from Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington D.C. on September 12th, 2006. (Credit: Paralyzed Veterans of America)

References

  1. Dr. Gary K. Michelson: Inventor and life-saver [2016-03-31. Naomi Pfefferman. The Jewish Journal]
  2. Gary K. Michelson Profile [Linkedin]
  3. Michelson Technology at Work [Medtronic]
  4. List of Patents [Michelson Patents]
  5. Gary K. Michelson: Spinal Surgical Devices. US Patent No. 6,770,074. [National Inventors Hall of Fame]
  6. Gary K Michelson: National Academy of Inventors – Fellow Induction [2014-03-07] [MMRF]
  7. President Obama Signs America Invents Act [2011-09-16. Richard Maulsby. Inventors Eye] [MMRF]
  8. What We Do [Michelson Medical Research Foundation]
  9. Michelson Fund for NTDs Global Awareness [Sabin]
  10. Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative [Sabin]
  11. Gary K. Michelson. USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Announcement [MMRF] [2014-01-13. USC/MMRF] [Vimeo]
  12. USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking Keynote Video [2014-12-03. MMRF Staff. MMRF]
  13. USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking Ceremony [2014-11-01. MMRF Staff. MMRF]
  14. USC’s Michelson Hall. new center for convergent bioscience. makes its debut [2017-11-01. Joanna Clay. USC News]
  15. Gary K. Michelson. SABIN Humanitarian Award Video [2015-11-19. Christopher Edward Jones. MMRF]
  16. Jewish Journal: Dr. Gary K. Michelson – Inventor and life-saver [2016-03-31. B’nai B’rith International]
  17. Transparency Talk: Gary K. Michelson joins The Giving Pledge [2016-03-15. Daniel Matz. Glasspockets.org]
  18. Eyes on the Giving Pledge: Gary K. Michelson [2016-03-01. Glasspockets.org]
  19. Airbnb’s Three Billionaire Cofounders And 14 Others Join Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge [2016-06-01. Kerry A. Dolan. Forbes]
  20. Keynote Speaker for the ‘Archer Student STEM Symposium’ [2016-05-21. Archer School for Girls Rose Room. Brentwood. CA]
  21. The Los Angeles 500: Dr. Gary Michelson – Chairman: Twenty Million Minds Foundation. Found Animals Foundation. Michelson Medical Research Foundation [August 2016. Los Angeles Business Journal]
  22. Michelson Entrepreneurship Award [Wharton]