Bioengineering professor Wawrzyniec Dobrucki named as inaugural Neil and Carol Ruzic Faculty Scholar
The Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED) has announced bioengineering professor Wawrzyniec Dobrucki as the inaugural Neil and Carol Ruzic Faculty Scholar. Dobrucki is a Health Innovation Professor at CI MED and is also the first named professor for the medical school.
Established by Carol Ruzic and her son, David Ruzic, the Neil and Carol Ruzic Carle Illinois College of Medicine Fund honors the vision and spirit of Carol’s late husband and David’s father, Neil Ruzic. The fund will be used to provide support to named faculty appointments for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, with appointees holding expertise and academic abilities within the field of engineering medicine.
Along with funding, each recipient will also receive a copy of Neil Ruzic’s book, Racing to a Cure, a Cancer Memoir detailing the search for new biotherapies in cancer treatment while encouraging others to research, question, and become self-advocates for their own treatments.
After being diagnosed with one of the most aggressive forms of cancer in Mantle Cell Lymphoma and given only about six months to live, his doctors wanted to put him into chemotherapy, but Neil resisted because while it might give him a few more months of life, it had no chance of a cure.
“Being a scientific journalist, he figured there had to be people working on this across the country or world,” said son David Ruzic. “So he threw himself into the research, being his own patient advocate and did discover people working on this and got into trials and other things, and while I’d love to say he became cancer free, he was certainly able to do some of these modern therapies and live another six years in really good quality of life.”
In his book, Racing to a Cure, Neil covers cancer research and curative techniques being developed in the laboratories and Universities around the world. He wrote it as a guide to inform cancer patients about vaccines and cancer cell targeting drugs being developed as alternatives to therapies that harm not only cancer cells, but healthy cells as well. Neil established the Ruzic Research Foundation to further develop such activities.
“He wanted to write about this journey and how other people could be patient advocates and could look into research of the newest treatments and trials because the medical field is so fast traveling,” said David Ruzic. “He didn’t want to write the book to make money from the book, so he said ‘I will take all the proceeds from this book and devote it to medical research.’ And funding this fellowship is what we did with all the profits of the book. That’s where the money came from with the intent to help foster more medical research because that is essential for curing all the things that may ail us in the future.”
A man of many talents and passions, Neil Ruzic was the founder and publisher of several worldwide several worldwide scientific magazines, including Industrial Research and Oceanology International, as well as the author of over 250 articles and 10 books. Two of his books, "The Case for Going to the Moon" and "Where the Winds Sleep" continue to be nationally compelling today. They describe the value a moon base has for human development in space and for commerce. The second book develops the architecture for setting up a self-sustaining moon base that can serve as a portal for Mars and planetary exploration.
Ruzic made several inventions and held the first U.S. patent for a device to be used on the Moon, a lunar cryostat. He originated the R&D 100 annual awards program, the “Nobel Prize” for applied physical research scientists and engineers. He was a past president and board member of the National Space Society which he co-founded with Werner von Braun; he also created a space technology transfer program for NASA.
He passed away at the age of 73 in 2004.
“He was a really great man, very much an entrepreneur, did all sorts of different things, but always had a passion for writing and telling the world about science,” David added.
On his way to degrees in journalism and science from Northwestern University, Neil met his wife, Carol, while she was also pursuing a journalism degree from Northwestern. The couple were married for 54 years. An impressive person in her own right, Carol later became a school teacher after the couple moved to Beverly Shores, Indiana. Following the birth of their only son, David, Carol stopped teaching and moved to more civic efforts, including serving as the president of the town board, effectively acting as town major for eight years.
Even now at age 94, she is a force in her community. One of the biggest passions has been the perseverance of a local historic train station which at one point set to be demolished. Behind efforts from Carol, along with a group of Beverly Shores residents, as well as others like the Superintendent of the Indiana Dunes National Park at the time, NIPSCO, and Save the Dunes, they obtained a designation for the building on the National Register for Historical places. After restoration of the station, The Beverly Shores Depot Museum and Art Gallery was born, with Carol serving as curator of the museum.
“She makes the displays and the exhibits,” said son David. “It’s a small museum, but it’s really still pretty cool that she’s curating this museum and staying active with everything else in the town as well. That’s been one of her biggest passions and she does really, really good at it too.”
A professor at Illinois for 38 years, David is the director of the Illinois Plasma Institute and is also a named professor, the Abel Bliss Professor in nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering within the Grainger College of Engineering.
“I certainly know having that extra honor and little bits of funds is very helpful to me and it seems like a way to have your name remembered but do something useful and continually useful to somebody or for a system,” said David. “We wanted to promote medical research and I’m here at the University and then I got involved in helping create this engineering-based college of medicine, which is probably long overdue and sort of in the spirit of the book my dad wrote – you want to look at the innovation, you want to look at the new things, you want not just have medical school be rote memorization of everything that’s come before, but rather learn how to create the new things and be very aware of all the possible ways that can happen. So having the engineering-based College of Medicine and now supporting somebody that’s working towards that, I think really fits the spirit of what my dad was trying to do in his book and in the later parts of his life.”
The inaugural faculty scholar at CI MED, Professor Wawrzyniec Dobrucki, has expertise in preclinical molecular imaging, and his professional interests include developing novel targeted multimodal imaging strategies to noninvasively assess tissue microenvironments and various biological processes in vivo, including therapeutic neovascularization, atherosclerosis, neoplastic progression, and cancer response to experimental therapies. Professor Dobrucki will hold this appointment for five years.
In addition to his work as the Associate Head of Graduate Programs in Bioengineering, he holds a full-time faculty position at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, where he serves as co-chair for the Integrative Imaging theme and directs the Experimental Molecular Imaging Laboratory (EMIL). Dr. Dobrucki also has affiliations with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and the Cancer Center at Illinois both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as the Medical University of Gdansk in Poland.