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A star-studded crowd of 350 San Antonians gathered September 16 at the Vistas at Valero to pay tribute to C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., Dean of Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), who received BioMed SA's Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences for 2010. The award, named after Palmaz Stent inventor Julio Palmaz, M.D., honors individuals from San Antonio or elsewhere who have made significant contributions to advance the healthcare and bioscience fields.
"Mauli Agrawal perfectly embodies the qualities of innovation and leadership that the Palmaz Award is designed to celebrate," said Henry Cisneros, BioMed SA's founding chair and emcee for the 5th Annual Palmaz Award Dinner. "His passion for building things, whether it be new products, companies, or educational programs, inspires us all and advances San Antonio's growing reputation as a City of Science and Health."
Man of Character
An engineer, inventor, educator, and entrepreneur, Agrawal has earned international notice for his work in orthopedic and cardiovascular biomaterials, tissue engineering and drug delivery. UTSA Provost Dr. John Frederick enumerated Agrawal's contributions to the university's quest for Tier One status, calling him a rare and gifted individual and one of UTSA's stars.
Palmaz Committee Co-Chair Ken Trevett of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research described Agrawal as "a man of character" who demonstrably reflects the excitement, vitality, creativity and vision of the biomedical enterprise in San Antonio.
Other dinner guests included Brigadier General Joseph Caravalho, Jr., Commander of Brooke Army Medical Center; former Mayor Phil Hardberger; and InCube Labs founder Mir Imran from San Jose, California.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother, State Rep. Joaquin Castro, who were celebrating their birthday that evening and unable to attend, congratulated Agrawal in a special video tribute, praising his efforts to promote higher education and sustainable energy research in addition to biomedical engineering.
Agrawal said winning the award "is indeed a great honor. I am truly humbled by this recognition, especially given that past recipients include giants such as Julio Palmaz and Dean Kamen whose work has touched millions of lives."
Agrawal used his acceptance remarks to inspire attendees with the story of a young woman from Laredo named Celia, who through sheer will and determination became the first in her family to go to college, earning an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She later returned to Texas to work on her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at UTSA and is now a third year doctoral student in Dr. Agrawal's lab.
"She is very motivated and intelligent and working on technology that will go into the next generation of drug eluting stents," he said. "She will have an impact in this field and she hasn't even started her independent career. The question is: How many other Celias are out there? How many Celias are we missing?"
Agrawal challenged attendees to identify other young people here in our region who could benefit from a college education. "Where are the Celias, and how do we find them? Whose job is it?" he asked. "Let me stick my neck out and propose that it is everybody's job."
He encouraged audience members to open their hearts and wallets to mentor students and raise scholarship funds to help them stay in school and seek higher levels of education. If the region does not adequately prepare its youth for the new knowledge-based economy, the chasm between the haves and have-nots may expand, causing fissures in the foundation of our society, he cautioned.
Agrawal further inspired dinner attendees by describing his childhood in India and introducing his mother, Raj, a Ph.D. herself who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. "We were not rich. In fact, we barely managed," he said of his upbringing. "Yet through all those times, there was love in the house, food on the table, and I was sent to the best schools because of their (his parents') dedication to my education."