His own devices

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Spring 2012 issue (pdf)

Medical College degree follows success for inventor and scholar

Dr. Mel Siedband, with some of his inventions.
Dr. Mel Siedband, with some of his inventions.

Melvin P. Siedband, PhD ’94, already had numerous accomplishments under his belt—including retirement—when he earned his PhD in biophysics.

“I started my PhD with courses at the University of Maryland but never finished it. While teaching at the University of Wisconsin (School of Medicine and Public Health), I thought it would be fun to go back, but I never found the time,” he said. “After I retired in 1992, the Medical College of Wisconsin welcomed me with open arms, especially my advisors, Dr. Charles R. Wilson (Radiology) and Dr. Darwin Zellmer (Radiation Oncology). When I graduated, one of my sons jokingly told me that I could finally go out and get a real job.”

Dr. Siedband is Professor Emeritus of Medical Physics and Radiology and was Director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of Wisconsin. Next, he will teach an adult education philosophy course through UW-Extension.

“I have been one of the lucky ones, being able to work and play in fields that I really enjoy,” he said.

“Teacher” is just one of many titles Dr. Siedband has held over the years. Others include radio repairman for the U.S. Army, engineer for Westinghouse Aerospace Division and X-Ray Division, physics/engineering consultant, and passionate inventor.

“In the 1960s, I worked with Dr. Marvin Nachlas at Johns Hopkins and Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. We developed defibrillators and a gut stimulator to be used post-abdominal surgery,” Dr. Siedband said.

One invention resulting from the collaboration was the “Iron Heart,” which used pressurized oxygen to power a chest-compressing piston; the low pressure exhaust oxygen was then administered to the patient. A miniature cardiac monitor and capacitor-discharge defibrillator completed the heart attack tool kit. “The Iron Heart and cardiac monitor were manufactured by Westinghouse and others and had a fair measure of success,” Dr. Siedband said. Their pioneering work in defibrillators paved the way for the development of external units used today.

While an engineer at Westinghouse, many products were developed from Dr. Siedband’s inventions, including medical imaging and X-ray products, magnetic amplifier products, cardiac monitors, camera tubes and radar devices.

His research and development continued even after accepting a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin. Work for the university and outside clients resulted in dozens more significant products and more than 50 patents, including the flywheel-powered X-ray generator and X-ray tube heads for bone density machines, among others.

“I have had the privilege of working with some of the best and brightest in the industry,” Dr. Siedband said.

The Gammex Corporation sponsored his research and thesis work on a radiotherapy beam analyzer, also resulting in a U.S. patent. Development for Nuclear Associates led to test instruments for quality control in diagnostic radiology and calibration of X-ray machines. Work sponsored by the U.S. government lead to dose reduction filters for mammography, photographic image differencing methods, improved high frequency X-ray generators, digital image processing and development of a compact field X-ray machine.

A frequently sought-after physics and engineering consultant, Dr. Siedband most recently helped study the causes and effects of radiation exposure on military radar operators.

In addition to his doctorate, he earned his bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Washington and his master’s degree in applied math from Johns Hopkins University. He has published numerous articles and papers and has received several honors including the Westinghouse Most Meritorious Patent Award (twice); Fellow, American Association of Physicists in Medicine; and Fellow, American College of Medical Physics.

Dr. Siedband enjoys traveling and sailing. He is also a proud amateur photographer and ham radio operator. He can be found at the call sign N9HXP.

Born and raised in Chicago, Dr. Siedband and his wife of more than 60 years, Dorothy Shilmover, still reside in the suburbs of Madison, Wis. Together they have two sons and four grandchildren.


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