The Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department is awarding its 2021 Outstanding Alumni Awards to Jeffrey Elkins ’86 (mechanical and industrial engineering) and Akshaya Shanmugam ’12MS, ’15PhD (electrical and computer engineering). Elkins will receive the BME Distinguished Alumni Award, while Shanmugam will be presented with the BME Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Because BME is a new department in the College of Engineering, the two recipients graduated from departments that existed before the BME did, but they have pursued biomedical engineering careers since then.
The Distinguished Alumni Award goes to “visionary leaders in their field. Recipients of this honor have reached exceptional levels of professional and personal achievement. This award recognizes distinguished leadership, service, teaching, innovation, and other exemplary accomplishments that positively impact society and the engineering profession.”
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is presented to “emerging leaders in the early stages of their careers. Recipients of this honor are no more than 10 years out from receiving their UMass engineering degree. This award recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and highlights the recipient’s ambitions and potential to positively impact UMass, the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.”
Elkins, a Massachusetts native now living in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, has 35 years of experience focused on cutting-edge medical devices. Over this time, he has helped to develop and commercialize technology which has impacted millions of patients world-wide. He has been instrumental in developing and bringing therapies to market in the cardiovascular, neurovascular, hematology/oncology, and nephrology specialties, and he has multiple patents in the various fields.
During the early period of his career, Elkins held engineering, manufacturing, and operations management roles developing and scaling novel interventional cardiology devices such as the first-generation percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty balloons used to open coronary artery blockages.
Elkins was a member of the founding team for Johnson & Johnson’s Interventional Neurovascular and Endovascular Division, where he managed operations for minimally invasive devices and implantable materials used in the treatment of vascular diseases of the brain, including stroke and arterial venous malformations. In addition, he managed operations for the rapidly growing, Massachusetts-based, Haemonetics.
More recently, Elkins brought to market several life-saving, minimally invasive treatments for aortic aneurysms at World Medical (chief technology officer), Medtronic (VP and BU manager), and Aptus EndoSystems (CEO/COO/director).
Elkins is currently CEO and director at InterVene Inc., a venture capital and strategic investor-backed medical start-up focused on the emerging field of chronic venous insufficiency. He recently joined InterVene after having been CEO/director of a venous-disease start-up, Veniti Endovenous Systems, which developed the first of a new class of dedicated venous stents.
According to Shanmugam, “I am an engineer by training and an entrepreneur at heart. Over the past 10 years, I have developed innovative solutions to address healthcare’s key shortcomings.”
Shanmugam is currently part of a dynamic team at Intuitive Surgical that is pushing the boundaries of robotic-assisted endoluminal platforms for minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsy. Intuitive Surgical is a corporation that develops, manufactures, and markets robotic products designed to improve clinical outcomes of patients through minimally invasive surgery, most notably with the da Vinci Surgical System.
Prior to joining Intuitive, Shanmugam co-founded and served as the chief executive officer of Lumme Incorporated, a position that landed her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Healthcare list and MedTech Boston 40 under 40 Healthcare innovators list.
As Forbes said about Shanmugam in 2018, “She wants to create healthcare that is affordable, accessible, and addresses pressing problems — and, at age 30, she’s co-founder and CEO of a company called Lumme Labs that’s working toward doing just that.”
According to the Forbes article, by combining behavioral science, electrical engineering, and machine learning, the Lumme Labs team has come up with a wearable that can help curb and eventually stop many addictive behaviors, including smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs.
“Our current system is inefficient because we count on one annual visit to catch major health issues,” Shanmugam told Forbes in 2018. “We are working to create a continuous monitoring system that can assess everything from movements and heart rate to smoking and food intake, so that we can get a better, holistic picture of what’s really going on for someone dealing with an addiction.”
While Shanmugam was working on her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees at the UMass College of Engineering, her research focused on developing point-of-care, disease-screening, and health-monitoring systems. During her time at UMass, she was the recipient of the Hluchyj Fellowship, Special Tang Award, David Wolf Prize, Glass Family Demonstration Award, and the Eugene M. Isenberg Scholar Award for two consecutive years. (April 2021)