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Kindred Spotlight: Meet Dr. David Putrino

Kindred Spotlight: Meet Dr. David Putrino

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started in health research?    

I'm a physical therapist with a PhD in neuroscience. I’ve always been driven to find new ways of treating people with the latest technologies and center a lot of my research around rapid adoption of new ways of doing things.  

Regardless of the type of research I'm conducting, my goal is always to produce the largest amount of patient impact in the shortest amount of time.  

My team is focused on disruptive innovation: If it isn't research that can completely change how we think about a topic, then we're not interested! 

Read more about Putrino Lab here

What drives you to do the work you do? 

Having an impact on people's lives. We understand the importance of incremental research that produces small gains, but our team is focused on impact-oriented research.  

Our purpose is to support and produce science with the highest probability of creating meaningful change in people's lives. We never stop looking for new challenges and new areas of medical research to explore.  

Is there something memorable about your career you wish to share? 

I love my job, and it’s full of memorable moments, such as:  

  • helping to set up the world's first 3D-printed prosthetics clinic in a warzone in South Sudan  
  • climbing the Willis Tower in Chicago with a patient of mine who had a spinal cord injury and was using an exoskeleton to climb  
  • leading a first-in-human brain implant for a person with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to enable a fully paralyzed individual to control a tablet just by thinking about it 

What I love most about my job is that every day is a new challenge, and every day is filled with magic moments like these. 

How has your experience in research impacted your views regarding the pandemic? 

The pandemic showed us how bad we are at rapid discovery and innovation in a mainstream science setting.  

During the pandemic, I saw so many talented but traditionally trained scientists freeze; they couldn't continue their research because of lockdown, and they didn't really know how to do anything else.  

By contrast, the non-traditional researchers, the innovator, got to work to create ventilators, mobile applications, masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and any device or technology that could help the pandemic effort.  

The relatively low number of innovators highlighted how desperately we need to train a new generation of scientists capable of rapid and meaningful action. 

What drew you to long COVID research? 

For me, it was the fact that no one else was addressing it. I had hundreds of patients reaching out to Mount Sinai for help, and I was seeing clinicians and researchers all around wanting to "other" long COVID as "somebody else's problem.”  

I saw the critical need for rapid long COVID research and was determined not to let our patients down. 

What most excites you about joining the Kindred for the January Kindred Café? What would you like to discuss with the community? 

I'm always excited to meet people who are part of the population I serve. Every time I engage with a community like this, I become a better scientist, clinician, and advocate because there is always something to learn from the conversation, especially if you listen as much as you talk!  

I'm interested in hearing the ideas the community would like us to investigate.  

What are the newest treatments of interest? Communities like Kindred always allow me to come away with new insights that I couldn't get sitting in my lab talking to other scientists. 

Last question: Just wondering, did you have any childhood heroes? 

Well, I've always been a big fan of Spiderman and Iron Man so I guess you could say that the love of science runs deep! 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Nothing else! Super excited to meet the team.  

David is a physical therapist with a PhD in Neuroscience. He studied computational neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, MIT and NYU. He’s currently the Director of Rehabilitation Innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System and an Associate Professor of Rehabilitation and Human Performance at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

He develops innovative rehabilitation solutions for adults and children in need of better access to healthcare. He also works with high-performance partners such as Red Bull, the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, and the US Olympic team to use evidence-based technologies to improve athletic performance. 

He is the author of “Hacking Health: How to Make Money and Save Lives in the HealthTech World.” In 2019, he was named "Global Australian of the Year" for his contributions to healthcare. 

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If you're interested in sharing your story or experiences with the Kindred community reach out to the Content and Community Manager at Talia@hugo.health.

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