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Partnership for Public Service Honors VAPHS/Pitt Researcher with ‘Oscar’ of Government Service

September 22, 2017

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 22, 2017 – The Partnership for Public Service will honor Rory Cooper, Ph.D., research scientist at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, with a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammie) on Sept. 27 for his work as director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL).

Cooper will receive the Sammie in the Science and Environment category for developing adaptive wheelchairs at HERL, a collaboration between Pitt, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and UPMC. Cooper is HERL's founding director and its VA senior research career scientist.

An Army veteran, Cooper was cited in his nomination for designing innovative wheelchairs and other assistive technologies that have markedly improved the mobility and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of veterans and other people with disabilities. He led projects that include development of a wheelchair with robotic arms and hands that can grasp objects, personal vehicles that enable people to access terrain their wheelchairs can't traverse and manual wheelchairs with more comfortable and adjustable seats.

Cooper and six other winners were chosen from 26 finalists and more than 440 nominees by a selection committee that includes leaders from government, business, the foundation and nonprofit community, academia, entertainment and the media. The entire awards ceremony will be streamed live from Washington, D.C., and viewable on the Partnership for Public Service's Facebook page beginning at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

"The federal government is a unique instrument for our country. The 2017 Service to America Medal recipients represent the best in government, the unsung heroes who quietly work behind the scenes to serve their country and the public good," said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO. "It is important, especially in these uncertain times, to celebrate and recognize the Sammies honorees and their colleagues throughout the government who are making a positive difference in people’s lives."

Cooper is the FISA Foundation/Paralyzed Veterans of America chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology in Pitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. He also serves as the school’s associate dean for inclusion and a distinguished professor, as well as a professor of bioengineering, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and orthopaedic surgery.

To learn more about the Sammies, visit servicetoamericamedals.org.

Original news release

Read about Dr. Cooper's personal journey from Army sergeant to VA career research scientist, courtesy of VA Office of Research & Development.

Media may contact Sheila Tunney, Public Affairs Specialist at 412-360-1479.