Earl Bakken recognized by University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota announced today it is renaming two health-focused interdisciplinary centers in honor of Earl E. Bakken in recognition of his support of the University and his field-shaping legacy. The centers will now be called the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center and the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.

Earl Bakken
“Renaming these centers is our way of honoring the spirit of discovery and innovation that Earl Bakken has instilled in everyone he has encountered through his work at the University,” said Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota. “He has been an inspiration to our faculty, staff and students and his efforts have helped us become leaders in finding new ways to promote health and healing in the communities we serve.”

Both interdisciplinary centers break the mold in exploring new ideas and fostering innovation. The Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center is an interdisciplinary program under the Institute for Engineering in Medicine that combines research, education and training focused on medical devices. The center has successfully supported researchers through the process of moving devices from concept to market. It also works to train and support the next generation of innovators who will go on to change health care with further discoveries, following the model initiated by Bakken.

“The Medical Devices Center wouldn’t be possible without the foundation Earl Bakken built in Minnesota,” said Arthur Erdman, Ph.D., director of the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center. “Having his name officially associated with our center is an honor, and we are committed to continuing to live up to his charge, to create new technologies to improve health.”

Bakken has a unique appreciation for both the art and science of health care, as demonstrated by his long-standing support for the University’s Center for Spirituality & Healing, a center focused on research, outreach and education of integrative health and wellbeing. The center launched the nation’s first master’s degree in health coaching, conducts pioneering NIH-funded research, consults with health care systems on care model innovation and supports corporate and community-based organizations advancing health and wellbeing programming.

Bakken was an early mentor for the center’s founder and director, Mary Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., R.N., and he continues to be a strong advocate for integrative approaches to health and healing.   

“Mr. Bakken is one of our most illustrious and accomplished alumni, and his work has a continuing impact on millions of people daily around the world,” Kreitzer said. “He has inspired us to think bigger, to try to fulfill the immense potential we have to improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities around the world.”

Over the course of his career, Bakken worked closely with University of Minnesota scientists, engineers and health care providers. He received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1948, and shortly after founded Medtronic Inc., which would become one of the world’s largest medical device development companies. Among Bakken’s many significant innovations was his work with University of Minnesota heart surgeon C. Walton Lillehei, M.D., Ph.D., to create the first battery-operated, wearable pacemaker.

Bakken also founded the Bakken Museum, a Smithsonian-affiliate that offers dynamic exhibit experiences and industry-leading STEM-focused education programs. He has received honorary degrees from several universities, including an M.D. Honorary Causa from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 2007.

The new names for these centers will take effect immediately as a tribute to Bakken’s legacy, his ongoing mentorship of faculty and students and his support of the University.



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