2017 Honoree: Presidential Medallion

Mark HumayanMark S. Humayan

University Professor
Cornelius J. Pings Chair in Biomedical Sciences
Professor of Ophthalmology, Biomedical Engineering, and Cell and Neurobiology
Director, Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics
Co-Director, USC Roski Eye Institute
Keck School of Medicine of USC
USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Mark S. Humayun is a world-renowned surgeon, scientist, and inventor. Standing at the intersection of medicine and engineering, he designs and implements revolutionary treatments that transform the fields of ophthalmology and bioengineering. A recipient of our nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Professor Humayun epitomizes the spirit of discovery through his extraordinary work—most prominently, his pioneering medical breakthroughs that restore sight to the blind.

While in medical school, Professor Humayun witnessed the struggles of his grandmother as she suffered from deteriorating vision, and thereafter devoted his career to the restoration and preservation of sight. He spearheaded the research and was instrumental in the development of the world’s first, and to date only, FDA approved retinal prosthesis system: the Argus II, named after the many-eyed giant of Greek mythology. Professor Humayun created this system along with contributions from his colleagues, as well as Second Sight Medical Products Inc., to treat individuals suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that is among the leading causes of inherited blindness. In helping patients reclaim their sense of sight, Professor Humayun has raised the bar of medical science and accelerated humanity’s endeavors to improve the quality of life of blind patients worldwide for whom there was no foreseeable cure.

Professor Humayun’s dedication to the pursuit of groundbreaking research continues to bolster his reputation as a top physician and innovator. Along with continued improvements to the Argus system, his latest efforts include a stem-cell treatment for age-related macular degeneration, the most common untreatable cause of vision loss in the elderly. Professor Humayun currently leads the USC Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, which pursues interdisciplinary initiatives to advance novel treatments for eye illnesses, as well as other neurosensory disorders and their impact on the brain. The partnerships forged under his guidance make it possible to conceive of a future where doctors can provide relief from debilitating sensory conditions, and enables new fundamental understanding of how our brain adapts to the loss and restoration of our senses—a true paradigm shift with implications for countless scientific and medical fields.

Numerous accolades and special achievements affirm Professor Humayun’s stature as a trailblazing figure. As one of the select few in the world—and the only ophthalmologist ever—elected to both the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering, he joined the USC Roski Eye Institute as its inaugural director and helped USC’s department of ophthalmology achieve a consistent rank among the best in the United States. He is a skilled retinal surgeon and has been ranked in the top one percent of American ophthalmologists by U.S. News & World Report. Professor Humayun’s status as a leading practitioner is matched by his exceptional ingenuity. He holds more than 100 issued patents and patent applications, and his work has been cited more than 10,000 times—a testament to its far-reaching influence. He was recently elected to the National Academy of Inventors, the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors.

In advancing medical treatments that are nothing short of miraculous, Professor Humayun has distinguished himself as a true visionary. Through his phenomenal intellect and tireless devotion, he propels USC’s medical and engineering enterprises—and the medical and engineering professions—to glorious new heights.

For his distinction in the fields of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering, his transformative approach to the treatment of blindness, and his profound influence on patient care, the University of Southern California is proud to present Mark S. Humayun with the Presidential Medallion.