Ilitch Family Donates $8.5M to WSU For Surgical Technology R&D


Wayne State University’s School of Medicine has received an $8.5 million gift from Michael and Marian Ilitch to establish an unrestricted fund to support R&D in surgical technologies.

“Surgery is becoming more minimally invasive, more technology oriented, and more image guided,” says Dr. Donald W. Weaver, chair of the WSU department of Surgery, which will soon be renamed in honor of Michael and Marian Ilitch. “It’s going to be a completely different world in 20 to 30 years. This gift from Michael and Marian Ilitch provides an enormous opportunity to ensure that we are a world-class program in surgical technology and that we are on the front lines leading innovation.”

Weaver says the contribution helps build upon the department’s technology portfolio, which includes the world’s first successful heart pump in 1952, a neutron beam cancer therapy machine, and the development of tools that enabled the world’s first pediatric robotic surgery.

Today, the surgery department — home to more than 70 residents and fellows, with nearly 50 full-time faculty members, more than 90 clinical faculty members, and about 1,200 medical students performing surgical rotations — is working toward the development of the first patient-specific surgical simulator. The technology will enable a surgeon to practice procedures on a 3-D replica constructed from a patient’s CT scans, allowing surgeons to better identify the best approach for treatment and discover potential problems before making an incision.

Weaver says other devices under development include a “robotic finger with eyes” that will work inside the abdomen of a patient and send what it “sees” and “feels” directly to the surgeon’s finger.

“We’ve made this gift to support the life-saving work of Dr. Weaver and his team at Wayne State University,” says Michael Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings Inc. in Detroit, which owns and operates the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesars, the Fox Theatre, and numerous other enterprises. “We think of this as an investment in the future of health care that will support a great educational institution and benefit the people of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and beyond.”

“This gift is also about advancing Detroit as a center for healthcare innovation,” says Marian Ilitch, vice chairwoman of Ilitch Holdings. “Our community is rightfully proud of Detroit’s growing reputation as a center for high-tech health care. We are happy that our gift will help spur even more local innovation in this field, while attracting new people, companies, and jobs to Detroit and southeast Michigan.”