Akron, Ohio — The late Shirish Patel, a plastics industry veteran who was the former director of purchasing at Newell Rubbermaid Corp., was named to the Plastics Hall of Honor by members of the Society of Plastics Engineers, Akron section.
Patel died in 2014. “The industry has lost a great man,” said Keith Pelfrey, president of the Akron section. Pelfrey worked with Patel for eight years at Little Tikes Co. in Hudson, Ohio. Today Pelfrey is principal engineer of skin care science and new technology at GOJO Industries Inc. in Akron.
The SPE Akron section held its awards night May 9. Accepting the Hall of Honor award was Shirish Patel's son, Rakesh, and his mother and Shirish's widow, Chetna Patel.
In remarks at the awards night, Pelfrey recalled Shirish Patel's one-dollar bets that challenged employees to develop specific innovations — a tactic that worked. Pelfrey called Patel “a virtuous leader” who had the respect and admiration of fellow employees.
Patel, who was born in India, immigrated to the United States in 1964 after earning a chemistry degree from KC College in Mumbai. He got a second degree, in chemical engineering, from the University of Toledo, in 1967. He held a range of management positions at Glastic Molding LLC, a Cleveland thermoset molder, and was vice president of operations at Little Tikes.
At Newell Rubbermaid, Patel was responsible for buying 1.6 billion pounds of resin a year.
He became a management consultant in 1995.
Patel was the recipient of a heart transplant, but that did not stop him from leading a full, active life, according to people that knew him. And medical advances were the subject of the keynote speaker at the awards.
Matthew Becker, professor at the University of Akron's Department of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, detailed research into extruded tubes used as a custom-made “scaffold” that can help the body repair itself. The tube stabilizes the patent, and eventually, bone grows around the tube, a degradable device made of amino acid-based poly(ester urea).
Becker said the researchers expect to get approval in September for up to 12 human trials, using the tubes on wounded soldiers. For the military, leg injuries are a major issue as soldiers face landmines and improved explosive devices.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the research team with $6 million for 100 sheep used to develop the hollow tubes. A sheep with a badly injured femur, outfitted with one of the tubes, was able to stand up just eight hours after the post-operative period, he said.
Fast progress is essential for injured soldiers, Becker said, because severely wounded soldiers — often young men and women of 18, 19 or 20 years old — can face depression when they're confined to a hospital bed with serious leg battlefield injuries.
“DARPA wanted the person to get out of bed in three days or less, and stand on half the weight,” he said.
Major leg injuries are serious. “Prior to Vietnam, you died. Since Vietnam the medivac has increased, it's been an amputation, and after cutting off 30 a month — hands, wrists, elbows and legs since 2001, they've got really tired of this,” Becker said.
The U.S. government, he said, has been making a major effort to find a better way. The idea is to take someone off the battlefield, say, in the Middle East, fly them to a medical facility in Germany or another country, give him or her a CT scan, and when they arrive, “they would get a custom-fit piece ready to put in.”
Becker said that, typically, the current practice is to make a clean cut, shorten the limb and outfit the leg with a series of concentric rings, connected by pins and screwed into the bone. The setup gradually stretches the leg, but it's painful and awkward, he said.
But DARPA “wanted to do a single surgery,” he said.
“Typically if you've been in a car accident and you fracture your femur, you're talking about a dozen surgeries over three years,” Becker said. “[DARPA] needed a single surgery because with the soft tissue loss—that there's not enough left to rebuild the scar tissue time after time after time. So they wanted to do a single surgery with no fixation hardware.”