...Changing The World

Gary K. Michelson; USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking Keynote [2014-10-23] {#3791CR} (Credit: Steve Cohn)
Gary K. Michelson introduces his wife Alya Michelson during the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience groundbreaking keynote on October 23rd, 2014 at the University of Southern California. {#3791CR} (Credit: Steve Cohn)

Gary Karlin Michelson, M.D.


Gary K. Michelson was born in Philadelphia on January 14, 1949. He and his three brothers were raised by his mother and grandmother, who suffered from a crippling spinal deformity.


At the age of seventeen, Dr. Michelson left behind his humble beginnings and set out on the arduous task of working one and sometimes two jobs to put himself through college at Temple University and medical school at Hahnemann Medical College (nowadays Drexel University).

During his third year in medical school, as part of a “dog lab”, the young Michelson refused to perform unnecessary operations to remove healthy organs from living dogs. “Every week (…) you had to go in and take out an organ, (…) I took one look and said, ‘I will not do this.’”. While under the threat of expulsion, the orthopedic student invented a surgery through which he was able to transplant a rib bone into a 10-year-old girl’s deformed leg, averting the need to amputate. “My medical school decided they weren’t going to throw me out after all”. [1]

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Michelson completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Hahnemann Hospital, and subsequently completed a fellowship in spinal surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center, in a joint program of Texas Medical Center and Baylor University. [2]


As a distinguished board-certified orthopedic spinal surgeon and diplomat of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Dr. Gary K. Michelson has dedicated his existence to improving the lives of millions of people afflicted with spinal ailments.

Discontent with the low success rates and unreliability of the spinal surgical procedures in the 1980s, Dr. Michelson spent the next 20 years developing implants, surgical procedures, and instruments that would enable spinal surgeons to successfully cure a vastly greater proportion of spinal conditions. Dr. Michelson’s technological breakthroughs, most of which are related to instruments, methods and devices advancing spinal and orthopedic surgical procedures, have made spinal surgery safer, faster, more effective and less expensive.

Now known as Michelson Technology, the devices and procedures invented by Dr. Gary K. Michelson have diminished blood loss, pain, disability, and recovery time associated with older approaches. The Michelson guidelines require minimal hospital time to the point where many of them can be done on an outpatient basis. The likelihood of success for these newer procedures has been consistently high, and the time for return to full activity has been substantially reduced. Throughout the world, these new techniques, far less invasive and far more effective, have become the most dominant means of treating both the common spinal disorders as well as the most debilitating ones. [3]

Evidenced by the more than 340 United States patents he holds as an individual, and over 953 issued or pending applications he has throughout the world, Dr. Gary K. Michelson’s dedication in innovation make him the most prolific inventor in the history of medicine and the sole inventor of the most widely used innovations in spinal surgery. [4]


Despite his retirement from private practice, Dr. Gary K. Michelson hasn’t lost his passion for helping others and the energy focused on the “Michelson Devices” was ultimately poured into meaningful philanthropic investments in medical research, bioscience, technology, education and animal welfare.

Michelson Medical Research Foundation

As the founder and sole benefactor of the Michelson Medical Research Foundation [MMRF], Dr. Michelson is helping solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. With his foundation spending on cutting edge medical research considered too avant-garde to be funded by the National Institutes of Health, or other conventional sources, Dr. Michelson is having a positive impact on the lives of millions of the most vulnerable populations around the world so that they can live healthy and productive lives. [8]

The largest private underwriter of the SABIN Institute’s research and advocacy programs, his generous investments in the Michelson Fund for NTDs Global Awareness has helped raise awareness in mobilizing new resources to increase programming and research for NTD control / elimination efforts, and the ongoing Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative, a powerhouse in supporting vaccine R&D against parasitic worms that afflict more than one billion of the world’s poorest, is an innovative model that relies on private, academic, and public institutions to collaborate for preclinical development, vaccine manufacturing and clinical testing. [9,10]

In early 2014, Dr. Michelson and his wife, Alya, personally gifted 50 million dollars to the University of Southern California to fund the creation of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, a research stronghold aimed at “research for humanity’s sake” so that work conducted at the venue will be “goal oriented” in order to produce “real world breakthroughs in real time.” [11] With initial groundbreaking taking place on October 26, 2014, USC Michelson opened its doors on November 1st, 2017. [12,13,14]

Other Non-Profit Foundations

Through his other non-profit foundations, such as the 20 Million Minds Foundation [20MMF] (digital textbooks, educational policy changes), the Found Animals Foundation [FAF] (dedicated to preventing the annual euthanasia of millions of pets in the U.S.), the Michelson Prize & Grants (fueling research into a single-dose, nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs) and Adopt & Shop (a breakthrough one-stop pet adoption and shopping experience), Dr. Gary K. Michelson, to date, has donated more than 200 million dollars towards the advancement of these wonderful causes.

Giving Pledge

On March 1st 2016, Gary K. Michelson was announced as a signer of The Giving Pledge. Envisioned by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, The Giving Pledge is a worldwide campaign aimed at encouraging financially successful parties to contribute their wealth to philanthropic causes. [17,18,19] In May 2016, Dr. Michelson delivered a passionate keynote about innovation jumpstarting the annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) symposium of Brentwood’s ARCHER School for Girls. [19]

Awards & Honors

Dr. Michelson is one of the very few individual ever inducted into both the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Inventors. [5, 6]

In 2015, Dr. Gary K. Michelson was awarded both the Albert B. Sabin Humanitarian Award 2015 for his generous contributions toward Neglected Tropical Diseases vaccine research and awareness as well as the Distinguished Achievement Award from B’nai B’rith International for his commitment to philanthropy, humanitarian assistance and community leadership. [15, 16]

Alongside film legends Will Ferrell and Dame Helen Mirren, Dr. Gary K. Michelson was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Southern California during USC’s 134th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 12th, 2017.

America Invents Act

In conjunction with many others and on behalf of independent inventors, Dr. Michelson worked to help shape and ultimately to have passed the America Invents Act of 2011. In recognition of his efforts Dr. Michelson was invited by President Obama to attend the signing of that historical legislation at the White House. [7]

Competition Toward Innovation

Dr. Michelson is a fierce believer in competition toward innovation. He’s not only considered one of the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal, but a longtime promoter and supporter of entrepreneurial competitions at various business schools throughout the country. [21,22]

While the significant impact to the field of science and technology through his work as an orthopedic spinal surgeon and inventor is exemplary, Dr. Michelson’s greatest legacy might be his leadership in the advancement of science through philanthropy. His uncanny ability to identify a problem, deduce a solution, and most importantly, work collaboratively to bring that solution to fruition, is what continues to make ‘real world’ of difference.

(Updated: 2017-12-12)

Gary K. Michelson Bio | C.L. Max Nikias, Gary K. Michelson; USC 134th Commencement Ceremony, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters [2017-05-12] {#7656} (Credit: Steve Cohn)
USC President C.L. Max Nikias confers Gary K. Michelson’s honorary degree of Doctor in Humane Letters. [USC’s 134th Commencement Ceremony – Friday, May 12th 2017] {#7656} (Credit: Steve Cohn)

Gary K. Michelson Bio | Gary K. Michelson, Peter J. Hotez, Daniel S. Mariaschin, Gary P. Saltzman; B'nai B'rith Distinguished Achievement Award Gala [2017-03-02. Houston, Texas] {#7872} (Credit: John Wilson Photography)
Gary K. Michelson, Peter J. Hotez, Daniel S. Mariaschin, Gary P. Saltzman attend the B’nai B’rith Distinguished Achievement Award Gala honoring Dr. Peter J. Hotez on March 2nd, 2017 in Houston, Texas. {#7872} (Credit: John Wilson Photography)

Gary K. Michelson Bio | Gary K. Michelson, Raymond C. Stevens; Bridge@USC Lab Warming [2015-02-11] {#012} (Credit: Emily Cavalcanti)
Gary K. Michelson and Raymond C. Stevens, along with USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay inaugurated the Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience on February 11th, 2015. {#012} (Credit: Emily Cavalcanti)

Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Gary K. Michelson, David A. Cohen, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Yannis C. Yortsos; USC Michelson Groundbreaking [2014-10-23] {#4135} (Credit: Steve Cohn)
Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Gary K. Michelson, David A. Cohen, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Yannis C. Yortsos sign the V of Victory after shoveling the construction sand of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience following the USC Michelson Center Keynote on October 23rd, 2014. {#4135} (Credit: Steve Cohn)

Scott E. Fraser, Gary K. Michelson, Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias, Yannis C. Yortsos; USC Michelson Announcement [2014-01-13] (Credit: Steve Cohn)
Scott E. Fraser, Gary K. Michelson, Steve A. Kay, C.L. Max Nikias and Yannis C. Yortsos pose for a photograph following the announcement of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience on January 13th, 2014. (Credit: Steve Cohn)

Gary K. Michelson, Antonio Villaraigosa; Humane Society 2008 Genesis Awards [2008-03-29. Mark Savage, Getty Images]
Gary K. Michelson, former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa attend the 2008 Humane Society Genesis Awards at the Beverly Hilton on March 29th, 2008. (Credit: Mark Savage)

Gary K. Michelson; PVA Honor for Health Care Research [2006-09-12. Paralyzed Veterans of America]Gary K. Michelson receives the PVA “Honor for Health Care Research” from Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington D.C. on September 12th, 2006. (Credit: Paralyzed Veterans of America)


  1. Dr. Gary K. Michelson: Inventor and life-saver [2016-03-31; Naomi Pfefferman, The Jewish Journal]
  2. Gary K. Michelson Profile [Linkedin]
  3. Michelson Technology at Work [Medtronic]
  4. List of Patents [Gary Michelson Patents]
  5. Gary K. Michelson: Spinal Surgical Devices. US Patent No. 6,770,074. [National Inventors Hall of Fame]
  6. Gary K Michelson; National Academy of Inventors – Fellow Induction [2014-03-07] [MMRF]
  7. Gary K. Michelson; President Obama Signs America Invents Act [2011-09-16; Richard Maulsby, Inventors Eye] [MMRF]
  8. What We Do [Michelson Medical Research Foundation]
  9. Michelson Fund for NTDs Global Awareness [Sabin]
  10. Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative [Sabin]
  11. Gary K. Michelson; USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Announcement [MMRF] [2014-01-13; USC] [YouTube]
  12. USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking Keynote Video [2014-12-03. MMRF Staff, MMRF]
  13. USC Michelson Center Groundbreaking Ceremony [2014-11-01. MMRF Staff, MMRF]
  14. USC’s Michelson Hall, new center for convergent bioscience, makes its debut [2017-11-01. Joanna Clay. USC News]
  15. Gary K. Michelson; SABIN Humanitarian Award Video [2015-11-19. Christopher Edward Jones, MMRF]
  16. Jewish Journal: Dr. Gary K. Michelson – Inventor and life-saver [2016-03-31. B’nai B’rith International]
  17. Transparency Talk: Gary K. Michelson joins The Giving Pledge [2016-03-15. Daniel Matz, Glasspockets.org]
  18. Eyes on the Giving Pledge: Gary K. Michelson [2016-03-01. Glasspockets.org]
  19. Airbnb’s Three Billionaire Cofounders And 14 Others Join Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge [2016-06-01. Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes]
  20. Keynote Speaker for the ‘Archer Student STEM Symposium’ [2016-05-21. Archer School for Girls Rose Room, Brentwood, CA]
  21. Gary K. Michelson; The Los Angeles 500: Dr. Gary Michelson – Chairman: Twenty Million Minds Foundation, Found Animals Foundation, Michelson Medical Research Foundation [August 2016. Los Angeles Business Journal]
  22. Michelson Entrepreneurship Award [Wharton]

Gary K. Michelson, C.L. Max Nikias, Alya Michelson, Niki Nikias; USC 134th Commencement Ceremony, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters [2017-05-12] {#4628} (Credit: Steve Cohn)
USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Niki Nikias, Alya Michelson and Gary K. Michelson smile at the camera during USC’s 134th commencement reception on Friday, May 12th 2017. Gary K. Michelson was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California during the earlier ceremony. {#4628} (Credit: Steve Cohn)

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