Cooper Receives Rare Honor with International Paralympic Scientific Award for 2013

By Chuck Finder

Please excuse Rory Cooper, Ph.D., for missing the handbike/wheelchair competition in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday. He had to change his longtime first-Sunday-in-May athletic schedule when he received a rare request:

The International Paralympic Committee invited him to Bonn, Germany, this weekend to become the fifth winner of its Paralympic Scientific Award. It’s the first time that this prestigious international award is being bestowed upon either an American or a onetime Paralympics Games competitor, in track in 1988.

“The Paralympics and sports really have been the things that allowed me to succeed in pretty much all areas of my life,” said Dr. Cooper, founder and director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) plus a role player for people with disabilities at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC and Western Pennsylvania as well as within the U.S. military and around the country.  He is a FISA and Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair, a distinguished professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and a professor of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), and Orthopaedic Surgery at Pitt. “I’m a former Paralympian, and I’ve been involved in the Paralympics for nearly 30 years in one way or another. To have that recognized is wonderful.”

Added Michael Boninger, M.D., HERL medical director in addition to serving as chair of PM&R,University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, and director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute:  “Dr. Cooper winning this award is a great thing for Pittsburgh and a great thing for Dr. Cooper. I think it appropriately recognizes all he has done, both in the area of wheelchair athletics but also in the area of advocacy for people with disabilities, period.”

The award is scheduled to be presented Saturday at the VISTA Conference, the annual IPC meeting. The weekend also means a return trip home for Rosemarie Cooper, his wife whom he met while stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany. Mrs. Cooper is an instructor in SHRS, a clinical coordinator at HERL and director at the UPMC Center for Assistive Technology.