James McEwen (engineer)

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James McEwen is a biomedical engineer and the inventor of the microprocessor-controlled automatic tourniquet system, which is now standard for 15,000-20,000 procedures daily in operating rooms worldwide. He is also an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Orthopaedics and the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of British Columbia. He currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.[1][2][3]


McEwen received his Bachelor of Applied Science in electrical engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1971 and his Ph.D in 1975. From that year until 1990 he served as the first director of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre. In addition to being an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia and formerly at Simon Fraser University, he is also the president of a medical device company, a founder and director of the non-profit Medical Device Development Centre, a past president and current member of the Board of Directors for the ALS Society of BC, and vice president of the board of trustees for the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation.[4]


McEwen and his team developed the first automatic tourniquet system in 1985 during his tenure at Vancouver General Hospital. His improvements to tourniquet systems in general led to greater safety and their wider acceptance as the de facto standard for procedures involving bloodless surgical fields and Bier block anaesthesia.[1][2] McEwen continues to be active in education, advocacy and research. He now holds more than 220 patents and applications on medical devices in such fields as orthopedics, anesthesia, ophthalmology, laboratory medicine and surgery. Most notably, developments made by McEwen's team forms the basis of tourniquet devices manufactured by Zimmer and Delfi Medical Innovations, including surgical tourniquets and emergency tourniquets deployed with the US military.[4]


James McEwen was, until 2010, a Certified Clinical Engineer (CCE). He is a current member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and a registered Professional Engineer (P.Eng.).[4]

Recognitions and Honors[edit]

The Manning Innovation Awards Foundation recognized McEwen's work in medical science with their Principal Award in 1997.[5] He became a Fellow of the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society in 2006,[6] and in 2010 he received the William Fraser Leadership Award from the ALS Society of BC.[7]

In 2009, McEwen received an honorary Doctor of Science from Simon Fraser University for his innovations in tourniquet technology and his significant role in fostering biomedical research in British Columbia.[1] The University of British Columbia followed suit in 2011, citing his contributions to medical device development, research and advocacy.[2]

In 2011, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his contributions to biomedical engineering, notably as an inventor and entrepreneur".[8][9]