Prism Award

Laura Whitsitt

Smith+Nephew (Retired)

For outstanding technical contributions to joint replacement products; for continuously challenging herself to encourage others; and for using her influence to support women and girls in STEM.

Laura Whitsitt recently retired as senior vice president, research and development for global medical device company Smith+Nephew’s (S+N) Orthopaedics business. Her responsibilities included product development, research and technology, and product support.

After joining S+N in 1987 as an entry-level product development engineer in the Trauma business, Whitsitt served in numerous R&D roles, each building upon her experiences and accomplishments in scope and responsibility. During her career, she played an instrumental role in the launch of several key products that have helped grow the Orthopaedics business and provided real solutions that have helped many patients across the globe. She has overseen the launch of more than 130 products and holds six granted patents.

In her role as senior vice president, R&D, Whitsitt led the launch of the industry’s first dual mobility system made from the unique Oxinium DH metal alloy, OR3O, for primary and revision total hip arthroplasty. This system introduced a new bearing material application into the market designed to alleviate the risks to patient safety of metal wear and instability. This system of products continues to provide orthopaedic patients the opportunity to live better lives and to generate millions in revenue for S+N.

In her company and in her community, Whitsitt has used her influence to support women and young girls in their pursuits of STEM careers. She was the global executive champion of the SWE employee inclusion group for six S+N sites. Whitsitt also initiated the S+N Excellence in Engineering Scholarship in 2007 for women experiencing economic challenges; founded the Advanced Career Exploration mentoring program for high-potential inner-city girls in Memphis, Tennessee; and developed mentorship and internship programs within S+N.

In 2007, Whitsitt was recognized as an Outstanding Alumna for the Herff College of Engineering at The University of Memphis (UofM). In 2011, she received the Herff College Distinguished Service Award, recognizing her many years of service to the community and the university. In 2012, she was recognized during UofM’s “100 Years, 100 Women” celebration, honoring women who made a difference in the centennial of the university.

Whitsitt has served on several boards in the Memphis community, including the Greater Memphis Chamber, the Memphis Research Consortium, the New Memphis Board of Governors, and the Herff College of Engineering Advisory Board.

Whitsitt holds a B.S. and an M.S. in mechanical engineering from UofM and has completed executive education courses in business at Northwestern University and Stanford University. She is married to Bob Whitsitt and has three grown children: Rob, Camille, and Hannah, and five grandchildren. She is active in her church and the community, with a focus on mentoring and educating inner-city youth and refugees.