Salvatore Privitera named ’24 Engineer of the Year

Man speaks at podium.

Salvatore Privitera delivers a speech at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' 2024 Pledge to Professionalism ceremony. Credit: The Onion Studio

By Elizabeth Egan 

Published February 26, 2024

“Engineering is a ‘get to’ job,” said Salvatore Privitera, addressing a room full of seniors from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “Ultimately, what engineers do is solve problems and when you couple that ability to solve problems with a problem statement that has import, you create a ‘get to’ job.”

"Forty years ago, I was just excited to come to the University at Buffalo and learn. I didn’t really have a grasp of how phenomenal an engineering degree could make my life."
Salvatore Privitera, Cheif Techinical Officer

The University at Buffalo Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association (UBEAA) named Privitera its 2024 Engineer of the Year, which is awarded to a school alum or closely affiliated person with distinguishing activities in alumni, community, business and professional affairs.

Privitera was honored at the 2024 Pledge to Professionalism Ceremony on Feb. 22 in 190 Norton Hall. During the event, SEAS seniors are invited to show their commitment to promote the ethical and moral behaviors required of engineers and computing professionals as they prepare to graduate and begin their careers.

In his address, Privitera, a 1988 graduate, said that it was a combination of the skillset he gained at UB along with challenges that had importance greater than himself that allowed his role as an engineer to be what he has considered a “get to” job.

Privitera recalled sitting in the same room 40 years ago, having to solve a challenging problem in class regarding the speed of a bicycle wheel. He noted that while the ultimate job of an engineer is to solve problems, that is only half of the formula.

“The other half is driving yourself to create problem statements that have greater import than yourself, things that are bigger than you,” Privitera said. 

Impacting the health of millions worldwide

Working on improving early breast cancer awareness, preventing strokes and developing technologies to help patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib), a heart condition that effects 37 million people worldwide, are just a few of the ways that Privitera has incorporated this formula into his own career.

After graduating from UB with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Privitera went on to work as a plastics engineer at Fisher Price for two years before joining Ethicon Endo-Surgery, a Johnson & Johnson company, where he worked in a variety of research, development and operations roles from 1990-2003.

He later received a position as the vice president of engineering and product development at AtriCure Inc., a company that develops technologies for the treatment of AFib and related conditions. He helped AtriCure to grow from a small startup to a public company and led the development of many novel platform technologies, including the AtriClip, a device used to prevent strokes in patients with AFib.

Privitera went on to serve as the vice president for research and development at Bard Medical (BMD), a division of C.R. Bard, Inc. From 2011-17, he helped to grow BMD to over $1 billion in global revenue. He was responsible for a range of clinical platforms, including therapeutic hypothermia, urologic drainage, endourology, brachytherapy and home care. His work impacted 150 million patients on an annual basis.

He eventually returned to AtriCure, where he currently serves as the chief technical officer. He is responsible for research, product development, operations and quality assurance management, and coordination of quality systems.

Privitera earned his JD from Northern Kentucky University in 2012 and his MBA from Xavier University in 1995. He holds over 50 issued patents. In 2019, he was named a Health Care Hero by the Cincinnati Business Courier, in recognition of his lifetime contributions to medicine.

“Salvatore ‘Sam’ Privitera’s resume is impressive and a true example of all the ways an engineer can make impacts throughout their careers in multiple fields,” said Nate Bolt, UBEAA president. "Sam certainly separates himself from others, not just by education and career experience, but also by generous active alumnus participation. The committee is very proud to honor Sam with this well-deserved award.”

On top of his professional roles, Privitera has served on the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Heart Association. He has also stayed involved with UB, serving on the advisory board of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and supporting engineering students by volunteering and providing mentorship.

“Forty years ago, I was just excited to come to the University at Buffalo and learn,” said Privitera as he concluded his remarks. “I didn’t really have a grasp of how phenomenal an engineering degree could make my life. As you take this Pledge of Professionalism, I hope that you have unbelievable motivation for what you will do next because these UB taught skills can be incredibly powerful and make your life very special.”