Taking a Closer Look at Orthopedics and Prosthetics

Half of knowing where you are headed is about looking back to where you have been. The same is true for the future of orthopedics, orthopedic surgery and prosthetics. Methods and tools have drastically changed over time, especially in recent years, making it of special interest for practitioners and the public to take a look at the evolution of these fields.

The International Museum of Surgical Science (IMSS) has taken on the task of presenting the history of these disciplines as well as the present, while also looking ahead to the possibilities of future technologies. The long-term exhibit called “Beyond Broken Bones: The Story of Orthopedics and Prosthetics,” will be on display at the museum in a historic lakeside mansion in Chicago for at least 3 years. The official exhibit opening and reception takes place on Saturday, May 5 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The collection

photos from IMSSThe founder of IMSS, Max Thorek, MD, donated the earliest works of the growing collection from his personal compilation.

“He and his colleagues also commissioned artwork to represent the great figures and discoveries over surgical history,” Lindsey Thieman, assistant curator, said. “They sought out important artifacts to tell the story of surgical history from all over the world because they wanted to represent both chronology and geography.”

Since then, the museum has relied on physicians and members of the museum’s parent organization, The International College of Surgeons, for ongoing artifact donations.

“We also approach product manufacturers for specific donations that are representative of contemporary instrumentation when we are putting together each new exhibit,” Thieman told O&P Business News.

IMSS also encourages participation on the part of sponsors and individuals for continuing support as they have received support from these groups in the past.

Beyond broken bones

IMSS decided to update and expand their previous exhibit of the same nature due to the rapid development in orthopedics and prosthetics. Currently, prosthetics is especially topical because of the number of amputees returning from Iraq, Thieman said.

Joseph Mazur, 1946
Joseph Mazur, 1946.
Image reprinted with permission of Jeffrey Brandt, CPO. All other images are reprinted with the permission of the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago.

“We wanted to include the current topics and developments which were not covered in the former exhibit to show the whole continuum in advancement in these two fields up to the present day and looking beyond to the future,” Thieman said.

The exhibit features a number of different artifacts including archival manuscripts, portraits, paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs representing great moments in the field.

Among the numerous historical artifacts are ancient cutting tools, civil war amputation instruments and 19th century splints and artificial limbs. A number of contemporary devices will be on display and accompanied by equally technology savvy audio-video presentations.

“One of my favorite artifacts is called an osteoclast or bone crusher from around the turn of the 20th century,” Thieman said. “It was used to intentionally break children’s bones so you could set them and allow them to mend in correct alignment.”

This instrument as well as before and after photographs of children who were treated with the mechanism will also be showcased.

Interesting education

The exhibit aims to educate the public about orthopedic problems that have been resolved over the years and how other issues are becoming more prominent now that human life spans are expanding.

“We hope that visitors will take away a greater understanding of the historical arc that brought us to the present point and where orthotics, prosthetics and orthopedic surgery might go in the future,” Thieman said. “We want them to understand the impact of specific historical events, like the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, that brought about progress in prosthetic design.”

IMSS would also like to raise awareness of current orthopedic conditions and the treatment options available as well as where historically those treatments have their roots.

The Artifact of an American Hero

Corp. Joseph Mazur came home in 1945 following the end of World War II without his right leg. Echoing so much of the sentiment that is heard around the world today concerning the war in Iraq, his 70-year-old story will be displayed as part of the “Beyond Broken Bones” exhibit beginning this month.

Wooden prosthesis fashioned by Joseph Mazur in Japanese prison camp
Joseph Mazur fashioned a prosthetic limb while in a Japanese prison camp.
Image reprinted with permission of Jeffrey Brandt, CPO.

Mazur, of Northhampton, Pa., enlisted in the army in February 1941 at 19 years old. He was sent to the Philippines one month later, assigned to a coast artillery anti-aircraft battery on Corregidor Island – the same place he would lose his leg a few short months later, days before the island was surrendered.

On May 6, 1941, a piece of shrapnel ripped into Mazur’s right leg, which led to amputation at a field hospital. He was then taken to a base hospital but that stay would prove short as he was soon captured and imprisoned in Manila’s Bilibad prison, where he remained for almost 3 years.

Mazur made a wooden prosthesis in 1943 while imprisoned in Bilibad and worked as a barber for the Japanese officers. On the evening of Feb. 4, 1945, American soldiers broke into Bilibad, freeing their fellow soldiers who returned home the following month.

Mazur could not have known that the wooden prosthesis he fashioned while at war would one day be displayed on the wall of his grandson’s prosthetic practice. Jeffrey Brandt, CPO, of Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics Inc. of Gettysburg, Pa., is lending this piece of history to tell his grandfather’s story and share his heroism with visitors.

Mazur was awarded a number of medals for his service in World War II and among them was a Purple Heart. To further honor his grandfather, Brandt and Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics Inc., have established a housing scholarship for Northwestern University O&P program students in Mazur’s name. The first recipient will be awarded shortly after the exhibit opening.

For more information:

  • Wolfe, ROA. Northampton man made own wooden leg while held prisoner by Japanese. Allentown Call-Chronicle. Exact date of publication unknown but approximated at March 1945.

For more information:

Jennifer Hoydicz is a staff writer for O&P Business News.

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