NUPOC Builds International Service Initiatives

The Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC) is
establishing international service initiatives with other countries where
NUPOC graduates can volunteer their O&P expertise, augment
their clinical proficiency and improve the lives of under-resourced populations
of people who live with physical disability. First among these initiatives is
the collaboration between NUPOC and the Range of Motion Project-Chicago (ROMP)
that resulted in the annual volunteer service trip to the ROMP Clinic in
Zacapa, Guatemala.

  The ROMP Clinic in Zacapa, Guatamala is the site of the collaborative annual service trip between ROMP and NUPOC.
  The ROMP Clinic in Zacapa,
Guatamala is the site of the collaborative annual service trip between ROMP and
  Images: NUPOC

Jared Howell, CPO, assistant director of prosthetics education for
NUPOC, recently led the second annual expedition of NUPOC graduates to Zacapa,
Guatemala, where they volunteered their O&P expertise working with on-site
clinicians. The 2010 annual work group included NUPOC graduates Katie Antle,
Christy Vant, Jacqueline Ziegler, Jenna Lombardo, Jennifer Pecora and Zach
Lacy. From December 4-13, 2010, Howell and the NUPOC group provided
custom-designed thermoplastic orthoses and prostheses using componentry that
was donated by U.S. practitioners. Clients were low income individuals, some of
whom traveled more than 8 hours to reach the ROMP Clinic. The NUPOC group
provided O&P solutions to people who had little or inadequate O&P
interventions. They fit prostheses for amputations secondary to trauma and
orthoses for children who had not obtained prior medical care.

This annual service trip is the brain child of NUPOC alumni Mindy
Thorpe, BSME, CPO, director of international education for NUPOC, and ROMP
founders Dave Krupa, CP, and Eric Neufeld, CPO.

“Many NUPOC students and graduates expressed a strong interest in
helping those who need P&O services in developing countries,” Mindy
Thorpe, also a member of the International Society for Prosthetics and
Orthotics and serves on the ISPO/USAID steering committee, said.

To formalize this collaborative service project, Thorpe worked with
Northwestern University and international channels to establish a Memorandum of
Understanding with ROMP.

In October 2009, after months of effort, NUPOC launched the first group
of NUPOC graduates who volunteered their O&P skills at the ROMP Clinic in
Zacapa, Guatemala.

“The ROMP Clinic in Guatemala is a great place for students to help
others and learn in a supervised, international setting,” Thorpe

Howell underscored successes of the 2010 NUPOC cohort’s experience
at ROMP.

  Zach Lacey, a recent NUPOC graduate, was one participant in the recent service trip.
  Zach Lacey, a recent NUPOC
graduate, was one participant in the recent service trip.

“We designed and fit a prosthesis on an 18-year-old girl who had a
hip disarticulation secondary to osteosarcoma. For a 9 year old with severe
congenital scoliosis and labored respiratory function, we designed, fabricated,
and fit the first thoracic lumbar spinal orthosis (TLSO) ever fit at the Zacapa
clinic,” he said.

Toward the end of their week serving clients, the NUPOC group took a
break and climbed the Pacaya Volcano – elevation 8,373 feet. Still active,
Mt. Pacaya erupted in May 2010, dramatically changing the landscape and the
local village. Here, remarking on the enthusiasm with which the NUPOC group met
their challenging work and the importance of the P&O solutions to the
Guatemalans who attended the ROMP Clinic, Howell reflected,

“We saw our work at the Zacapa ROMP Clinic improve people’s
lives.” Christopher Robinson, MBA, CPO, FAAOP, ATM, assistant director of
orthotics for NUPOC and faculty leader of the 2009 inaugural service trip,
said. He observed that NUPOC volunteers practiced their O&P skills while
providing essential services and empowering many Guatemalan clients.

“NUPOC’s collaboration with ROMP will continue to offer the
combination of unique clinical experience with the opportunity to genuinely
help those in need,” he said.

NUPOC is working to establish additional international outreach
initiatives in countries where service-minded graduates can volunteer their
O&P skills.

“NUPOC faculty is active in ISPO, so the school definitely is
becoming more involved on the international level,” Thorpe said.
“We’ve seen the importance of our work in Guatemala. We want to
broaden opportunities for NUPOC graduates and share our skills in parts of the
world that need P&O expertise.”

R.J. Garrick

R.J. Garrick is the project director of the Resource Unit
for Information and Education Services for NUPOC at the Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine.

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