Mary Novotny, RN, MS, was honored with the Amputee Coalition’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its 25th anniversary celebration and annual meeting in Kansas City. This award was given in recognition of her leadership and vision as founder and former president of the Amputee Coalition of America, now known as the Amputee Coalition, according to a press release.
After surviving bone cancer and amputation of her leg in the 1960s when she was 11 years old, Novotny earned a graduate degree in nursing from DePaul University, raised a family, and committed herself to providing information and resources to persons with limb loss and all those involved in their lives.
A native of Chicago, Novotny attributes her positive outcome to a physician and therapist who believed all things were possible, an innovative, caring prosthetist who “kept her on her feet” regardless of the challenges she posed, and supportive family and friends who focused on her abilities, believing she could accomplish whatever she put her mind to.
Novotny’s career as an RN included work as a clinical nurse specialist in rehabilitation, an instructor of nursing, and director of the Information Resource Unit at Northwestern University’s Rehabilitation Engineering Program. While pursuing her master’s degree with a focus on rehabilitation nursing, a research project on amputee self image at the University of Illinois led her to start the support group, Families and Amputees in Motion, (FAIM) in 1979. Networking FAIM with leaders around the country led to formation of the Amputee Coalition of America in 1986.
Elected president of the Amputee Coalition in 1992, she led the fight for fair prosthetic coverage in response to a Durable Medical Equipment Regional Carriers’ 30-day notice to eliminate Medicare reimbursement for essential services and devices. Through her leadership organizing opposition to this, Congress rejected the cuts. While at the helm, she also developed guidelines for support groups, videos, and resources on adaptation to limb loss. Through partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, numerous rehabilitation programs, professionals, and support groups, Novotny established the National Limb Loss Information Center in 1997, which continues to reach out, educate, empower, and advocate for persons with limb loss everywhere. She also helped bring the Amputee Coalition’s annual meeting to a freestanding event and expanded the organization’s in-Motion newsletter to a full-page, full-color magazine mailed nationally to amputees and caregivers.
A member of the American Nurses Association and the Tennessee Nurses Association, Novotny is also a recipient of the Ernest M. Burgess Award for achievements in amputee rehabilitation, the Brian Blatchford Prize from the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics for international contributions, and a Gargoyle Award from the Council for Disability Rights for disability advocacy. She continues to work as a consultant, educator and advocate