Founded in 1958, the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC), a center within the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, was created to advance the quality of life for persons who use prostheses (artificial limbs) and orthoses (braces/splints). The center is committed to conducting innovative research and to educating future leaders in the field, and philanthropy is an important driver of this work. In support of its gifted trainees and star faculty, gifts to NUPOC provide the foundation from which programs can grow, innovation can take hold, and ideas can flourish.
“NUPOC has trained more professionals in prosthetics and orthotics practice and research than any program in the country. The generosity of our donors has made this possible, not only by sustaining our program's excellence in instruction and investigation, but also by enabling our program to implement innovative approaches to teaching, research, device development, and patient care,” said Elliot J. Roth, MD, Paul B. Magnuson Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Below, we share several stories of the powerful impact of donor generosity at NUPOC.
The Childress Fund Supports Outreach Initiatives
The Dudley S. Childress, PhD, Research and Education Fund was established in honor of the late Dr. Childress, professor emeritus of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, who served on faculty at Feinberg for 47 years to advance prosthetic, orthotic, and assistive device technology. Created in 2014 by Dr. Childress’s widow, Nancy, the Childress family, and friends, the fund provides NUPOC with essential resources to help further education and outreach initiatives. Dr. Childress also served as director of both the Prosthetics Research Laboratory and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research program and as a senior rehabilitation research scientist at the VA Chicago Health Care System.
“Dudley was a true pioneer in biomechanics and rehabilitation engineering,” said Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean. “His contributions to the fields of medicine and engineering have made a lasting and significant impact on rehabilitation patients here and around the world.”
Dr. Childress became the first biomedical engineer appointed to a joint faculty position in the medical and engineering schools at Northwestern. Under his direction, the first systems were developed to control power wheelchairs by switches that are activated by sipping and puffing on a tube or using other minimal movements. His group developed one of the first environmental control systems enabling persons with paralyzed hands and arms to activate electrical devices such as lights and appliances.
“Dudley Childress was a remarkable man,” said Dr. Roth. “Many of the practices and devices that people with disabilities and professionals who care for them use today in daily practice were derived directly from Dr. Childress’ ideas, products, projects and research findings.”
The Childress Fund has supported numerous outreach efforts since its inception. One such program is the “Introduction to Careers in Prosthetics and Orthotics,” a session in which high school students learn about careers in the field from current faculty and trainees and participate in hands-on manipulation of upper and lower limb prostheses. According to Nicole Paprocki, science mentor from Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (IHSCA) Charter High School: “This was such a great opportunity to understand the inter-professional collaborations in prosthetics and orthotics clinical practice. It was an excellent resource to expand our knowledge, and I hope that NUPOC will continue to connect with IHSCA.”
“Dudley was a gardener, as well as a scientist. He knew the value of planting good seeds to produce good plants. He would have heartily approved of the outreach project,” said Nancy Childress.
“R. J. Garrick, who develops and manages the educational outreach programs at NUPOC, reports that since the Dudley S. Childress, PhD, Research and Education Fund began, several hundred high school and younger students have benefitted,” Mrs. Childress continued. “I am extremely grateful to the people who have helped me to support annual educational outreach programs. I sincerely hope that NUPOC staff and facilities will continue to be available to help present these excellent educational programs.”
Scheck & Siress Supports Research
Scheck & Siress, a private prosthetics and orthotics group practice with locations throughout the Chicago area, recently made another in a long line of commitments to the work of Feinberg faculty in NUPOC. This latest gift will bolster the work of Stefania Fatone, PhD, professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, who focuses her research on the effects of prostheses and orthoses on human motion. She hopes to increase understanding, establish efficacy, and improve effectiveness of prosthetic and orthotic interventions for people with disability.
“My previous and ongoing collaborations with Scheck & Siress have been extremely important, allowing me to conduct clinically relevant research that positively impacts the delivery of prosthetic and orthotic care. Scheck & Siress is a reliable source of subject referrals for studies. They have allowed us to conduct research at their clinical sites, and they contribute as collaborators on various projects,” said Dr. Fatone. “This latest gift from Scheck & Siress allows me to grow my research efforts. In particular, this funding will be used to support the collection of pilot data for new projects, which is needed to pursue larger research grants. This will, in turn, help me to increase the effort I can place on pursuing new research grants that are clinically relevant to prosthetics and orthotics.”
“It is fundamental to our mission at Scheck & Siress to be able to provide the best treatment options to our patients with limb loss and mobility disorders,” said Michael Oros, CPO, LPO, FAAOP, president and chief executive officer of Scheck & Siress. “Because Dr. Fatone and her team have an outstanding record of conducting meaningful clinical research in the area of orthotics and prosthetics, the decision to support her efforts is very much aligned with our core mission. Given our history of collaboration, we are very confident of her judicious stewardship of those resources.”
NUPOC is the largest and oldest accredited prosthetic and orthotic training institution in the hemisphere. The center’s approach uses a blended learning format that has a strong theoretical approach and combines an intensive clinical practicum where students work directly with patients who use prosthetic and orthotic devices. Likewise, specially designed facilities on the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine campus combine state-of-the-art clinical teaching resources with extensive research capabilities, promoting constant evolution in response to the rapid pace of advances in science, technology, and healthcare.
Many noteworthy advances in the field have come from NUPOC, resulting from the creative application of science and engineering principles to solve clinically relevant problems within its research laboratories. NUPOC’s longstanding tradition of bringing together clinical experts, trained scientists, and effective teachers provides an outstanding foundation for advancing the principles of evidence-based practice to improve the design, quality, cost-effectiveness, and delivery of tomorrow’s prosthetic and orthotic technology and clinical care.