US-ISPO Conference Provides Much Food for Thought

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John Fisk, MD, (far left), moderates with a panel, Rob Kistenberg, CP; Steen Jensen, MD; Rob Horvath, and Robert Gailey, PT.
John Fisk, MD, (far left), moderates with a panel, Rob Kistenberg, CP; Steen Jensen, MD; Rob Horvath, and Robert Gailey, PT.

The first-ever conference held by the US Member Society of the International Society for Prosthetics & Orthotics (US-ISPO), aptly titled "Reaching Beyond Our Borders," engaged about 65 participants in lively discussions and learning sessions on January 14-15, 2005.

Sessions focused on the work of ISPO and how participants can become involved in international relief efforts that include prosthetic and orthotic care.

Heinz Trebbin, director of the GTZ program in orthopedic technology at University Don Bosco, El Salvador, gave a moving keynote address of "Solving the Problems in Developing Countries through Education, Innovation, and Cooperation" that ended in a standing ovation. Since he has dedicated his career to developing quality P&O education around the world, Trebbin could provide first-hand experience about what does and doesn't work.

Winfried Danke and Hugh Watts, MD.
Winfried Danke and Hugh Watts, MD.

Practical discussion of how to make humanitarian efforts effective also came from Hugh Watts, MD, who discussed "Medical Mission Dos and Don'ts, and Michael Priebe, MD, who spoke on "Recycling of Equipment: Dos and Don'ts." For instance, in many developing countries, small workshops are emerging in which disabled persons are building wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment. When donated or free equipment such as wheelchairs arrive, these local entrepreneurial businesses are often shut down because no one will buy a wheelchair when they can get it for free. Plus, patients who receive the free wheelchairs or other equipment may not be able to maintain it because parts are not available in their countryso everyone is worse off than before due to well-meant but misguided efforts. Priebe stressed the need to use appropriate technology and collaborate with persons in the country who know what the local needs are.

John Fisk, MD, ISPO vice president and chairman of US-ISPO, reviewed how ISPO has moved from identifying rehabilitation needs in developing countries to providing resources to address those needs. He also discussed a very successful program for care of club feet using a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) approach.

Anthony Staros (left), with Steen Jensen and David Lawrence, PT.
Anthony Staros (left), with Steen Jensen and David Lawrence, PT.

Rosie Jované, a prosthetist/orthotist who is a Latin American consultant for ISPO International, emphasized the need to understand the cultural sensitivities of local people in order to provide optimal care.

Hector Casanova explored the activities of the Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR) in developing innovative and cost-effective technology for developing countries and landmine survivors.

The programs and activities of several humanitarian organizations were presented. These included the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation (POF), World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF), Physicians for Peace, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Sonrie Inc., the Rotary Jaipur Limb Project, and Health Volunteers Overseas/Orthopaedics Overseas (HVO/OO).

A sampling of other informative presentations included a session by Robert Gailey, PhD, PT, on rehabilitation of patients suffering from blast wounds; and a discussion by José Miguel Gómez, MD, on education as the key to advancing the practice and standards of P&O. Robert G. Horvath, disability advisor, USAID/Leahy War Victims Fund, outlined the role that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is playing in international disability work and its partnership activities with ISPO.

How do the various prosthetic technologies compare in tropical conditions? J. Steen Jensen, MD, PhD, summarized the experiences gained in field studies of ten different prosthetic foot designs used in developing countries in the tropics. The details of this presentation are soon to be included in Prosthetics and Orthotics International , which is published by ISPO.

The thought-provoking sessions left participants with more insight into O&P needs in developing countries and how to get involved in meeting these needs. The next "Reaching Beyond Our Borders" International Conference on Outreach and Disabilities is scheduled for early 2007.

For more information about US ISPO and opportunities to participate in future international activities, visit www.usispo.org or email Robert S. Kistenberg, CP, FAAOP, e-mail: robcp@oandp.com .