Yale Student Venture Focused on Amputees Wins Award

Penta Group Vietnam team members meet with a patient. Photograph courtesy of Penta Group Vietnam and YEI.

A team developing a nonprofit to provide used prosthetic limbs to people with amputations in Vietnam won the 2017 Yale College Dean's Challenge on Social Innovation. The Penta Group Vietnam team includes cofounders Victor Wang and Henry Iseman, both juniors at Yale, and Trang Duong, a junior at Brown University. Duong is a Vietnam native, raised in Saigon, where she was exposed to the difficulties faced by people living with limb disabilities. There are four million people in Vietnam with amputations who need prostheses, many of whom cannot afford the cost and thus use low-quality plastic or wood prostheses

The team is amassing patient information and outlets for used prostheses via an online platform to ensure quality control and personalized service for donors and recipients, and is working directly with the largest orthopedic hospital in Ho Chi Minh City to repurpose the prosthetic components. People can donate by emailing photos of the prosthetic limbs to pentagroupvietnam@gmail.com and get a free shipping label within 24 hours. After the prostheses have been repurposed, donors are sent a short profile of the person who has been fitted with their equipment and what they plan to do after regaining mobility.

Penta is piloting the platform this summer, and has developed a patient list of more than 1,000 people; because their model relies on costs being covered by patients, it's scalable. The three have been working on the project in the United States and in Vietnam for the past year. The venture has also been awarded a grant from the Clinton Global Foundation and Brown University's Social Innovation Fellowship.

The Dean's Challenge is a special designation given by Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway in partnership with the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) to one undergraduate social venture applying to the YEI Fellowship. Twenty teams met the criteria this year, which included addressing a serious global issue and proposing a startup solution that could improve a significant number of lives.

Editor's note: This story was adapted from materials provided by Brita Belli, YEI communications officer.