How O&P is igniting creativity and capturing the public’s attention around the world and closer to home, and what it means for the profession.
The Possible’s slow fuse is lit by the Imagination.
Prosthetic design and the many unique applications of prosthetic technology are inspiring the imaginations of artists, writers, filmmakers, industrial designers, students, educators, and the general public. The intricately carved wooden legs (pictured on left) that the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen commissioned for Aimee Mullins-an athlete, model, motivational speaker, and bilateral transtibial amputee whom McQueen selected for a runway show in 1999-were recently on display at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC, as part of a special event, “Redefining Disability: Body as Art,” held in October. Warner Bros.-based Alcon Entertainment is currently filming A Dolphin Tale-a major motion picture inspired by the story of Winter, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who gained a prosthetic tail fluke after her tail fluke was entangled in a crab trap and subsequently fell off. And these are just two recent examples.
What implications does this kind of exposure have for prosthetic clinicians, researchers, manufacturers, and the amputee community?
“Any time the profession is highlighted in these ways, it helps to educate people about who we are and what we do,” says Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, who was part of the team that developed the many iterations of Winter’s prosthetic tail fluke.
Indeed, this creative ferment is raising awareness of the needs of persons with limb loss and limb difference and the role that the prosthetics community plays in helping them achieve professional and lifestyle goals. A greater awareness of the amputee community and the professionals who serve them may help to bring about favorable legislation, increased funding for research, and highlight prosthetics and orthotics as an attractive career choice for bright, creative minds.
But it may also lead to continued innovations that will improve function and quality of life in practical ways. Perhaps a university industrial design student’s creative but impractical concept could find an answering spark in the mind of a biomechanical engineer who knows how to make it work.
This two-part article explores a potpourri of ways prosthetics have impacted the world outside the O&P community. While space does not permit us to provide a comprehensive list, this article instead will provide a taste of what’s happening around the world today, as well as some of the projects and initiatives happening closer to home to bring O&P awareness to communities and legislators alike.