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History of Prosthetics in the National Spotlight 



Five young women from Iowa shine as they put the history of prosthetics in the national spotlight             

The eighth-grade team from St. Francis De Sales School in Ossian, Iowa and Dennis Clark, CPO.
The history of prosthetics is about to take center stage, thanks to five young women from Iowa.             
One of the students portraying A.A. Marks who had the largest prosthetic company in the world at the turn of the century, A.A. Marks Company.
The five, all eighth-grade students at St. Francis De Sales School in Ossian, Iowa,  are taking their original research on the history of prosthetics  to the National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland, College Park, next month.           
“I think we are just in awe of people” who use prosthetics, said Kennidie DeVilbiss, 13.            
The girls’ original group performance, which advanced to nationals at state competition in Des Moines earlier this year, is titled “Prosthetic Limbs:  Impacting People’s Mobility.”             
The group includes DeVilbiss; Megan Hageman, 13; Megan Elsbernd, 14; Caitlin Holien, 14; and Mikayla Lien, 14.  They are all from Ossian.            
I was fortunate to see their presentation during a recent visit to Ossian, and shared my experiences at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the girls.   The girls began their research as a class assignment.  But as they invested hundreds of hours of study, reading, interviews and after-school rehearsal time, their work became much more than just another school project.   “When we started doing research, we got way excited” about the presentation, said Mikayla Lien.   The girls’ initially became interested in prosthetics through a man in their community who lost both his arms and legs due to a severe infection.  But as they began their research last December, they learned how many lives are impacted by prosthetics – and by advancements in the prosthetics field.   “I think we learned to have a lot of respect for amputees,” Lien said.                
One of the students portraying a young J.E. Hanger, civil war amputee who started Hanger Prosthetics.
The girls’ group performance focuses on a girl who starts researching prosthetics when her sister loses a leg in a car accident.  It traces the history of prosthetic devices in both the U.S. and abroad, touching on major companies and individuals who have played pivotal roles.             
“We became very grateful for having the use of arms and legs,” Elsbernd said.   The girls also took their research on the road and toured the Prosthetic Laboratories of Rochester, Minn., and met with Alvin Pike, past president of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.   The girls will compete June 13-17 against nearly 2,5000 students from the United States, Guam, American Samoa, and overseas Department of Defense schools for scholarships and prizes. The theme for this year’s National History Day is “Innovation in History: Impact and Change. “   National History Day is an academic enrichment program that helps students learn about historical issues, ideas, people and events.   The girls, who are also working to help raise funds for their trip, all say they are now considering careers in the prosthetics field.              
The student to the left is portraying a new amputee and the student to the right is portraying a Veteran who lost a limb in Iraq.
How you can help            
Professionals in the prosthetics industry can help advance the work of the young scholars from Iowa by serving as primary sources for their research on the use of and prosthetics and advancements in the prosthetics field.  The girls are interested in collecting information from both prosthetics professionals and individuals who use prosthetic devices.  They will then be able to strengthen their research project and continue to add additional primary sources to their bibliography.    If you are interested in helping with their project, please contact Kennidie, Megan H., Megan E., Caitlin and Mikayla by clicking on ‘comments’ below and posting a reply with your name, email, and relationship to the prosthetic industry along with any helpful information you can offer them about prosthetics.             

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