Student Corner: Providing orthotics and prosthetics care globally

This October, three students in the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program at Baylor College of Medicine traveled to Guatemala with the Range of Motion Project (ROMP). The nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing prosthetic and orthotic care to those without access to these services. October marked the 11th anniversary of ROMP in Guatemala, where local craftsmen staff a year-round clinic for prosthetic follow up and repairs.

Students Rikki Boelens, Margaret “Maggie” Deaton and Jeremy Sherman, along with Joshua Utay, assistant professor in the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program at Baylor, spent six days working with patients. More than 30 prosthetic limbs were made from start to finish with several more being repaired or serviced. Four orthoses also were made from start to finish.

With the help of a handful of volunteer physical and occupational therapists, each patient received training in areas such as gait for lower limb amputees, eating and activities of daily living for upper limb amputees, and application, use and awareness training for families. This training multiplies the impact of these devices in the users’ lives.

ROMP was a great experience! It expanded my world view and gave a better perspective for what O&P care looks like in less developed countries,” said Boelens. “It provided a fast-paced, hands-on learning environment with limited resources, which is different than how we practice here. It was a great way to combine helping others and my chosen career. I would definitely go back given the opportunity!”

“Learning about orthotics and prosthetics in an environment like the medical center in Houston is one thing. Practicing what you’ve learned in a place like Guatemala is a whole separate beast,” said Sherman. “The trip required on-the-spot problem solving of not only our patients’ needs, but also how to meet those needs with our available tools and time. ROMP provided an environment where PTs, OTS, engineers, CPOs, students and more came together and worked to solve those problems as a team. Everyone who attended was better for the experience: patients, students and experienced clinicians alike.”

“ROMP allowed me to think in a more resourceful and creative way because supplies and tools were limited,” said Deaton. “Baylor’s Orthotics and Prosthetics Program gave me the technical education to provide care to patients, but this trip to Guatemala allowed me to experience the satisfaction of helping a patient population that does not have equal access to healthcare. It amazed me how appreciative and grateful the patients were. Showing these patients how quickly they could regain mobility and confidence opened up a desire to donate my time to similar organizations in the future. Their first steps were a big part of fulfilling my desire to help others, and I’m thankful for the stories and laughs we shared along the way.”

All three students are a part of the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program class graduating this month.