When the 18 students selected for BCM’s new Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics Program start their training this summer, they will receive instruction from top quality faculty, including one new faculty member who has unique first-hand experience in prosthetics.
Earl Fogler, instructor in the new program who joined BCM in March, was the victim of a school yard bombing in Houston in 1959. He lost his leg in the incident, and the experience ultimately drove him to pursue a career in prosthetics.
The fourth-generation Houstonian was in second grade at Poe Elementary in the Rice University area when the bombing occurred on Sept. 15, 1959. He doesn’t remember much from that day but his mother clipped articles about it from the Houston Press and Houston Chronicle, which provide details of the day.
During a school recess, a man carrying a briefcase full of explosives walked onto the school yard, along with his own son. He detonated the suitcase, killing six. Among the dead were a teacher and custodian, two school children and the bomber and his son.
Nineteen others were injured, including Fogler.
“I was fairly close, maybe 20 to 30 feet away,” Fogler says. “My memory is sketchy but I do remember trying to stand up but falling back down.” He was transported to Hermann Hospital where he underwent surgery to amputate the injured leg.
Fogler was fitted with his first prosthesis several weeks later at a Houston company called Muilenburg Prosthetics Inc.
Setting a career in motion
By high school, he started to realize after numerous visits to Muilenburg that he was interested in prosthetics as a career.
“Believe it or not, I liked the way the place smelled. It had a certain woodshop smell that I liked.”
After high school and a couple years of college, Fogler attended a technical school in New Orleans and worked as a prosthetics technician fabricating the devices for four years.
He went on to earn a certification as a prosthetist and joined Muilenburg, where he worked for 38 years, retiring in 2012.
During that time, Fogler has seen many changes in the industry. He recalls that his first prosthesis was wood, with a rubber foot. He wore that type of prosthesis through college and then started using plastic and carbon fiber prostheses.
“The feet on prostheses are now carbon fiber; they provide more spring and feedback, making it easier to walk on them. Comfort level in general has improved because of new interfaces and materials that are available now,” he says.
What’s more, the training to enter the field has changed significantly since he started out.
“Over the years, it’s become a bachelor’s program and now requires a master’s degree like the one offered at BCM.”
Fogler says he knew the new master’s program here was something he wanted to be a part of.
He’ll head the learning lab that will be an integral part of the student training of BCM’s orthotics and prosthetics program.
“I like the idea of being a part of something from the ground level, and I really feel like I can impart my wisdom and experience to new students.”
“What we noticed right away about Earl was his experience,” says Jared Howell, director of the Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics program at BCM. “He is a Houstonian, he’s been here practicing for 38 years and he has seen the field change dramatically over that time. Earl brings a unique skill set and perspective to our program. He will be a great asset to our students.”
Fogler says he’s had a fulfilling career so far, and recommends it to others as well.
“It’s a good fit for somebody who is a people person and likes working with their hands—with a little bit of psychology thrown in,” he says.
The program will start in June, with orientation for new students set for June 24-25 and classes starting June 26.