Sharing innovative prosthetics research with tomorrow’s healthcare leaders

While many high school students went on vacation during spring break in March, one group of students spent time learning about global health challenges and how they are being addressed.

As part of the Global Teen Medical Summit, teens from all over the world traveled to Houston for a five-day adventure. From March 12-18, they had the opportunity to visit several facilities in the Texas Medical Center, complete design team challenges, and meet leaders in innovative medical technologies.

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Students and speakers at the Global Teen Medical Summit in March.

Topics for discussion included 3D printed prosthetics and organ models, advanced surgical techniques, virtual reality for training astronauts, and appropriate technologies for global health applications.

Our team, made up of researchers from Baylor Global Initiatives and the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program at Baylor College of Medicine, focused  on the implications of current research regarding the feasibility of 3D printing for prosthetic care.

We kicked off the talk, titled “Translating Technology to the Field: Making 3D Printing a Viable Option for Global Prosthetic Care,” by discussing the overwhelming need for increased quality and quantity of prosthetic care around the world. The barriers to prosthetic care in low-resource settings include limited material availability, high costs, and insufficient local workforces. We also discussed the current standard of care for the fabrication of the prosthetic socket, or the component that interfaces with the patient’s limb.

Using a 3D printing approach has many advantages, including shorter manufacturing time and less manpower. Our team at Baylor is collaborating with non-governmental organizations, industry, and local stakeholders to validate the use of 3D printing to produce lower limb prosthetic sockets, and develop clinical protocols and training materials to support the process.

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Caroline Soyars (left) answers questions from students.

The Global Teen Medical Summit was a great opportunity to share Baylor research with high school students. Throughout the presentation, the students were challenged to consider the current limitations to adopting 3D printing technology for global healthcare.

The summit ended with a call to action: “We need future researchers, engineers, and healthcare professionals like you!”

One student pulled us aside and asked if we planned to bring our project to his home country, El Salvador. If we can execute our project with even an ounce of the passion and energy of these students, there is no doubt that we will eventually be able to make this request a reality.

-By Caroline Soyars, global health fellow with Baylor Global Initiatives and Cara Yocum, graduate student in the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program at Baylor College of Medicine

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