Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center


Read the latest news from the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center. The links below take you to articles where you can learn more about NUPOC and our recent achievements.

  • NUPOC Celebrates 30th Year of ADA Legislation

    Celebrate the ADA!

    President Bush signs the ADA, July 26, 1990)July 26, 2020 marks the 30th year since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990. The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights bill that prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires equality in opportunities for employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications. The ADA has improved the inclusion and quality of life for people who live with physical impairments. At the 1990 signing of this legislation, President George H. W. Bush recognized the contributions of disability organizations and the collective efforts of 43 million Americans with disabilities, who “have made this happen.”

    NUPOC joins the nation in celebrating the ADA. Since the 1956 launch of the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory (NUPRL, now NUPOC), rehabilitation engineering research and Prosthetics and Orthotics strive to improve the lives of persons who live with physical disability by enhancing mobility and autonomy, removing physical and social barriers, and opening access to the workplace and society.

    In 2020 it is fitting to remember the contributory role of NUPOC personnel toward disability rights and successful ADA legislation. With respect and admiration, NUPOC remembers Dudley S. Childress, PhD, Margaret Pfrommer and Jan Little as leaders and activists in the disability rights movement. As we celebrate the 30th year of the ADA, NUPOC reaffirms our advocacy for persons with disabilities, universal civil rights and affirmative action.

  • NUPOC Celebrates 30th Year of ADA Legislation: Margaret Pfrommer (1937-1998) – Disability Rights Activist

    Celebrate the ADA!

    Margaret Pfrommer, disability rights activistAs the nation celebrates the 30th year of the ADA, we remember the contributions of Margaret Pfrommer toward disability rights and successful ADA legislation.

    From adolescence, Ms. Pfrommer lived with quadriplegia due to polio. She was determined to live independently and contacted Childress and the rehabilitation engineers at the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory (NUPRL, now NUPOC). Recognizing her potential, Childress invited Pfrommer to join his research team. For 25 years, from 1973 to 1998, Ms. Pfrommer worked with rehabilitation engineers, participating in research projects at the Northwestern University Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) for Prosthetics & Orthotics. She contributed as “a peer counselor, author, teacher, advocate for persons with disability, receptionist, research assistant, and champion of assistive technology” (Development of Rehabilitation Engineering over the Years: As I See It, Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, Supplement 39(6):2002; and Capabilities 16(1)8-9, 2008). 

    With the support of NUPRL rehabilitation engineers, she actively campaigned locally and nationally for disability rights. In 1977 Pfrommer and Childress traveled to Washington, DC, where she testified before a Congressional conference in support of disability rights legislation. On September 2, 1981, Pfrommer presented the E&J Lecture at the 4th Annual Meeting of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) in Washington, DC. Ms. Pfrommer “played a positive role in the development of wheelchair controllers, environmental controllers, communication aides, telephone controls, computer interface systems, home respiratory aids, and independent living…and promoted rehabilitation technology locally, nationally, and internationally” (Dudley Childress, PhD: A ‘Renaissance Man’ Exerts a Lasting Influence on P&O, The O&P Edge, March 8, 2011; Capabilities 8(1), 1999; Capabilities 8(3), 1999; CHEST Foundation Margaret Pfrommer: The Impact of the Highly Motivated, June 13, 2016).

    Margaret Pfrommer worked toward disability rights and the enactment of the Americans with Disability Act. Now, as we celebrate the 30th year of the ADA, NUPOC reaffirms our advocacy for persons with disabilities, universal civil rights and affirmative action.

  • NUPOC Celebrates 30th Year of ADA Legislation: Jan Little, MS (1939-2003) – Disability Rights Activist

    Celebrate the ADA!

    Jan Little, MSAs the nation celebrates the 30th year of the ADA, we remember the contributions of Jan Little, MS, toward disability rights and successful ADA legislation.

    Jan Little was a disability rights advocate, journalist, and six time Paralympic gold medalist who worked with NUPRL/NUPOC from 1995 to 2003 as Project Director of the Resource Unit for Information and Education and editor of Capabilities. At the age of 13, Little contracted polio and paraplegia. In college, she was affiliated with the progressive Student Rehabilitation Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where she earned an undergraduate degree in journalism followed by a graduate degree in Communications.

    At UIUC, Little embarked on a lifelong effort to promote assistive technology (Brown, Steven E. (2008) Breaking Barriers: The Pioneering Disability Students Services Program at the University of Illinois, 1948–1960. In: Tamura E.H. (eds) The History of Discrimination in U.S. Education. Palgrave Macmillan, New York). At the same time, she became a committed athlete, winning 6 gold medals in swimming and silver medals in archery. She represented the USA as a member of Paralympic Wheelchair Teams in the 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965 Paralympics. In 1984 Little was inducted into the Adaptive Sports USA Hall of Fame in recognition of her participation in national and international competitions, outstanding performance and superior sportsmanship.

    Little developed business and managerial acumen, identifying assistive devices appropriate for technology transfer. In 1972 she introduced to NUPRL a crude sip-and-puff powered wheelchair from England, which Childress and his team of rehabilitation engineers further developed into innovative mobility and communications devices for persons with quadriplegia, such as “wheelchair controllers, environmental control systems, reclining mechanisms, and computer interfaces” (Capabilities, 13(1)3, 2005).

    As an advocate for persons with disability, Little lectured widely, served on advisory boards, including a Congressional subcommittee, the National Paraplegia Foundation and RESNA. In her autobiography Jan Little detailed her role as an activist who worked to advance disability rights, If It Weren’t for the Honor – I’d Rather Have Walked: Previously Untold Tales of the Journey to the ADA (Brookline Books, 1996).

    Jan Little worked toward disability rights and the enactment of the Americans with Disability Act. Now, as we celebrate the 30th year of the ADA, NUPOC reaffirms our advocacy for persons with disabilities, universal civil rights and affirmative action.

  • NUPOC Celebrates 30th Year of ADA Legislation: Dudley S. Childress, PhD (1934-2014) – Social Justice through Rehabilitation Engineering

    Celebrate the ADA!

    Dudley S. Childress, PhDAs the nation celebrates the 30th year of the ADA, we remember the contributions of Dudley S. Childress, PhD, toward disability rights and successful ADA legislation.

    From 1972 until 2004 Dr. Childress directed the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research Laboratory (NUPRL, now NUPOC). His work in rehabilitation engineering concentrated on improving the lives of persons with physical disability by enhancing mobility and autonomy, removing physical and social barriers, and opening access to the workplace and society.

    In 1972 Childress founded the first Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) at Northwestern University where he and his team engineered devices and technology to improve human mobility and independence (Reinkensmeyer David, et al. How a Diverse Research Ecosystem Has Generated New Rehabilitation Technologies: Review of NIDILRR’s Rehabilitating Engineering Research Centers, Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation (2017) 14:109 DOI 10.1186/s12984-017-0321-3). Throughout his career, Childress was internationally recognized for generating research funds and developing important rehabilitation technologies, including the first self-contained electromyography-controlled prosthetic arm, sip-and-puff controls for wheelchairs and communications devices, and the synergetic prehensor. Childress’ professional publications and media outreach helped to broaden knowledge about prosthetics, orthotics, assistive technology, and human walking (Garrick RJ, et al. (2015) Dudley S. Childress: Engineering Solutions for Human Enablement JRRD, 01(0014).

    Integrating humanitarianism with rehabilitation engineering, Childress’ personal and professional work was characterized by compassion, commitment to social justice, parity in opportunity and the maximization of human potential. The Henry P. Russe, MD, Citation for Exemplary Compassion in Healthcare awarded to Childress in 1996 exemplifies his ideals and personal qualities: “humanitarianism, including altruism, sincerity, respect and compassion, which are integrated in his professional, personal and civic life through sustained progressive relationships with patients and their families… a bona fide member of the community of caregivers and a proven record of integrity and honesty” (Capabilities, 5(4)8, 1996).

    Childress underscored the human quotient in rehabilitation engineering by including persons with disability in his lab, stimulating public interest, generating research funds, mentoring similarly goal-oriented engineers, and producing research outcomes that enable people with physical disabilities to live and work independently (Dudley Childress, PhD: A ‘Renaissance Man’ Exerts a Lasting Influence on P&O, The O&P Edge, March 8, 2011). 

    Now, as we celebrate the 30th year of the ADA, NUPOC reaffirms our advocacy for persons with disabilities, universal civil rights and affirmative action.

  • Fatone Noted PI in MyoPro® Motor Function Research

    Stefania Fatone, PhD, BPO(Hons)Stefania Fatone, PhD, is noted as Principal Investigator in the online article, Research Finds MyoPro® Delivers Meaningful Improvements in Motor Function for Brain Injury Patient (businesswire, July 6, 2020). The article reported the results of a published, peer-reviewed case study, Use of a Myoelectric Upper Limb Orthosis for Rehabilitation of the Upper Limb in Traumatic Brain Injury: A Case Report, authored by Pundik S, McCabe J, Kesner S, Skelly M, and Fatone S in the Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering, 2020; 7.

    The case study reported on a female subject who was 29.5 years post-traumatic brain injury (TBI) with diminished motor control, cognitive deficits and learned non-use of the right arm. After 9 weeks of in-clinic t2020raining and 9 weeks of at home use, the individual experienced meaningful improvements in motor function. . “During in-clinic training, active range of motion, tone, muscle power, Fugl-Meyer, box and blocks test, and Chedoke assessment score improved. During the home-use phase, decrease in tone was maintained and all other outcomes declined but were still better upon study completion than baseline.” The case study reported that despite nearly 3 decades post-TBI and limb non-use, repetitive elbow flexion/extension and hand open/close training with the orthosis resulted in improved functional use of the limb.

    This research was supported by Department of Defense funds that were awarded to Dr. Fatone, who led the MyoPro® research project with collaborators at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Learn more about this research project at Longitudinal Observation of Myoelectric Upper Limb Orthosis Use among Veterans with Upper Limb Impairment

    Myomo develops wearable medical robotics for individuals with neurological disorders of upper limbs. MyoPro is a powered orthosis that is designed to support the arm and help restore function to the weakened or paralyzed arms of patients who have CVA stroke, brachial plexus injury, TBI, SCI, ALS and other neuromuscular disorders. 

  • NUPOC MPO Graduate Presents Webinar

    Abbey Senczyszyn, MBA, MPOAs part of the Össur Women's Leadership Initiative (ÖWLI) Educational Webinar Series, NUPOC graduate Abbey Senczyszyn, MBA, MPO (2019) presented a webinar, Environmental and Personal Factors Impacting Care, on July 17, 2020. The webinar was originally scheduled as a podium presentation to the 2020 ÖWLI Conference, Health Care Accessibility for Individuals with Physical Disability, which was postponed due to COVID-19.

    Ms. Senczyszyn reported on the accessibility of healthcare using a semi-structured literature review that examined environmental, social and personal barriers that may restrict some individuals from receiving care. Ms. Senczyszyn’s presentation was based on her student capstone project that was developed at NUPOC under the mentorship of J. Chad Duncan, PhD, CPO, CRC.

    Similar content was published as an abstract and poster. See Senczyszyn A, Duncan J.C. Health Care Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities: Barriers and Risk Factors Impacting Care (Canadian Prosthetics & Orthotics Journal, 1(2), 2018. AOPA’s 101st National Assembly, Sept. 26-29, Vancouver, Canada, 2018.

    Currently, Ms. Senczyszyn is an orthotics resident at UW Health (Madison, WI) and she will begin her prosthetics residency at Bremer Prosthetics (Flint, MI).

  • NUPOC Welcomes Anna Shafer, MS

    Anna Shafer, MSAnna Shafer, MS, has joined NUPOC as a Research Engineer and an Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital appointee. Her appointment at NUPOC is shared with the Human Agility Lab in the Department of Physical Therapy and Movement Sciences. Ms. Shafer will assist Matthew Major, PhD, with his research project that focuses on locomotor responses to treadmill perturbations in individuals with upper limb loss. Ms. Shafer will support the research by developing instrumentation and recruiting human subjects. 

    Ms. Shafer completed a MS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas (Austin, TX); and a BS in Computer Engineering at Harding University (Searcy, AR). Her master’s thesis examined Effects of Multi-joint Stiffness on the Stable, Cartesian Workspace for Dexterous Manipulation with the Anatomically Correct Testbed Hand. She has experience working on various research projects and as an R&D software engineer at National Instruments. In addition to her expertise in programming, Ms. Shafer brings skills in musculoskeletal biomechanics, the neuromuscular basis of motor control, and rehabilitation engineering.

    Her interest in engineering developed when she began working with robotics in high school. She decided to apply skills that she had honed in math competitions to the discipline of engineering. As a career path, “Biomedical Engineering enables me to contribute to rehabilitative and assistive technology research that can improve the mobility and quality of life for individuals who live with physical impairment.” Her future goals are “to continue developing technology that enables every individual to engage with the world around them without boundaries.”

    During her leisure time, Ms. Shafer enjoys a variety of activities, including hiking, running, hobby woodworking and cooking. “I grew up in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and enjoy every chance to summit a mountain or hike in nature.”

    NUPOC welcomes Anna Shafer, MS.

  • Rakshitha Kamath, MS, Celebrates BME Graduation

    Rakshithat Kamath, MS, BME graduation.  Rakshitha Kamath, MS, celebrates BME graduation, June 2020.

    Rakshitha Kamath, MS, has completed a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering (BME), mentored by Steven A. Gard, PhD, and Matthew Major, PhD. Ms. Kamath segued to BME from an undergraduate specialization in Engineering in Biotechnology. She joined NUPOC to develop and evaluate prosthetic devices and to make a positive difference in the lives of people who live with physical impairments.

    In partial completion of the requirements for her BME degree, she selected a non-thesis track and conducted 2 quarter-long projects under the guidance of Drs. Gard and Major. While working remotely, Ms. Kamath said that she felt fully supported in her research. “I was able to communicate with everyone on the research team at NUPOC and completed my work without any hindrance.” 

    Ms. Kamath reflected on COVID-19 constraints and her 2020 graduation from Northwestern University. “I had expected to have my family and friends attend my graduation ceremony, but the pandemic made that impossible. It was weird to graduate and celebrate via a screen. The school sent me the regalia and the department tried to replicate the ceremonies. The most enjoyable part of the event was a light-hearted video produced by the departmental faculty who lip-synched to an old movie song. It was an unusual, but entertaining and wonderful conclusion to my 2 years in BME. Next June I am looking forward to an in-person commencement when my loved ones will join me to celebrate my degree work at Northwestern, where I have learned and grown so much.

    In August 2020, Ms. Kamath enters the Pritzker School of Law to begin a Master of Science in Law. This program trains STEM professionals in business, regulation, and intellectual property law. Ms. Kamath said, “I am excited to study with a diverse cohort of people, some who are launching their careers and others who have worked in their disciplines for decades. My career plans are to use my skills to advance accessible and equitable healthcare that will offer better health outcomes for all.”

    NUPOC congratulates Rakshitha Kamath, MS!

  • Introducing Riley Knox, BS

    Riley KnoxRiley Knox, BS, joins NUPOC as a graduate student working with Matthew Major, PhD, to develop stability assist devices for upper-limb amputees to decrease the risk of falling. Riley is working with Dr. Major to analyze walking trial data to develop algorithms capable of detecting walking versus other activities of daily living. The project will integrate these algorithms and the devices they control into upper-limb prostheses to help individuals with upper limb loss decrease their day-to-day risk of falling. Riley is a member of the 2019 Master of Science in Robotics cohort at the Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering. He began his work at NUPOC in Spring 2020 and will complete his final project during the summer and fall quarters.

    Born and raised in Mill Valley, CA, Riley completed his BS in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in Biomechanics at the University of California-Davis (2015). His parents are a physician and emergency room nurse, so his familiarity with medical topics paired well with his academic interests in math, engineering and life sciences. While considering medical school or other options, he worked as a research engineer at the University of California-San Francisco Orthopedic Trauma Service. Seeing a live demonstration of a surgical robot fired his interest and decision to pursue medical robotics. After completing his MS at Northwestern University (2020), he plans to apply his robotics education, skill set in control systems, and electromechanical design to work in the surgical robotics industry.

    Riley is a lifelong athlete with 20 years’ experience playing soccer and snowboarding. He enjoys outdoor activities, especially hiking, boating and running. When sheltering from the Chicago winter or under COVID-19 quarantine, he likes to read, bake bread and cook, play Settlers of Catan, and watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    NUPOC welcomes Riley Knox!

  • NUPOC Welcomes the MPO Class of 2022
    Zoom image of MPO Class of 2022 and NUPOC personnel.
    NUPOC welcomes the 2022 MPO class.

    Even before COVID-19 constraints, NUPOC proved to be nimble, seasoned and proficient in online education. NUPOC students work remotely to complete the first two quarters (6 months) and final quarter (3 months) of the NUPOC 21-month MPO program. Using a variety of online platforms, faculty and students maintain daily communications and instructional engagement. All 48 students reported that they had prior online learning experience.

    The incoming students represent 22 states throughout the USA. Their academic training reflects a preponderance of bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering, exercise science, kinesiology, and biological sciences. Five students enter the MPO program with prior graduate degrees. 

    NUPOC is pleased to welcome the MPO Class of 2022!

The Childress Fund

Established with a generous gift from the Childress family, the Childress Fund accepts donations that help to continue Dudley Childress' work by stimulating interest in rehabilitation engineering for Prosthetics and Orthotics.

The Childress Fund benefits all who are interested in P&O and especially individuals who live with physical impairments. We invite you to be part of this ongoing effort by giving generously to the 

Dudley S. Childress, PhD, Research and Education Fund