With the support of the Gilead Global Scholar fund with Baylor Global Initiatives, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka for two weeks in October to complete data collection for my Master’s research project! For my project, I aim to assess and document prosthetic care in Sri Lanka through three different “lenses”: clinical, technical, and financial. My goal for this experience was to gain perspective on the need for prosthetic care, and then find opportunities and create recommendations that I, and others around me, could enact to make a difference in the current standard of care. I also wanted to find my voice as a researcher, as a future prosthetist, and as a future influencer in the field of prosthetics by getting a view of prosthetic care in a resource-limited environment.
While in Sri Lanka, my research mentor and I engaged in an assessment of the overarching needs for prosthetic care. Therefore, we met with and interviewed stakeholders involved in the provision of prosthetic care. These stakeholders included prosthetists, surgeons, engineers, students, government officials, and hospital administrators. We evaluated various prosthetic clinics, including those funded by the national healthcare system, by (or non-governmental organizations such as Rotary), and by private funds. We also evaluated the Sri Lanka School of Prosthetics and Orthotics to assess the curricula, technical training, and resources that graduates receive.
One of the biggest lessons I learned is the importance of collaboration between engineers and clinicians in the time between product development and product implementation. As an allied health student and future clinician with an engineering degree, I have a unique viewpoint of both fields. From this experience, I saw first-hand that resource-limited environments are often most in need of products that are durable, low-cost, and easily accessible. What an exciting engineering design challenge! By contrast, engineers in resource-rich environments are developing prostheses that are lighter, faster, better…but also with an unattainable price tag. From our connections with both engineering institutions and prosthetic clinics in Sri Lanka, I cannot wait to see the collaborations that take place.
From this experience, I also see a need for “open-access” information for prosthetists and orthotists around the world. This includes educational materials, peer-reviewed articles, and technical manuals. I’ve always had an interest in being an educator, and I think this experience renewed my passion for education by encouraging me to think “bigger.” I’d like to not only educate future prosthetists and orthotists here in the United States, but I’d also love to collaborate with NGOs and international prosthetic and orthotic schools to share our educational resources or even initiate an exchange program for students, so that access to information is no longer a barrier to providing quality prosthetic care.
When people ask me about my trip to Sri Lanka, I often answer in one word: overwhelming! I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the people we met, and the depth of information we were able to collect about the status about prosthetic care. I’m thankful for the opportunity and I’m excited to see how the project progresses and grows.
At this time, any pictures that have anything to do with prosthetics are considered research data and cannot be shared! BUT we were able to do a little bit of sightseeing while we were there, and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Check out some pictures below: