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Veneri's Work with LIMBS International Reflects Center for Health, Care, and Well-being's Mission

Associate Professor Diana VeneriAssociate Professor Diana Veneri’s career trajectory changed dramatically when she first listened to Roger Gonzalez, founder of LIMBS International, speak about the mission of his organization. According to Gonzalez, between 3 and 11.2 million people worldwide are amputees in need of prostheses and about 80% of these people live in developing nations. LIMBS is a non-profit organization that designs, creates, and tests ultra-low-cost prosthetic devices aimed at filling this dramatic need for prostheses in developing countries. Today LIMBS serves 21 countries by distributing the LIMBS knee, a highly functional, locally-fabricated prosthetic for above-the-knee amputees. 

Veneri discovered a collaborative research opportunity when Gonzalez spoke of the need to develop educational materials for local patients and clinicians at each LIMBS clinical site. Prior to Veneri’s involvement, LIMBS had little instructional assistance to ensure that patients and clinicians would appropriately use the LIMBS knee and understand the potential complications and rehabilitation procedures.  Veneri approached Gonzalez about becoming involved, and in 2012, the University of Hartford became a partner with LIMBS to assist with patient education and further prosthetic development. The challenges of such a project were apparent, as patient education materials needed to be culturally sensitive and easily translated into many different languages. Having developed the educational materials, Veneri is currently taking the project to the next step by measuring the effectiveness of the prosthetic training materials at educating clinicians and patients in the Dominican Republic. To conduct her research, she leads a team of physical therapy students (see below) and works with Natacha Poggio from the Visual Communication Designs Department at University of Hartford. Although the research project is not without challenges, Veneri’s enthusiasm for her work is apparent when she talks about the international impact that she can have in changing patients’ lives and restoring their vitality and independence.

A formal Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations will continue the collaboration by including faculty from Engineering and Rehabilitation Sciences to help develop a new prosthetic foot for below-the-knee amputees as well as from the Prosthetics and Orthotics program to train LIMBS clinicians and develop further educational materials. Moreover, Veneri’s goal—which is to improve clinical outcomes associated with prosthetic utilization and care at the LIMBS sites across the world—embodies the mission of The Center for Health, Care, and Well-being in emphasizing community research that will advance outcomes in health, care, and well-being.

In December 2012, graduate students working with Veneri presented the first phase of the LIMBS project: Prosthetic Training Across Borders.

December 2012 Student Presentation
Pierre Bizier, Caitlin McNabb,
Halid Dervisevic, Jeffrey Grasson,
Cynthia Gruss
LIMBS International is a non-profit organization which designs, creates, and tests new prosthetic devices in clinics throughout the developing world. The Physical Therapy Department at the University of Hartford joined with the educational efforts in 2011. The project is two-fold: The first phase is to develop education materials for both clinicians and patients. The clinician manual is comprised of text and photographs of a live model, the clinic posters have pictures with minimal words, and the patient pamphlets have only pictures. The second phase of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the education materials.