O&P Students Gain Hands-on Experience During Humanitarian Trip to Kenya
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O&P Students Gain Hands-on Experience During Humanitarian Trip to Kenya

Tori Page and two O&P children clients pic1

During a humanitarian trip to Kenya, Victoria “Tori” Page ‘25O&P had a young patient who hadn’t walked since her leg amputation the previous year. Page spent a long time working on a prosthesis trying to make her patient as comfortable as possible. At the end of her appointment, Page asked her patient how her new leg felt. “She looked at me with a big smile and said, ‘I’m walking!’,” she said. 

Page, along with Nick Ruppenthal ‘25O&P and Chad Duncan, PhD, CRC, CPO, director of the Salus University Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) program, were part of a small contingent that traveled to Kenya from March 9 to March 17, 2024, to make and fit protheses for children.

O&P student Nick Ruppenthal Pic1The group included O&P colleagues from Hartford University for a trip organized by Robert Schulman, CP, founder and executive director of the Limb Kind Foundation, a global organization committed to helping children with limb loss.

It was the first humanitarian trip the University's O&P students have had an opportunity to participate in since the founding of the program in the fall of 2022. Page and Ruppenthal are members of the program’s inaugural class.

According to Dr. Duncan, the purpose of the trip was for students to gain experience internationally and to work with other practitioners in different environments. The focus on this trip was on children with limb loss, difference and absence.

The students worked with Dr. Duncan and other certified prosthetists in the evaluation, impression, modification, fabrication and fitting of the prosthetics. In total, the group made 45 leg and one arm prostheses for the children. And, at the end of the week, the culmination event included a red carpet and bowtie fashion show staged for the children to show off their new prostheses.

It was Page’s third time in Kenya, but her first working with O&P patients. She had previously been mentored by Limb Kind founder Schulman and was aware he had taken students abroad in the past. “In the future, I’d like to do mission trips like this as a full-time job, maybe working with, or starting, a nonprofit and being able to provide prosthesis to kids in developing nations,” said Page, who is currently doing her residency at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. “Getting to go to Kenya was very affirming for what I want to do in the future.”

It was Ruppenthal’s first mission trip and his first time in Kenya. “Never in a million years did I think I would be able to go to another continent and provide care to patients,” said Ruppenthal, who is now doing his residency at MedEast O&P in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “This was a special opportunity of a lifetime. I’d definitely do it again, I loved every minute of the trip.”

The students worked in a prosthetics lab and the patients traveled from all over the country to receive their complimentary prostheses. The thing that stood out for Ruppenthal was the gratitude of the children and parents he was helping. “A lot of the parts and components were used or donated parts,” he said. “But they were so grateful to receive a new leg that they didn’t care. Everyone was so kind, wanted to know what we were doing and were curious to know how everything was made.”

Dr. Duncan and child clientAnother takeaway for Ruppenthal was how much he learned from the hands-on experience of working with patients through the entire process, from cast to delivery. “I had the opportunity to provide service to three patients all by myself and that’s the best learning experience I have had,” he said. “Going and getting hands-on experience was the best practice I can get to further my education and career.”

Neither Page nor Ruppenthal had imagined when they joined the novel O&P program at Salus they would experience something like this humanitarian trip to Kenya. “It wasn’t something that I was planning for, but I’m thankful we had the opportunity,” said Page. “In the future, I think we’re trying to make it so students can go on international trips like this and gain this experience. And, getting to work with different cultures and different people gives you a lot of humility and empathy and understanding not only how their lives are with limb difference but in different cultures.”

Ruppenthal agreed.

“It was a great learning experience, providing care to children who truly need it,” he said. “And, I could better learn from other orthotists and prosthetists on how to create legs and what they would do for different situations.”

Dr. Duncan and child at fashion show pic